DuPage Circuit Court Clerk Chris Kachiroubas makes no apologies for giving pay raises of nearly 40 percent in five years to a former county board member who ended up on his payroll.
Kachiroubas' challenger in the Nov. 6 election, on the other hand, is calling it a "misuse of taxpayer money."
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An Elmhurst Republican, Kachiroubas is squaring off against Ralph Scalise, a Carol Stream Democrat, in a bid for his third term as clerk, the courthouse's top administrative post.
Scalise, who once worked for the incumbent, said he decided to run after Kachiroubas gave enough raises to former board member and onetime employee Bill Maio to result in Maio receiving a $100,000 annual pension.
"I don't understand why Mr. Kachiroubas, who gave most of his life to serving the public, would betray the public by making a pension deal that sweet for someone," Scalise told the Daily Herald editorial board recently. "I felt at that time he was using the clerk's office as a thank-you card for his political friends."
County records show Maio had a starting salary of $89,900 when Kachiroubas hired him in September 2005 to collect unpaid court fines. By February 2010, Maio had received eight raises, putting his final salary 40 percent higher at $125,000. The final raise -- 18 percent -- came about six months before he retired in August 2010.
Kachiroubas defended the pay increases, arguing Maio recaptured more than $12 million in uncollected court fees and fines and managed more than 100 people in seven departments during his tenure.
Maio was a "wonderful asset," Kachiroubas said, and would still work for the office if he hadn't been sidelined by injuries lingering from a motorcycle crash in 2006.
"I granted him raises based on work and performances and his responsibilities," Kachiroubas said. "He had been so successful in what I had given him to accomplish, I of course wanted him to do more and expected him to do more. But I'm not going to tell a person who's having some physical limitations, 'You have to stay here to the end of the term to justify whatever I've given you because I have a financial or political implication involved here.'"
Maio, who had more than 25 years of experience with the county, was poised to work on its electronic ticketing and electronic appeals programs when he retired, Kachiroubas said. He said the county board signed off on Maio's pay increases, which factored into his pension.
"I don't make the rules," Kachiroubas said. "When it comes to it, the county either enters into a pension through a county permissive or not. They chose to. That's what they did. After that, we need to move forward. I don't govern the pension system."
Scalise, who worked for Kachiroubas in the criminal traffic division from 2003 to 2005, said he wants to "bring back integrity" to the office.
"You don't do good for all -- you do good for one," he told Kachiroubas pointedly at the editorial meeting. "You can't use taxpayer funds to say he's done a great job and leave taxpayers on the hook for however long (Maio) lives with his family. Nowadays, they call that pension spiking."
Kachiroubas was Addison Township assessor for 13 years before being elected circuit court clerk in 2004.
Scalise works in sales and was a trustee of the Bloomingdale Fire Protection District from 2001 to 2007.