Anti-nepotism rules changed for Elk Grove official's son

The Elk Grove Park District hired the son of the park board President Bill O'Malley weeks after his fellow board members overturned an anti-nepotism policy that would have prevented it.

A top park district department official opposed changing the policy, which prohibited family members of park district commissioners and staff from being hired on a full-time basis.

But O'Malley, a 14-year park district commissioner, said his son was the most qualified candidate for the $38,400-a-year job. Overturning the policy, he said, enables the park district to get the best candidates for jobs in the future.

"It's not nepotism," O'Malley said. "But there's no doubt in my mind he was the best candidate."

O'Malley's 23-year-old son, Brian, was hired Oct. 19 as one of two new athletics coordinators. He oversees programs including basketball and volleyball leagues.

The other new coordinator, hired a month before, oversees the district's athletic associations, such as travel softball and baseball teams. His salary is $2,600 more because of additional experience, said Tom Busby, the park district's executive director.

The two positions were advertised on the websites of the park district and Illinois Park & Recreation Association. More than 50 candidates applied - a list narrowed down to eight by a three-person hiring committee comprised of the director of leisure services, and superintendents of recreation and human resources.

Six people were invited to interview with the committee and O'Malley's son was selected as one of the two finalists, Busby said.

"I think we always want to hire the most qualified individual, and in this case, it was Brian O'Malley," Busby said.

The anti-nepotism policy was instituted five years ago at the recommendation of then-Executive Director Mike Brottman, who stepped down in February after 10 years at the helm of the park district.

O'Malley said the board at the time didn't have a problem adopting the policy. But when O'Malley's son was chosen as a finalist, it prompted the board to take another look.

He said park district staff involved in the hiring process presented the "dilemma" to the board. For his part, O'Malley said he "stayed completely out of it."

Though he supported the policy change, O'Malley abstained from the vote Sept. 24. The other commissioners voted 3-1 to make the changes.

"I either had to resign or we had to change the policy - or we as a park district don't get the best candidate for the job," said O'Malley, who was re-elected to a six-year term in April.

John Walz, the lone commissioner to vote "no," said since the park district is a public entity being funded by taxpayers, the perception of favoritism was reason enough to keep the policy.

"We had checks and balances in place, and we're removing it," Walz said at the Sept. 24 meeting.

Tammy Miller, the district's director of leisure services, told commissioners the timing of the policy change was "difficult."

"To me, it's about the integrity and ethics of it," she said.

O'Malley's son reports to the superintendent of recreation, who in turns reports to Miller.

While the three-person committee recommended the two new athletics coordinators, Busby ultimately signs off on hiring decisions. He says the park board isn't involved in those decisions.

"We have knowledge on Brian because Brian worked part time for us as well," Busby said. "We were able to see his work ethic and performance."

Brian O'Malley was an assistant manager at Pirates' Cove Children's Theme Park, and was a recreation and facilities intern for the Arlington Heights Park District. The Elk Grove Park District doesn't have a policy preventing family members from being part-time employees.

He graduated from Illinois State University last year with a degree in recreation and park administration. His dad said he was awarded by the school's faculty, and was president of the school's Parks and Recreation Society.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.