New law caps 'golden parachutes' for local government leaders

A new law signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner this week limits the amount of severance local governments can pay to outgoing employees and prevents payouts for any employee fired for misconduct.

Democratic state Sen. Tom Cullerton of Villa Park sponsored the Government Severance Pay Act, calling it "common-sense reform." The new law caps severance pay at 20 weeks of an employee's salary.

"Handing out golden parachutes to discredited public officials is theft and this law will put a stop to it," he said after the governor's signing.

Suburban taxpayers are often hit hardest with this practice. When town, school, park or other local government boards butt heads with administrators who have years left on contracts, the two sides sometimes will settle for six-figure payouts to end the relationships. Agreements often include confidentiality clauses that leave taxpayers in the dark about why the employee was sent packing.

The Daily Herald documented several of the severance deals in the past year in the suburbs.

In April, Vernon Hills Village Manager John Kalmar received a $161,000 severance package. A month earlier, Libertyville Village Administrator Chris Clark received a $107,141 deal upon his resignation after less than a year on the job.

In November, embattled Des Plaines Elementary District 62 Superintendent Floyd Williams Jr. got $127,000 despite claims of sexual harassment.

Even some employees who were fired for misconduct have received severance packages, but this law will prohibit that practice in the future.

A Better Government Association report tallied 11 such severance deals for various government administrators in recent years, and the combined cost to taxpayers was more than $5.2 million.

The new law affects only new contracts signed after the start of 2019.

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