Schaumburg Township Highway Commissioner Robert Fecarotta said he will hold back $135,000 he'd been planning to transfer to the township's general fund, after learning taxpayer money was used to pay for an employee appreciation lunch Friday.
Fecarotta said he shares his fellow officials' high opinion of the township's employees, but doesn't believe taxpayers should foot the bill for a morale-boosting event many workers in the private sector don't get.
"It's nothing against the employees; it's the principle of these spending decisions," Fecarotta said. "This is why people are fed up with townships."
Schaumburg Township Supervisor Mary Wroblewski said the money received from the highway department budget is used only to pay for senior transportation services.
By holding $135,000 back, the only people potentially affected are seniors looking to ride the bus to the hairdresser or doctor, Wroblewski said. The township can draw on its reserves if it has to make sure these seniors are unaffected, she added.
While Fecarotta -- who isn't running for re-election this spring -- can hold back the money, the next highway commissioner can exercise authority to do with it whatever he thinks best, Wroblewski said.
Township Trustee Scott Kegarise is the only current candidate for highway commissioner in the April 9 election, though former candidate Michael Lenehan is appealing his removal from the ballot.
Though she couldn't immediately cite the cost for Friday's lunch at Pilot Pete's restaurant at Schaumburg Regional Airport, Wroblewski said it was attended by 40 people.
She defended it as a way of recognizing the good work employees do in serving the public.
"Our employees do a great job," she said. "We get very few complaints about the service they render. This is our way of saying 'thank you' to them for the good job they do."
Fecarotta, who said his own department's employees found out about the lunch only hours before, called Wroblewski in the middle of the event to tell her of his decision.
He said he bristled when she asked him whether he cared about the township's seniors and disabled.
"I have a mother on oxygen 24 hours a day," Fecarotta said. "Of course I'm concerned about the seniors and disabled! But I was elected by the people to make wise decisions about budgets."
Wroblewski said she didn't know why highway department employees learned of the lunch only that morning, as she wasn't in charge of sending the invitations.