Arnie Biondo has landed a new job in Ohio after being forced out this summer as executive director of the DuPage County Forest Preserve District.
In the meantime, forest preserve officials are acknowledging for the first time that allowing Biondo to retire early cost the district about $303,000 in payments to his retirement fund -- or roughly $43,000 more than it would have cost to fire him.
Biondo is scheduled to start work Monday as the executive director of the Centerville-Washington Park District in a southern suburb of Dayton, Ohio.
In a news release, Centerville-Washington Park District officials said Biondo was selected from a national candidate search conducted by the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association.
Biondo said in the statement that he "couldn't be happier" about his new post.
The job is a homecoming of sorts for Biondo, who served as superintendent of recreation in the Dayton suburb of Kettering from 1981 to 1982. He went on to spend 18 years as executive director of the Carol Stream Park District before taking the reins of the forest preserve district in January.
In August, roughly eight months into his tenure, forest preserve commissioners announced Biondo was taking early retirement and stepping down Sept. 2. Biondo told the Daily Herald he was forced out and forest preserve commissioners have since confirmed that.
Biondo was informed in an Aug. 4 letter from the commission that he could either retire early or be terminated without cause. He was told in the letter that his management style wasn't a good fit for the district and had no chance of becoming one.
Now forest preserve officials are confirming the district paid about $303,000 to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund so Biondo could participate in the early retirement program through IMRF.
If Biondo was terminated without cause, his contract would have required the district to pay him one year of his $188,000 annual salary and provide one year of medical insurance.
Combined with another payout Biondo would have been entitled to receive, his total severance package would have cost the district an estimated $260,000, officials said.
While it ended up costing the district more, commissioners said they wanted Biondo to have the option to accept the retirement offer.
"They believed it was in the best interest of both the district and Arnie himself," district spokeswoman Sue Olafson said.
In fact, Olafson said the board believes its actions saved money in the long run by avoiding the possibility of a lawsuit.
"We wanted him to be happy with the outcome," she said.
Back in August, Biondo said he was grateful commissioners gave him the option to retire early. "It leaves me in a pretty good position," he said at the time.
The forest preserve district has yet to replace Biondo and officials now say they're unlikely to begin the search until after the new year.
Biondo, meanwhile, appears to have landed on his feet.
"He's got a great job in Ohio," Olafson said. "He's moving on with his family, and we certainly wish him well."