A retired federal judge and a former mayor, both praised for their "trustworthiness" are now charged with representing Kane County's mass transit interests.
Kane County Board members Tuesday gave unanimous approval to appointments of Manuel Barbosa to the Metra Board and Don DeWitte to the RTA board.
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Barbosa was born in Mexico but has lived in Elgin for 56 years. He is a graduate of the John Marshall School of Law and worked as a Kane County assistant state's attorney in the late 1970s. Former Gov. James Thompson appointed Barbosa to the Illinois Human Rights Commission in 1980. Barbosa served in that role for 18 years, including a stint as chairman. He then received an appointment as a bankruptcy judge for the Northern District of Illinois in 1998. Barbosa retired from the bench earlier this year. He is serving out an appointment to the Northern Illinois University Law School's Board of Visitors, an advisory and fundraising position.
Barbosa cited his knowledge of numbers, particularly discrepancies in the financial health of organizations, as a key aspect he can bring to the troubled Metra agency.
"My years on the bankruptcy bench allowed me to preside over cases where the financial solvency or the financial viability of business entities were in question," Barbosa wrote in his application letter. "I had to weigh the testimony of financial experts offering competing views on these issues. I feel that this experience may be relevant in analyzing budgetary matters and planning."
Lauzen said he chose Barbosa from a pool of 11 finalists because of his character.
"The No. 1 criteria I believe in all of this is trustworthiness, integrity, proven competence and relationship building," Lauzen said. "Manny Barbosa is the personification of that."
Lauzen cited the FBI and IRS background checks Barbosa went through to receive his judicial appointment as proof of his clean record and lack of conflicts. Attorneys for Metra and the county will double up on those background checks, Lauzen said.
"You've got to be beyond reproach," Lauzen said. "The most important thing right now is you've got to restore trust."
Barbosa's term will expire in March 2016.
The appointment of DeWitte marked a second attempt by Lauzen and the current county board to find an RTA representative. Their most recent appointee, Nabi Fakroddin, had to resign when it was discovered state law prevents him from dual service on the RTA and the Illinois Human Rights Commission.
DeWitte does not serve on any other appointed boards. Local residents may best know him as the former mayor of St. Charles. DeWitte vacated that post this spring to focus on his insurance job with Wine, Sergi & Associates. DeWitte cited his 20 years of elected service in St. Charles, helping manage the city's finances and guiding its policies, as his main qualifications for the RTA seat.
"Some have suggested these positions should be filled with representatives who understand the political personalities, agendas and landscape that these boards are required to operate within," DeWitte wrote in his application. "Others suggest appointees who must possess the highest of ethics and morals in dealing within those volatile political environments. I remain confident in my abilities of meeting those tests."
Lauzen said DeWitte distinguished himself from the other finalists because he has a demonstrated track record of "effective leadership."
"We need a strong voice in Kane County," Lauzen said. "We need someone who has been on the front lines."
DeWitte is a former applicant for the transit appointments. Lauzen has said in the past DeWitte provided "major outreach" to local mayors for him during his campaign for county board chairman. Wine, Sergi & Associates has also been a frequent financial supporter of the Kane County Republican Advisory Council and Kane County Republican Central Committee. But on Tuesday, Lauzen said DeWitte is a true independent.
"He has supported me in two campaigns, and he has supported my opponent in two campaigns," Lauzen said. "The bottom line on Don DeWitte, on the political side, is that he thinks for himself."
There are some perks that come with the appointments. Barbosa will receive a $15,000 salary, but he has declined any insurance or pension benefits. He already receives those benefits from his previous government service. DeWitte will receive a salary of $25,000. The county advertised that position as not having insurance or pension benefits.
Lauzen said Barbosa and DeWitte also agreed to do no work for any transit agencies for two years after their appointments expire. They also provided Lauzen with documentation disclosing the sources of their personal incomes.