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posted: 6/26/2013 12:01 AM

Wheeling, Prospect Hts. at odds over airport manager

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The job of the Chicago Executive Airport's manager is the latest disagreement between the two municipalities that own the airport, Wheeling and Prospect Heights.

Manager Dennis Rouleau, who has worked for the airport for 24 years, is scheduled to have a bone marrow stem cell transplant next month, which he expects will keep him away from the airport until the end of the year.

With that in mind, the Prospect Heights City Council on Monday approved a severance package with Rouleau giving him 18 months' pay and health insurance.

The move angered Wheeling Village President Dean Argiris, who believes Prospect Heights officials pressured the airport's board into forcing Rouleau's resignation.

"I told (Rouleau) as far as Wheeling is concerned he is our airport manager," Argiris said. "When he gets back from leave he will still have the title airport manager unless he chooses to resign."

Prospect Heights Mayor Nick Helmer denied Tuesday that Prospect Heights officials want Rouleau out.

"We never tried to get rid of him. I tried to give him more money," said Helmer, noting the city's severance offer included six months more salary and insurance than one initially proposed by the airport board.

David Kolsaak, acting chairman of the airport board, said he is concerned about the airport operating without a proven manager during Rouleau's long absence. His position is that Rouleau could return to the airport after his leave, but not necessarily as manager.

Rouleau said he believes he has prepared the airport to run successfully in his absence.

This includes "having my assistant step in and take more responsibility and asking for help from the two communities. At no time did I submit my resignation," he said.

Rouleau said his relationship with the airport board is such that he will be comfortable continuing in the position after his leave.

Argiris and Helmer say the two towns' agreement governing airport operations is open to different interpretations and should be rewritten. Argiris said the municipal boards' only role in this case should be approving the budget change needed to fund Rouleau's severance, which he said would amount to $400,000 under the deal approved by Prospect Heights.

The two municipalities also have disagreed over the selection of a new chairman for the airport board, and Prospect Heights has sued Wheeling over sales tax revenues generated at the airport.

Argiris says Wheeling has invested heavily in infrastructure to support the airport.

"We are sick and tired about what has happened over the last 12 years," he said. "Prospect Heights says 'want, want want.' I say, 'What have you done?' My board is done with it."

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