Davis: Endless quest to see what elected leaders are up to
How 'bout that wild and wacky DuPage Forest Preserve District?
Let's recap: After a nationwide search for a new executive director, the district found its man right next door in Carol Stream Park Director Arnie Biondo. But after seven months on the job, the elected commissioners decided it wasn't working out, so Biondo was put on paid leave, and later told to take early retirement or leave for good. Less than two weeks later, commissioners found their man again, without the aid of a nationwide search. John Lapinski, DuPage County's trial court administrator, starts Oct. 1.
Oh, and soon-to-retire forest President Dewey Pierotti, who's been the top elected guy virtually forever, says he found out about Biondo's dismissal only when Joe Cantore, the de facto next forest board president, and the district's attorney presented Pierotti with a letter officializing Biondo's departure. All this intrigue, you might guess, wasn't exactly spelled out in news releases and at public meetings. It took some pretty good sleuthing by staff writers Robert Sanchez and Justin Kmitch. Sanchez, upon hearing that Biondo was on thin ice, filed numerous Freedom of Information Act requests to unearth emails and other details about the firing. He also tracked down Biondo, who acknowledged he was forced out of the job.
One other thing, you'll seldom hear the word "fired" when that's what's really going on with public officials. Nor are you likely to hear many specific details -- as was the case here -- about why someone was canned or left abruptly. I am sure that's the legal advice given to our elected leaders, and I'm pretty sure it's all about keeping the departed employee from suing. It's wise not to fritter away taxpayers' money with a wrongful termination suit. I get all that. But, boy, wouldn't you think there ought to be some sort of detailed explanation when a forest preserve director -- or superintendent or municipal manager or any top official -- is asked to leave?
More elected official intrigue
Speaking of wild and wacky, how 'bout the censure of College of DuPage Trusee Kathy Hamilton?
She got her knuckles rapped Aug. 22 for "inappropriate conduct." Her crime? She disagrees -- most prominently in her lone vote against a $30 million teaching center -- with other board members and administrators "in an inflammatory, insulting, discourteous and defamatory manner." The evidence of such nefarious behavior seems a bit thin. And, boy, if we can't have some disagreement -- maybe even some emotional arguments occasionally -- among the people we elect as guardians of our money and institutions, what exactly do we have?
And now ... some details!:
Not long after I finished my lament about rarely hearing a reason someone abruptly leaves a public post comes the sharply worded resignation letter from Kaneland interim Superintendent Ken Sorrick. He made it abundantly clear why he was leaving the job one day after his appointment: He can't stand outspoken board member Tony Valente.
"He does not function in a businesslike manner and he turns concerns into personal attacks on others. He does not want to solve problems he wants to create problems," Sorrick wrote.
There's much more, but you get the drift. At the Monday night board meeting, Valente voted against Sorrick's contract, accused the board of nepotism and filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see the unedited results of a parents survey, which he accused outgoing Superintendent Jeff Schuler of "scrubbing."
By the way, Sorrick's resignation letter wasn't handed to us. Staff writer Susan Sarkauskas obtained it through a FOIA request.