DuPage forest preserve hires executive director for third time

  • John Lapinski

    John Lapinski

Updated 9/23/2014 12:22 PM

DuPage County Forest Preserve commissioners have -- for the third time -- approved a contract for the district's next executive director.

John Lapinski originally was slated to begin Oct. 1 as the district's top administrator, but that date had to be pushed back to Dec. 1 because the 53-year-old Oak Brook resident is addressing a serious medical issue.


So forest preserve commissioners on Tuesday approved a revised version of Lapinski's employment contract that reflects the new start date.

"I'm proud to be part of a board that can take that (Lapinski's medical issue) into account and give him the grace period to heal before he comes to us," Commissioner Shannon Burns said.

Commissioner Mary Lou Wehrli cast the only vote against the contract. She said she opposed it because it doesn't allow Lapinski any vacation for six months.

Wehrli previously criticized the process that was used to pick Lapinski to replace former Executive Director Arnie Biondo, who retired after less than eight months on the job when commissioners made it clear he no longer was wanted.

"This has been a behind-the-scenes, noninclusive move by the (board) majority to make this happen," Wehrli said last week.

As soon as the decision was made to part ways with Biondo, Joseph Cantore -- who is running unopposed in November to become president of the district -- suggested Lapinski for the executive director position. Board members agreed to hire Lapinski after having one-on-one interviews with him.

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It took commissioners less than two weeks to name Lapinski executive director on Aug. 19 -- the same day they announced Biondo's departure.

Lapinski, who is the trial court administrator for DuPage's chief judge, was offered a three-year pact that was to start Oct. 1 and pay him $160,000 a year, but he did not immediately sign the agreement.

Commissioners had to take a second vote on Lapinski's contract because details about the pact weren't available to the public before the board approved it Aug. 19. Under the Illinois Open Meetings Act, proposed compensation packages of $150,000 a year or more must be advertised six days in advance.

Tuesday's decision is expected to be the final vote on the contract.

Burns has said that if Lapinski can't start on Dec. 1, the board needs to move forward with another search.


In the meantime, two longtime district employees, Michael Palazzetti and Robert Vick, will continue serving as interim executive directors. Palazzetti is the deputy director of operations and Vick is the deputy director of natural resources.

While the board agreed to extend Palazzetti's and Vick's appointment, Wehrli voted against the decision.

"This is nothing against Bob and Mike," Wehrli said. "They are excellent people handling the situation."

Wehrli's problem with the appointment is that it doesn't have a specified end date. According to the resolution, Palazzetti and Vick will serve as interim executive directors "until the new executive director assumes his position or they are otherwise replaced by the president with the advice and consent of the commissioners."

"This is an open-ended appointment," Wehrli said. "I don't think that's a good idea."

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