AIA Chicago members fail to overturn decision to dismiss Zurich Esposito

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Zurich Esposito
Zurich Esposito (from AIA Chicago)

Members of the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Chicago chapter declined to recommend to the chapter’s board of directors to reinstate former executive vice-president Zurich Esposito at a Zoom meeting on Sept. 25 — but significantly more members voted for the reconsideration than to to say “no”.

Reports from the meeting indicate 149 members voted yes and 104 voted no.  Because 57 members abstained, the resolution failed to pass.

Esposito, who had held the office for more than 14 years, was dismissed by the AIA Chicago board in mid-August. Directors have been silent about the reason for his dismissal.

“When asked for an explanation, chapter president April Hughes replied, ‘Out of respect for all parties, additional details will not be shared’,” the Architectural Record (AR) reported.

Mark Schmieding of Goettsch Partners started a Change.org online petition on Aug. 25 to reverse Esposito’s dismissal. While more than 820 members had signed the petition as of Sept. 29, Schmieding’s initiative in calling the special AIA meeting –which he wrote had never been used by the AIA in the past 50 years, if ever.

“As members of the Chicago design community, we are writing to express our utmost concern with the actions of the AIA Chicago board of directors involving the recent departure of the organization’s effective, longtime executive vice-president, Zurich Esposito,” the petition said.

in a follow-up post, Schmieding wrote “it has become even more apparent that the motivation behind Zurich’s dismissal was more likely personal rather than anything untoward that would require such drastic and secretive action by the board.”

The AIA Chicago board of directors made the announcement on Aug. 13. “We are focused on the future and plan to begin a national search for a permanent replacement in the coming weeks,” the board said.

The petition said: “The board’s abrupt removal of Zurich from his position demonstrates questionable and inexperienced behavior. Those actions not only failed Zurich, an invaluable advocate for all of us, but they failed the entire design community as well.”

The chapter told members by email that John Syvertsen will serve as interim executive vice-president and would lead the organization until they find a permanent replacement.

“I’m humbled by the overwhelming support of the Chicago design community I’ve served for the past 14 years,” Esposito told AR in a written statement.

In a post to Chicago Construction News’s Facebook page, Esposito wrote: “Thanks for all the great support. I wish I could say more right now. I would if I could. Best, Z.”

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