DuPage County Board puts brakes on raises after legal questions arise
Decisions about the annual salaries of six DuPage County Board members and five countywide officials have been pushed back to next week after a political candidate opposed to pay raises questioned the legality of the scheduled votes.
County board members on Tuesday night were set to finalize the four-year pay schedules for the six board seats up for election in the fall. They also were supposed to determine pay for the county board chairman, sheriff, treasurer, clerk and regional superintendent of schools through the end of November 2018.
But Jean Kaczmarek, who is hoping to replace retiring County Clerk Gary King, said the planned series of votes would violate the Open Meetings Act.
The Glen Ellyn Democrat says proposed compensation packages that are at least $150,000 a year must be advertised six days in advance. Information about this week's board meeting wasn't available to the public until Friday.
"Placing pending raises for elected officials in a thick agenda packet posted the Friday night before a three-day holiday, then voting the following (work) day, doesn't meet my criteria for transparency," said Kaczmarek, who will face Paul Hinds, King's chief deputy, during the general election.
Kaczmarek said she had already spoken to an assistant attorney with the Illinois Attorney General Public Access Counselor's office. She was planning to ask the office to determine whether DuPage violated the Open Meetings Act if it proceeded with the votes on Tuesday.
Attorneys for the county are researching Kaczmarek's claim. In the meantime, the board agreed to postpone any decisions about salaries and stipends to a meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. June 3 at the county administration building in Wheaton.
Next week's vote comes two years after board members agreed to keep their salaries unchanged through the end of November 2016. Nearly all of them make $50,079 annually. Board member Grant Eckhoff receives $48,620 a year for the job.
As part of the proposal under review, pay for county board members would increase by 2 percent annually in fiscal years 2017 and 2018. All the salary changes take effect after the November election. The county's fiscal year begins on Dec. 1.
Meanwhile, the salaries of the board chairman, sheriff, treasurer, clerk and regional superintendent of schools would remain unchanged for two years. Then the salaries for those positions would increase by 2 percent a year in fiscal years 2017 and 2018.
Right now, the treasurer and clerk each make $139,835 a year. The sheriff is paid $161,573 annually. The county board chairman makes $126,450 a year.
DuPage County Regional Superintendent of Schools Darlene Ruscitti receives an annual salary of $109,464 from the state, according to the state board of education. DuPage then pays her an additional $31,955 a year. The proposal the county board is considering would only increase the DuPage share of Ruscitti's salary.
State law requires that the salaries of county board members and countywide elected officials be established at least 180 days before the beginning of their terms.
Treasurer Gwen Henry, who is expected to run unopposed during the general election, said she wasn't consulted about the proposed salary changes.
"I didn't know what it was going to be until I got the agenda," she said.
Henry said she's prepared to accept the salary schedule the county board determines for the treasurer position.
"It isn't something that you can argue," she said. "You just go on."
One issue that's expected to discussed next week is whether Sheriff John Zaruba should continue collecting a $15,000-a-year stipend for holding the position of supervisor of safety.
Board member Brian Krajewski says he wants to know what work elected officials are doing to earn stipends. Other elected officials who receive stipends include county board Chairman Dan Cronin and King. Cronin and King annually get $6,300 and $3,150, respectively, for their work with the local liquor commission.
Krajewski said he wants to know if the workload has increased or decreased for the elected officials since the stipends were established. "It makes sense to get rid of the stipend if they're not doing the work anymore," he said.