Just two years after wresting authority from the DuPage County Board chairman position, county board members have given some of that power back.
In what some are calling "a vote of confidence" for Chairman Dan Cronin, the board on Tuesday voted 14-4 to adopt a new set of rules that restores the chairman's ability to make committee assignments and pick committee leadership. Cronin also can be an ex officio member of all committees and assign staff to each committee.
"I have had two years to work with this chairman, evaluate this chairman and form the belief that he will carry out these duties in a very fair and nonpartisan basis," said John Curran, who as the board's vice chairman pushed for support of the changes.
Cronin was still a candidate in September 2010 when county board members severely curtailed the chairman post's appointment and hiring powers. At the time, most board members said they wanted to determine their own committee assignments and leadership positions.
Curran said a significant reason the rules were changed two years ago was because the board was dealing with the unknown of having a new chairman. "The board needed time to evaluate what role the chairman would be able to play in this county structure," he said.
By going back to the way things used to be, Cronin said it will encourage more participation between himself and board members. For example, his committee appointments will be made with the "advice and consent" of the board.
"Before I came here, I was a little hurt that they changed the rules and seemed to limit the chairman's ability to govern," Cronin said. "While I'm proud to say we were able to function quite well and accomplish a great deal under those circumstances, I welcome this change.
"It will allow us to reach some new heights," he added.
Still, four board members opposed the changes. The members who voted 'no' were Dirk Enger, a Winfield Democrat; Rita Gonzalez, an Addison Democrat; Tony Michelassi, an Aurora Democrat; and Jim Healy, a Naperville Republican.
"We have an election and a new board coming in," Enger said. "Now is not the time to come up with new rules. We should have let the new board do it."
Healy said the county board already had a time when it gave significant power to former Chairman Bob Schillerstrom. He said that "experiment" ended with the board taking authority back.
"I guess they want to start going backward," Healy said.
But board member Jim Zay points out that the previous rules weren't perfect. He said he didn't like committees picking their own leadership, for example.
"The election of committees last time was ridiculous," the Carol Stream Republican said. "I have no problem with the chairman appointing and giving suggestions."