Berlin asked if College of DuPage trustee can hold 2 offices

DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin has been asked to weigh in on whether the newest trustee at College of DuPage can continue to simultaneously serve as a Downers Grove village council member.

The trustee, David S. Olsen, says that before accepting the COD post he sought legal advice from multiple sources who told him he can serve in both roles.

"The important piece that we've seen here is that there is no conflict of interest," Olsen said Friday. "If there ever was a conflict of interest, there are procedures in place to address that conflict."

He said he will recuse himself from any votes that might involve or give the appearance of such a conflict.

Olsen, who has served on the Downers Grove board since 2013, was named last month to a vacant seat on the panel that oversees the state's largest community college. He was appointed by Lazaro Lopez, chairman of the Illinois Community College Board, just two days after the deadline passed for the bitterly divided COD board to fill the vacancy on its own.

The appointment put Olsen on the COD board until the April 2017 election.

His decision to serve on both boards prompted someone to contact Berlin's office.

Paul Darrah, spokesman for the state's attorney, would not say who submitted the inquiry "regarding the existence of a possible conflict" concerning Olsen's status.

"It's under consideration at this time," Darrah said.

Olsen said there are several examples of elected officials serving dual roles. For example, Ron Sandack finished his term as mayor of Downers Grove in 2011 after being appointed to a state Senate seat in November 2010.

Sandack, a Downers Grove Republican, served the two years that remained on Dan Cronin's term in the Illinois Senate. Cronin resigned from the seat to become DuPage County Board chairman. In 2013, Sandack moved from the Senate to the state House.

"The precedent is clearly on the side of there being no conflict holding both offices," Olsen said.

If Berlin gets involved, it won't be the first time he has addressed the issue of dual officeholders.

In January 2012, Berlin issued an opinion that a DuPage County Board member can't simultaneously hold an office with another unit of government that has "a contractual relationship" with the county. Examples of such relationships include those with investigative task forces, emergency management, storm or wastewater management, highway maintenance, easements and intergovernmental agreements.

At the time, two mayors who went on to become county board members - Pete DiCianni and Gary Grasso - weren't convinced Berlin's conclusion was correct. They said lawyers advised them they could keep their municipal posts if elected to the county board.

But DiCianni, who was the mayor of Elmhurst, and Grasso, who was the mayor of Burr Ridge, ended up stepping down from their municipal seats before their first county board meeting.

The question about Olsen comes during the same week that Berlin filed a complaint in DuPage Circuit Court charging that the COD board violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act two years ago when it agreed in closed session to extend the contract of then-President Robert Breuder - an extension that Berlin says should be overturned.

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