Editorial: Wearing too many hats at the Bensenville Park District

  • Joseph C. Vallez, left, interim executive director of the Bensenville Park District, speaks with a resident Wednesday who was concerned that Vallez also runs park districts in North Berwyn, Justice and Marengo.

    Joseph C. Vallez, left, interim executive director of the Bensenville Park District, speaks with a resident Wednesday who was concerned that Vallez also runs park districts in North Berwyn, Justice and Marengo. Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted12/22/2016 2:39 PM

Jake Griffin's Suburban Tax Watchdog column on Wednesday tells the story of how the Bensenville Park District board planned to hire a man who already runs three park districts to oversee its own.

Joe Vallez was hired that night as interim park director to replace Rick Roberts, who was fired earlier in the month.

 

Two members of the five-member Bensenville board had expressed reservations over his hiring, as have some at the other three park districts he oversees.

And no wonder.

Vallez runs the Marengo, North Berwyn and Justice park districts.

Those three jobs paid Vallez a combined $244,714 last year, and under Illinois pension law, he must work a minimum of 58 hours a week for 52 weeks next year to qualify for his pension benefits from those districts.

Those 58 hours do not account for the work he will do for Bensenville.

There are plenty of people who work very hard, but after meeting that minimum 58 hours each week, what gas will he have left in the tank to do a good job in Bensenville -- even if it is a 4½-month contract?

Admittedly, the park board was behind the 8-ball, having shown Roberts the door earlier this month rather than waiting until his contract expired on New Year's Eve.

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But there are better ways to patch the hole.

The two members of the board who've expressed apprehension to the deal say they were given one option for a hire. Commissioners John Wassinger and Tom Earley were the dissenters. Wassinger is concerned that there are no stipulations in the contract regarding how much time Vallez must commit to Bensenville.

For his part, Vallez says he must evaluate the district's operations before he can assess how much time he'll need to spend.

He views his role as assisting the other supervisors in their roles rather than micromanaging.

Board President Rich Johnson concedes the district is neither paying for nor expecting Vallez to put in a 40-hour week. "Sometimes when you want something done, you give it to the busiest guy in the room," he told Griffin.

The upside: Bensenville is neither paying for health nor pension benefits and is paying Vallez $6,000 a month, plus $100 for a car allowance.

And the contract sunsets April 30.

We urge the board not to let any grass grow under its feet in its search for several qualified candidates to take the position permanently. With three other jobs on Vallez's plate, the board should not put itself in a position in which it would consider extending the contract.

Bensenville residents -- along with those in Marengo, North Berwyn and Justice -- deserve a better level of commitment than this.

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