Cronin's restructuring plan draws fire from critics

A move by DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin to expand the roles of three key employees is drawing fire from some board members who say they weren't given enough information about the restructuring plan.

DuPage's CFO Paul Rafac, Deputy County Administrator Sheryl Markay and Chief Communications Officer Joan Olson will get additional responsibilities - and higher salaries - to make up for the loss of County Administrator Tom Cuculich, who is leaving July 5 to take a job in the private sector.

"We must have a structure of governance in place," Cronin said. "It seemed to me that this would be the most seamless, the most stable."

He also thought the plan wouldn't be controversial. That proved to be wrong.

There was lengthy debate Tuesday over a resolution that included roughly $108,000 in salary increases for the three employees. There also was a failed attempt to postpone the vote.

In the end, the board voted 14-3 to approve the salary increases. Mary FitzGerald Ozog, a Glen Ellyn Democrat; Elizabeth Chaplin, a Downers Grove Democrat; and Pete DiCianni, an Elmhurst Republican, voted no. Aurora Democrat Dawn DeSart abstained.

DeSart said after the vote that many board members "lost sight of the county being run like a business."

"The board was so busy telling the candidates how much they liked them, they treated the vote like a popularity contest," she said.

Cuculich is stepping down to become executive director of the Chicagoland Associated General Contractors. As part of his county job, he was the primary contact for Cronin and the 18 board members. He also was the primary liaison to countywide elected officials and oversaw 14 employees.

Cronin says Cuculich's job would be unwieldy for one new person to perform, so he decided to divvy up the responsibilities.

Rafac will be the chief financial and administrative officer. Markay will be the chief policy and program officer. And in her expanded role as chief communications officer, Olson will oversee the chairman's office, the county board office and the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

"I look forward to working with these leaders as I know they will represent the county in a consistent, professional manner," Cronin wrote in a June 18 letter to board members.

Starting July 8, Rafac's annual salary will increase to $194,488 from $176,807; Markay's salary will increase to $178,000 from $137,700; and Olson's salary will increase to $160,000 from $109,787.

When the time came to consider the raises on Tuesday, Ozog sought to postpone the vote. She said she wanted the board to talk about the reorganization and have a closed-door discussion about the pay increases.

"This is nothing to do with the (three employees)," Ozog said. "This is really about a major restructuring that I believe the board should have some input into."

DeSart said she didn't want to vote on the salary increases without seeing resumes for Rafac, Markay and Olson and making sure they have the right experience. No resumes or job descriptions were provided, she said.

"I think today's vote was irresponsible without the documents requested," she said.

But other board members say state law gives Cronin - not the board - the authority to appoint a management team.

They also said they know Rafac, Markay and Olson and don't need to see resumes.

"These people are here," board member Jim Zay said. "They've been here a long time. They can do that job. We have faith in them. We don't need to do a nationwide search."

The Carol Stream Republican said if any board members had questions and concerns, they should have reached out to Cronin directly. Instead, he said, they waited until Tuesday's meeting.

"Because why?" Zay said. "We've got reporters here and we've got cameras here."

Mary Fitzgerald Ozog
Dawn DeSart
Jim Zay
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