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Rooney out as Wheeling village manager
By Madhu Krishnamurthy | Daily Herald Staff

Wheeling Village Manager J. Mark Rooney shows off the new village hall earlier this year.


Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

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Published: 9/23/2009 11:38 AM | Updated: 9/23/2009 7:49 PM

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Wheeling Village Manager J. Mark Rooney has resigned his post as of Wednesday, Village President Judy Abruscato confirmed Wednesday night.

Two trustees say Rooney's departure was imminent after a majority of the board indicated in closed session Monday that they no longer supported him.

Abruscato did not confirm that but would not offer an explanation for his departure.

She said the village board is grateful to Rooney because under his leadership a new village hall, fire station and public works facility were built, and the staff and board successfully negotiated police and fire union contracts.

"The village board wishes Mark the best in his career," Abruscato said. "There are no problems with Mr. Rooney."

Assistant Village Manager Jon Sfondilis has been designated acting village manager, and he will remain in that post for the foreseeable future, said Martin Seay, administrative assistant.

Rooney declined to comment Wednesday, directing all questions to Abruscato. He joined Wheeling in 2003 as assistant village manager, and was named acting village manager in December 2006 when then-manager Wally Douthwaite resigned.

Rooney was named manager in February 2007. Before Wheeling, he was city administrator in Highwood.

Trustees Pat Horcher and Dean Argiris said that in a poll taken Monday night among the six trustees and Abruscato, Rooney had lost the support of five of them.

Neither Argiris nor Horcher would fully explain what caused Rooney's loss of favor. They said Horcher and Robert Heer supported Rooney staying; while Argiris, Abruscato, Ken Brady, Dave Vogel and Ray Lang did not.

"Most of what happened in my mind was politics and clash of personalities, really," Horcher said.

Horcher said some trustees complained Rooney did not keep them fully informed about village business.

"They were basically not liking the way he was managing the village," Horcher said.

Argiris, meanwhile, disagreed Rooney's departure was political.

"It wasn't about personality conflicts and it wasn't about politics," Argiris said. "There were issues. This was a business decision by a majority of the board."

Argiris said the problems have been ongoing for more than a year, but would not divulge the actual reasons why Rooney was leaving.

He said it was not because of any illegal actions or financial mismanagement.

"I believe it was hurting the village keeping him on and that's why we need to move on," Argiris said. "His style ... the way he would do business eventually it would hurt the village, if it hadn't already. And these were issues that never seemed to be going away. They needed to be addressed."

Argiris said he has a high opinion of Rooney and was an advocate of hiring him at first, but added, Rooney was "jeopardizing things."

Horcher, meanwhile, believes Rooney has been one of Wheeling's best managers.

"Look at what got done under this guy," he said. "We built the public works building and the village hall. We finally finished the space study for the village. He managed two police and fire contract negotiations without going into arbitration.

"The guy did a really good job. He was dedicated to this village."

A lieutenant colonel with the U.S. Army Reserve, Rooney served 18 months in Iraq while he was Wheeling's assistant village manager.

Rooney's salary for this current year was frozen last November in a joint decision he made with the village board. Rooney made $140,000 yearly.

The details of his departure are still being worked out, Seay said.