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posted: 3/13/2010 12:01 AM

Embattled water commission chief resigns

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  • Bob Martin

      Bob Martin

 
 

The embattled general manager of the DuPage Water Commission, Bob Martin, resigned Friday, ending months of speculation about his future with the agency.

Martin's days seemed to be numbered after the commission was informed late last year that $19 million of its reserve funds accidentally were spent by a former financial administrator under Martin's watch. The commission had to take out an emergency $30 million loan and is on the verge of borrowing $40 million more to make up for the financial miscues.

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Martin's decision to resign came after more than two hours of closed-door talks Thursday night between the commission and lawyers who oversaw a forensic audit of the commission's financial misfortunes, which apparently places part of the blame on Martin.

The auditor's report was released to the commission last week but has yet to be made public. Commissioners have not discussed the contents of the report publicly.

Martin could not be reached for comment Friday.

The commission is responsible for distributing Lake Michigan water to most municipalities in DuPage County.

Commissioners said Martin will receive six months' severance pay amounting to more than $90,000, pay for any accrued vacation and medical coverage for a year.

Martin has been with the agency for more than 20 years and at its helm since 2004, officials said.

Commissioners said current manager of water operations Terry McGhee will become the agency's interim general manager. McGhee has been with the commission since 1991 and has a bachelor's degree in business.

"Terry was the most likely choice to replace Bob," commission Chairman Louis Rathje said. "You have to have someone step in and Terry was being groomed to take over Bob's position someday, and that day came sooner."

Rathje said he was "saddened" that Martin's tenure ended with the financial mess.

"It was a very successful career," Rathje said. "Many of his ideas were innovative and he was a proactive leader."

Commissioners said the forensic audit lays blame at the feet of many people and that institutional changes will be made to ensure those mistakes don't happen again. Rathje doesn't expect any other water commission employees to lose their jobs, but other commissioners weren't so sure.

"I guess we're all responsible when you look at it," said commissioner and Carol Stream Mayor Frank Saverino. "I think there's going to be a lot of changes you'll see around there. If stupidity were a felony, three or four people would be going to jail."

He said the bright side of the report is that it shows no money was stolen - just misspent. He doesn't believe the commission was irresponsible.

"Those mistakes that were made were just pure stupidity in so many different categories it's almost impossible to catch them all," Saverino said. "Dumping the commissioners would be like the president of American Airlines firing all his pilots because one guy crashed his plane."

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