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updated: 10/29/2012 7:03 PM

Mayor says he won't be swayed by DuPage dual-office vote

Referendum won't sway Burr Ridge leader's aspirations

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  • Gary Grasso

      Gary Grasso

 
 

A sitting mayor who hopes to simultaneously serve on the DuPage County Board says he won't be swayed by the results of a countywide ballot question about whether politicians should be able to hold multiple elected offices.

Voters in southeast DuPage next week will decide whether to elect Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso to one of three District 3 seats on the county board. That same day, voters throughout the county will be asked to weigh in on whether state law should permit someone to hold two or more elected positions simultaneously.

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"Although Cook County and other areas of the state may have dual office holders, this an opportunity for us to express who we are as a county," said county board Chairman Dan Cronin, who pushed to get the advisory question on the ballot.

"Do we want politicians holding multiple offices out here?" Cronin added. "I don't think that's what the people want. But I wanted to give them a chance to voice their opinion on it."

While the ballot question isn't binding, Cronin said he hopes Grasso considers the results if he's elected to represent District 3, which includes all or portions of Bolingbrook, Burr Ridge, Clarendon Hills, Darien, Downers Grove, Hinsdale, Lemont, Naperville, Westmont, Willowbrook and Woodridge.

"Gary seems to think that the law permits it," Cronin said. "Rather than looking at it as a legal matter, let's just ask the people what they think."

However, Grasso says the ballot measure won't change his mind because it's asking the wrong question.

"The issue is whether elected office holders should be in a position to get double pensions and double benefits," said Grasso, a Republican who is vying for one of three District 3 seats along with Republican incumbents John Curran and Brian Krajewski and Democrat Sharon Bryant.

Grasso said he believes elected officials shouldn't get multiple pensions and that state law needs to be changed to prevent double dipping.

As Burr Ridge's mayor, Grasso said he doesn't get a pension or benefits, and his salary is $471 a month after taxes. If elected to the county board, Grasso said he has no plans to take the pension.

"If people are running for office for the income and benefits, that's not a reason to run for office," he said. "In my opinion, no part-time office holder should be eligible for benefits and pensions."

Elmhurst Mayor Pete DiCianni says he will resign his municipal seat if elected to county board District 2. Elaine Zannis says she will step down as an Oak Brook village board member if she's elected to county board District 2 as well. And Sam Tornatore, seeking a spot in District 1, said he will resign his Bloomingdale Township elected post if elected to the county board.

Still, Grasso wouldn't be the only local elected official serving a dual role. Peter Silvestri is both a Cook County Board commissioner and the village president of Elmwood Park.

Meanwhile, there are legal questions.

In January, DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin issued an opinion 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 proposing legislation to clarify in state law that mayors could serve on county boards. But there's been no movement on the proposal.

Cronin said he believes the ballot question will send a message to Springfield lawmakers who haven't made up their minds about the legislation.

"I think it (one person holding two offices simultaneously) undermines the whole notion of public service," Cronin said. "You want to be public servant? Serve and give it your all."

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