DuPage County Forest Preserve commission President D. "Dewey" Pierotti Jr. was doing some banking earlier this month when the district's attorney and the incoming president came into the bank and asked him to sign the letter that ended the tenure of Executive Director Arnie Biondo.
While he knew Biondo was on thin ice with some commissioners, Pierotti says he had no idea the entire board would decide to give Biondo the option to either retire early or be terminated without cause.
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"I didn't know a thing until they gave me that (letter)," Pierotti said Tuesday. "This was a decision made by the board. I was surprised that he was let go."
Biondo, who was placed on paid leave Aug. 5, chose to take early retirement and will step down Sept. 2 after less than eight months on the job.
After a search that took less than two weeks, commissioners selected John Lapinski to replace Biondo. Lapinski is scheduled to start Oct. 1.
Some officials have said Biondo's ouster came because he wasn't moving quickly enough on several proposed structural changes to the district, including reducing the size of the administrative staff. Part of the plan was to have the district participate in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund's early retirement program.
On Tuesday, Commissioner Marsha Murphy said Biondo -- the former executive director of the Carol Stream Park District -- simply wasn't the right fit for the forest preserve. "It just didn't work out for us," she said.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Linda Painter refused to comment about why Biondo was let go.
"I wish I could say something because then you'd understand," she said, "but I really can't."
Like the decision to part ways with Biondo, Pierotti said he wasn't involved in the hiring of Lapinski, who lives in Oak Brook.
"I was surprised how quickly they found a replacement without going through the process," he said.
Pierotti said the board could have used a search firm to find executive director candidates as it did before hiring Biondo to replace Brent Manning, who had stepped down citing health and family concerns.
Pierotti said he went along with the board's decisions because he's retiring after the November election. Normally, Pierotti votes only to break a tie.
Commissioner Joseph Cantore -- who is running unopposed to become the next president of the district -- is the one who suggested Lapinski to other board members. Cantore and the district attorney also were the ones who asked Pierotti to sign the Biondo letter, according to Pierotti.
Cantore didn't return phone messages Tuesday.
Despite the lack of a search, board members have praised Lapinski and say he's the type of administrator the district needs. As the trial court administrator for DuPage County's chief judge, Lapinski supervises more than 280 employees as he oversees the 18th Judicial Circuit court.
While he wasn't involved, Pierotti said the board made the right decision by picking Lapinski. "I really feel that this is the best individual for the job," he said.