Suburban lawmaker wants to end towns' spending for conventions, training

A suburban lawmaker wants to stop local governments from spending money for elected officials and employees to attend conferences or trainings, saying taxpayers shouldn't foot the bill in "a time of crisis."

State Rep. David McSweeney, a Republican from Barrington Hills, introduced bills Friday that would prohibit all expenses for such events, including registration, meals, hotels and transportation, as well as any state spending to rent exhibition space there. The only exception would be for public safety events.

"We lost 33,000 people last year, we are now behind Pennsylvania (in total population), and one of the reasons is property taxes. We have a crisis. People can't afford to pay for property taxes," he said. "I want to eliminate wasteful spending by local government."

McSweeney said he was prompted by reporting by the Daily Herald that suburban towns spent thousands of dollars to send representatives to the Illinois Municipal League conference in downtown Chicago in September.

The Illinois Municipal League didn't return a request for comment.

About 50 suburbs sent representatives to the three-day Illinois Municipal League conference at a total cost to taxpayers of $119,431.64, according to the Daily Herald's analysis. Six state agencies and the Pace suburban bus system spent nearly $10,000 to operate promotional exhibition booths at the conference.

Round Lake Beach, Lake in the Hills and Round Lake spent the most, charging taxpayers $12,856.16, $11,071.50 and $9,170.85, respectively, most of it for hotel rooms. Addison charged $8,680.55 to taxpayers, including a $566 dinner for six elected officials that included cocktails.

McSweeney's bills name "conventions or gatherings" attended by "employees or contractors" for professional education, training, retraining or personnel development. That language includes elected officials, he said.

"My main target here is elected officials, but I'm making it broad and applying it to all employees," he said

Carol Stream didn't send any representatives to the Illinois Municipal League conference, but that doesn't mean state legislators should make those decisions for local governments, Mayor Frank Saverino said. There is value in staff members attending professional development events, he said.

"It's a very broad, very stupid bill," Saverino said. "You've got legislators on both sides of the aisle that are just so smart that they can't figure out their own problems, so they're going to tell us how to do our own stuff."

McSweeney said nothing prevents elected officials and government employees from getting together for professional development without taxpayers - who already pay for public salaries - being on the hook.

"Why not meet at the township offices and have Dunkin' Donuts and coffee?" he said. "I don't see why you need a formal organization (to offer an event) and expenses and travel."

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