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posted: 2/24/2014 5:30 AM

Mt. Prospect police and fire board chairman stepping down

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The chairman of Mount Prospect's Board of Fire and Police Commissioners is stepping down after next month's board meeting.

George Busse, in delivering his commission's annual report to the village trustees this month, said he is satisfied that the board is in good hands and on the right track, although he is apprehensive about state intervention in local hiring practices.

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"With everything there comes a time to turn things over, to give someone else the opportunity to become involved and make a difference, to bring new and fresh ideas and enthusiasm to our organization," he said of his decision to step down. "My goal was not to die in the chairman's seat of any of these boards but to make a positive contribution move forward and prepare others to take over. I believe I'm at that point."

Busse said that the three primary objectives that he received about 10 years ago when he arrived on the board were to strengthen the board membership, update and enhance the board's rules and regulations, and improve the board's relationship with the police and fire chiefs. All of these, he said, have been largely achieved.

The major challenge, he said, is adjusting to a constant stream of state regulatory changes.

"It's been a challenge keeping up with the changes and adjusting to comply with the new rules, but it's been done and it's been done in a timely fashion," he said.

One of the biggest changes over the past decade, he said, is the "the state's reduction and in some cases virtual elimination of local influence and authority" in hiring, promotion and discipline.

Specifically, the board's role in promotions has for some time been limited only to the approval of eligibility lists.

The role of the board in the disciplinary process, formerly a major responsibility, has been diminished also, he added.

Now those appealing disciplinary action have a choice between presenting their case before the board of police and fire commissioners or an arbitrator hired by the village and the unions.

The board still is deeply involved in the hiring process, but the passage last year of a firefighters hiring bill by state lawmakers has put the testing in the hands of third party vendors, working according to state mandates. As a result, the board is limited to interviewing firefighter candidates after the eligibility list has been established and finalized.

"Instead of being able to carefully manage a final hiring list, we now only have veto power or a blunt hammer to say yes or no," he said.

Busse's parting words to the village board included a desire that the engine in the downtown fire station -- which has been idled for budgetary reasons -- eventually be brought back.

Village leaders expressed their appreciation for Busse's service.

"The quality of your report is a testament to your leadership and to the fine work that the entire commission has done," Mayor Arlene Juracek said.

They also agreed with his views on local control.

"I think the hard work of the commission is a testament to the fact that we feel that the state regulations are below our standard," Trustee Steven Polit said.

"I think there are many communities in the state where probably they would welcome the state standards. Because we have such high standards, we look at those regulations as a step back from what we do."

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