With DuPage County Board members expected to consider a ballot question that would ask if local politicians should be allowed to have more than one elected position, a mayor is abandoning his goal of becoming a dual office holder.
Elmhurst Mayor Pete DiCianni announced Monday night that he will step down as mayor if he's elected in November to one of three District 2 seats on the county board. District 2 includes all or parts of Addison, Clarendon Hills, Downers Grove, Elmhurst, Hinsdale, Lisle, Lombard, Naperville, Oak Brook, Oakbrook Terrace, Villa Park, Westmont and Woodridge.
"This decision was difficult and has left my heart feeling heavier than imaginable," said DiCianni, who, along with fellow Republican nominees Elaine Zannis and Sean Noonan, will face Democrat Elizabeth "Liz" Chaplin in the general election.
During the GOP primary, DiCianni repeatedly said he would continue to serve as the mayor of Elmhurst but donate that position's $8,400 annual pay to the city or its charities. County board members are paid about $50,000 a year.
Now DiCianni acknowledges that plan caused "division and distraction" within some parts of Elmhurst and on the city council. Aldermen started talking about a possible ballot question to prohibit elected Elmhurst officials from holding another elected position.
By agreeing to resign as mayor if he becomes a county board member, DiCianni said he hopes to unite the Elmhurst City Council and the community. "Whether I serve Elmhurst at the local or county level, I will always do what is best for Elmhurst," he said.
DiCianni stressed that his change of heart wasn't motivated by the announcement that county board Chairman Dan Cronin today is going to propose an advisory ballot question about dual office holders. If approved by the county board, DuPage voters in November will be asked if they believe state law should permit someone to hold "two more local elected offices simultaneously."
"This is an opportunity for the people to voice their opinion," Cronin said. "My belief is that they will express that you serve one office at a time."
Even after DiCianni's announcement, the dual office issue remains relevant in DuPage because Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso has said he plans to continue in his municipal role if elected to a District 3 seat on the county board.
Grasso and Republican incumbents John Curran and Brian Krajewski will face Democrat Sharon Bryant in the general election. District 3 includes all or portions of Bolingbrook, Burr Ridge, Clarendon Hills, Darien, Downers Grove, Hinsdale, Lemont, Naperville, Westmont, Willowbrook and Woodridge.
Previously, Grasso and DiCianni cited Peter Silvestri as one example of a local elected official already serving dual roles. Silvestri is a Cook County Board commissioner and the village president of Elmwood Park.
But in January, DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin issued an opinion where he wrote that a DuPage board member can't simultaneously hold an office with another unit of government that has "a contractual relationship" with the county. Examples of such relationships include investigative task forces, emergency management, storm or wastewater management, highway maintenance, easements and intergovernmental agreements.
In response to Berlin's opinion, the Illinois Senate tried moving legislation to clarify in state law that mayors could serve on county boards. However, that proposal went nowhere after an initial hearing in March.
Cronin said the proposed ballot question would send a message to Springfield lawmakers who haven't made up their minds about the legislation. "We want to invite the public to let us know," he said. "Is it proper to have double-dipping office holders?"