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updated: 12/22/2010 5:46 PM

Water agency director leaves over retiree benefits reductions

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District picks lobbyist as interim leader

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Lobbyist Kevin Fitzpatrick was tapped Wednesday as the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago's interim director.

He'll take over for outgoing Executive Director Richard Lanyon, who will officially resign Dec. 30 after the water agency's board did not rescind policies that would have cost Lanyon $73,000 in benefits accrued over his 47-year career with the district.

Fitzpatrick's $106,200 lobbying contract for the coming year was approved earlier this month by the board, but board President Terry O'Brien said "there may be an increase in his contract" once Fitzpatrick takes on the director's duties.

In the meantime, the search for a full-time executive director is expected to take three to four months and be handled mainly in-house, O'Brien said. The board plans to advertise the position in trade magazines and reach out to national organizations. Current employees of the district are also eligible, he said. That's one of the reasons why the board chose to go with Fitzpatrick, rather than an employee.

"If we selected one of the potential candidates from within, it was presumed (that person) would have a leg up," O'Brien said.

Fitzpatrick, 60, of Evergreen Park, has been the agency's lobbyist for the past six years, O'Brien said. The board president said the lobbyist was chosen because he has knowledge of the agency's operations.

Lanyon announced plans to resign from his $254,000-a-year job earlier this month when the board voted to eliminate an accrued "termination pay" policy that pays employees a day's pay for every year they worked for the board. The board also reduced the amount of sick-day payouts for retirees. The changes go into effect Jan. 1. The 73-year-old Lanyon stood to lose $73,000 if he stayed aboard.

The policy changes affect all longtime employees of the district. It is unknown how many employees quit as a result of the new policies.