Editorial: Whatever they're called, appointments reinforce 'insider' image of townships

It may be that so-called "Chicago politics" are not at play in the job shuffling of the past few months at Palatine Township. Maybe. But what are "Chicago politics"?

If the term is generally assumed to cover the famous "we don't want nobody nobody sent" description of political favoritism, the township arrangements disclosed in Kerry Lester's column Monday certainly seem to qualify, and in the process, they raise continued questions about the role and nature of township governments.

The timeline is central to this controversy.

In the 2013 primary, Palatine Republican Township Republican Chairman Aaron Del Mar slated Sharon Langlotz-Johnson to run for supervisor over two-term incumbent Linda Fleming. He said he was troubled by Fleming's collection of a supervisor's salary on top of her pension as a retired transportation employee at Palatine Township Elementary District 15. Langlotz-Johnson won the primary and the election to become township supervisor.

Flash forward two and a half years. With the death of township fire Trustee Richard Wells, Langlotz-Johnson appointed Del Mar to the vacancy, and when Highway Commissioner Tom Kaider resigned a few months later, she declared Del Mar was the best person for that job as well. She told Lester that the township needed Del Mar's experience and rare - if not unique - qualifications as a small-business owner with a public management degree and service as a Palatine village councilman.

Suddenly, "double dipping" wasn't such a huge concern for Del Mar, though to be clear, he won't collect two separate pensions from the township posts because the fire trustee seat doesn't qualify. And, the combined township salaries are not eye-popping. Together, they come to around $23,000 a year, no fortune on its own but certainly a nice annual supplement for attending some board meetings and overseeing 16 miles of township roadway.

Langlotz-Johnson notes that the timeline of Del Mar's appointment belies any inference of quid pro quo. How could he have known in 2013 that positions would open up in 2015 and 2016 that she could appoint him to? True enough, as long as one accepts the premise that in just two years, a political leader is inclined to ignore or forget the benefactor who helped get her seated.

That's a lot to accept. Moreover, the entire episode serves, at best. to emphasize that the appearance of a political quid pro quo can be as damaging as the real thing. Political leaders - from Palatine Township to the city of Chicago and beyond - would have us believe that we should ignore such appearances, especially when, as Langlotz-Johnson says of Del Mar, the subject is doing "an amazing job."

We're not appeased. Call it what you will, but whatever the term, the behavior raises natural suspicions and does nothing to dispel the stereotype of townships as the personal fiefdoms of a small cadre of local political insiders.

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