Schaumburg trustees recommend rules for mayor's travel costs

With Mayor Al Larson no longer able to drive, a committee of Schaumburg trustees is recommending the village pay others to drive him on trips deemed valuable to his representation of the village, but only within the Chicago area.

The finance and general government committee Wednesday largely endorsed a practice already in place since October, through which the village is paying either for a car service or one of the village's auxiliary police officers to transport the 79-year-old mayor.

As part of the practice, Larson voluntarily gave up his $693 monthly travel allowance.

Larson stopped driving last year due to the progression of macular degeneration in his eyes. He was involved in a collision in February 2017 for which he later pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of an accident and the traffic offense of improper lane use.

The deterioration of his vision has affected his ability to navigate unfamiliar environments on his own, requiring assistance in walking even when he's been driven to a location, village officials said. Whether attending a ribbon cutting in Schaumburg or being taken to a regional meeting elsewhere in the Chicago area, another elected official or member of staff often has been with him to help.

The committee Wednesday decreed that for any travel outside the Chicago area, it would be Larson's responsibility to find his own accompaniment without reimbursement.

"It seems reasonable," Larson said Thursday.

Though Trustee Marge Connelly suggested that the village is expected to provide some accommodations for eligible people under the Americans with Disabilities Act, fellow trustees George Dunham and Tom Dailly said that should not apply to elected officials.

Dailly, who plans to run for mayor in 2019, said he raised the issue because he was uncomfortable about the village incurring liability under the current practices without board approval.

"My concern has been using staff to provide something that we as a board never approved," he said. "We've never really formalized anything and I think it's time that we do that."

Village Manager Brian Townsend told committee members that Larson's commute to and from village hall has remained his own responsibility. He's been picked up at home only if the destination is an event elsewhere and not his office at village hall.

Before Wednesday's meeting. Larson spoke of the importance of representing the village at various events, such as Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, Pace bus and Illinois Municipal League meetings.

"There's value added to this," he said. "These are important parts of a mayoral agenda."

He admitted that travel has become more difficult and requires a variety of solutions.

"I have to be very creative sometimes," Larson said. "I don't allocate resources, the (village) manager does."

The full village board will vote on the committee's recommendation at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 13.

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