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Bill to Expand Plainfield Park Board Passes

Bill will add two new commissioners to the board.

Credit: File photo
Credit: File photo
Despite opposition from some members, House Bill 5593, which will expand the Plainfield Park District Board of Commissioners from five to seven members, passed the state Senate on Thursday.

The measure passed in a 36-18 vote, with two members voting present. The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) and in the House, where it passed last month, by State Reps. Tom Cross (R-Oswego) and Natalie Manley (D-Joliet). See the full Senate vote here.

The legislation will allow for two new members to be appointed — one by Bertino-Tarrant and one by Cross — to the non-partisan board. The appointees will serve until the 2015 consolidated election, at which point the posts will be up for election.

Bertino-Tarrant said she took action after residents came forward to voice their concerns.

"This was an issue that was brought to me by the community," she said, adding that residents in a group known as "Park Truth" have worked to combat issues on the board, to no avail. " ... I am there to support [residents]," Bertino-Tarrant said.

She said controversies since a new board majority took office last spring have created the need for additional representation, referring to allegations of ethics violations, labor violations and an investigation by state police. She also cited the hiring of Executive Director Garrett Peck, a Plainfield village trustee, which she called a "political patronage job." 

Peck, who ran against Bertino-Tarrant in 2012, has since resigned from the park district but remains a village trustee.

Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, opposed the bill Tuesday, saying, "On the surface, this looks like the classic political insider [saying], 'We don't like what the voters did, so we're going to start hand-picking people and put them on the board.'"

Righter said the legislation "sets a nightmarish precedent" adding it essentially says "the voters must be so off-the-charts stupid" that the state must step in.

"Do we get to fix this, or do the voters get to fix this?" Righter asked.

Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Peru) agreed with Righter, saying she has not received any calls or emails from constituents asking the state to step in and take action on the park district board. "Clearly, this does set a terrible precedent," she said.

Plainfield resident Vicky Polito disputed Rezin's assertion that no residents contacted her regarding the issue — saying she called and emailed the senator.

"She’s not my senator, it’s true, but I called and wrote ALL 59 of them," Polito said.

Sen. Linda Holmes (D-Aurora), however, said she's heard from numerous residents upset with the goings-on at the park district. She urged members of the Senate to take action "while there's still money left in the park district."

Holmes also noted that the appointments are temporary. "It will be up for public for general election" in 2015, she said. The bill itself expires in June 2017.

“This is a difficult proposal for me to present but it is evident that our community needs it,” Bertino-Tarrant said in a press release issued after Thursday's vote.

“Today brings us one step closer to finalizing reforms to improve accountability and restore public trust with the Plainfield Park District Board," Cross said in a press release. "I would like to thank my colleagues, Sen. Bertino-Tarrant and Rep. e Manley, for their hard work and dedication in helping to make sure this issue is resolved. I also want to thank members of the Park Board for their support and encouragement of these reforms. I am hopeful the Governor will take swift action on the legislation."

The measure now awaits Gov. Pat Quinn's signature.

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Kathy rios May 24, 2014 at 02:00 AM
Vicky, you seem very versed in this law. I'm trying to keep an open mind, but I'm curious, is there a system of checks in place for the appointed officials? To make sure that they are the best people for the job. I just worry about polticians and their ability to always have the greater good in their decisions. I know it's late so I hope to hear from you tomorrow.
Vicky Polito May 24, 2014 at 11:24 PM
For Kathy rios/anyone--here's what I understand about HB5593: 1) You can go to www.ilga.gov and enter HB5593 in the box on the left side for searching by number to pull up the full text of the bill. It’s a pretty easy read. 2) The bill says that the state representative and the state senator in whose districts the bulk of the Plainfield Township Park District lays will each appoint one commissioner, upping the board from five commissioners to seven. 3) Those two commissioners each serve until the Apr 7, 2015 election when the two new appointment seats (let’s call them seats #6 and #7) are up for election, so the appointed commissioners would have to run with anyone else to keep those seats. 4) The first ELECTED term of appointee/new seats will be two years long (vs. the normal six year terms we have), so basically board seats #6 and #7 will be up for election AGAIN in spring of 2017. 5) After that, board seats #6 and #7 sync up with the rest of the board and all will be on the six year term schedule. Note that the change from a five member board to a seven member board is permanent but all other parts of the legislation, the appointment piece, etc. sunset/repeal on June 1, 2017. So, the bill doesn’t specific the appointee selection method or process, but here’s what little I say about it, my reading of the landscape. First off, it will be Rep. Tom Cross and Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant making the appointments and aside from my personal respect for their judgment, I don’t think either of them is going to pull the pin on a grenade and then wrap it with their own resume. To keep this a success for themselves and the community, they’re going to pick carefully and well and try to get people who are willing right now and willing to run in the spring and do great jobs. No one works as hard as they have on this, with so many constituents with high expectations watching, just to botch it in the end, you know? Lastly, in floor debate in the senate on Thursday, Sen. Bertino-Tarrant said she would work with Park Truth/citizens who were on the ground working for a solution over the past year to find the right appointee for her part of it. My guess is that Rep. Cross will also involve citizens in the choice. Basically, my gut says they’re not going to dictate from a distance to us who the appointees will be but will ask knowledgeable people in the community to, maybe dictate would be too strong a word, but at least advise on this selection, to figure out what the right choices are. Sound reasonable? It does to me and if only the board majority had responded to the residents half as much or as well as Rep. Cross and Sen. Bertino-Tarrant have we wouldn’t be talking about this. I will never understand why Hurtado (who’s missed two board meetings in a row, now), Silosky, and Steinys wouldn’t just do the job, honestly and well. Or, why not a one of them would step down when it became clear they were so bad at public service, didn’t want to be representatives of the voters? I wonder more about their motives than I do about those of the state reps or about the validity and implementation of HB5593.
Kathy rios May 25, 2014 at 09:13 AM
Thank you.
John Tips June 11, 2014 at 01:08 PM
Hope the new members bring some common sense to the board!

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