Glen Ellyn Park District poised to leave state lobbying group
Move would protest salary, pension of Illinois Association of Park Districts CEO
The Glen Ellyn Park District likely will withdraw from a lobbying group in protest of the organization's CEO's taxpayer-backed salary hikes and public pension.
Though he is not a government employee, Illinois Association of Park Districts President and CEO Peter Murphy last year received contributions of $103,000 toward a state pension he will collect when he retires. Murphy also got a $360,554 salary in 2014.
That's a pay increase of nearly 12 percent over the previous three years, which officials from the state's municipal retirement fund have said is designed to boost his pension.
The association meets with lawmakers in Springfield and represents roughly 300 park, forest preserve and conservation districts across the state. Those members pay dues, largely funded from property taxes charged by park districts.
Since 2010, the Glen Ellyn Park District has spent $54,034 in dues and costs related to employees, and sometimes, board members, attending annual conferences. This year, the district paid nearly $7,000 in dues.
Commissioner Jay Kinzler called Murphy's compensation "outrageous" and expressed support for cutting ties with the group.
"This is not good stewardship of taxpayer money," he said.
Commissioner Gary Mayo said the "situation has a foul odor" and he "certainly would consider" against renewing membership.
"If we have to drop out to send a message, I agree that the only way that anything's ever going to change is enough park districts opt out," Mayo said.
Board President Julia Nephew said she has spoken to Murphy several times on the phone. He told her the association's board -- 10 suburban park district commissioners sit on the panel -- has voted to make its employer pension obligations from non-dues revenue.
"Well, that's just purely cost shifting," Kinzler said.
Murphy also indicated he could attend a park district meeting in mid-December, but Nephew said that "seemed too late for the kind of decisions we need to make." As part of its budget talks -- the park district's spending plan is approved in December -- the board will decide whether to renew membership.
Nephew said she's poised to vote against rejoining the organization, calling for reforms to its employee salaries and benefits.
"What they do reflects on us," she said.
In a July 21 letter to its member board presidents, the association's board of trustees said Murphy's salary is "reviewed and benchmarked against national compensation studies of Association Chief Executives" and maintained that he is not retiring. Last year, the association's board and Murphy inked a five-year continuation of his contract through 2020, the letter said.
• Daily Herald Watchdog Editor Jake Griffin contributed to this report.