Cronin, some Democrats on DuPage County Board clash over appointments
The DuPage County Board on Tuesday made a series of appointments to panels that oversee the health department and DuPage Airport Authority, confirming all three of Chairman Dan Cronin's nominees, but not without objections from some Democrats.
The seemingly routine appointment process devolved into a nearly hourlong heated debate with bouts of sarcasm and board members' speaking over each other.
Cronin picked Democrat Lynn LaPlante and fellow Republican Sam Tornatore as new and returning members of the county board of health. But he didn't reappoint Paula Deacon Garcia, drawing the ire of her Democratic allies on the county board.
Cronin also selected former West Chicago Alderman Noreen Ligino-Kubinski for a seat on the airport board.
Democrat Mary Ozog argued that the trio of appointments should be left to Cronin's successor. All 18 county board seats are up for election in November because of redistricting. Voters also will choose a new board chair to replace Cronin, who's stepping down after 12 years at the helm.
"We're only 12 weeks before the next election, and I think it's more appropriate that the next chairman and board appoint and approve these," Ozog said.
She sought to stall the appointments but was outvoted. Ozog also asked Cronin why another appointed position has been vacant since January.
"That would indicate to me a problem, a problematic issue with how the appointments are made," Ozog said.
Some Republicans suggested Ozog was contradicting herself.
"We've had people on this board sit here and wonder why these seats have sat vacant and why they haven't been reappointed. But now I guess it's different because an election is coming," board member Jim Zay said. "It's not different. Let's appoint these people to those positions. They're more than qualified."
Cronin defended his list of appointments, saying county board members can simply choose to approve or reject them. Previous appointments have also turned into a dispute between Cronin and some Democrats.
"The responsibility to appoint people to boards and commissions is one of the most important and serious responsibilities that I have," Cronin said. "I thoroughly vet every appointee, and I do my research."
He said he wants to remain focused on "governing" and admonished critics.
"Typically, people who want to put a name forward, they don't usually approach it in this combative, hostile sort of partisan way," he said.
Several Democrats said they were just raising questions. Greg Schwarze wanted to know why Cronin decided not to reappoint Deacon Garcia.
"I was persuaded by some of the sentiment that was expressed here earlier about getting different people and new energy, different viewpoints," said Cronin, explaining why he backed LaPlante. "Other board members thought that those were really significant, substantive, persuasive, compelling reasons."
Ozog said she believes Deacon Garcia has done a "great job."
"If you were chairman, you could make those decisions. But I have the responsibility," Cronin responded.
Tornatore's and LaPlante's appointments each were approved by a 16-2 vote with Ozog and Dawn DeSart, another Democrat, voting "no." Their terms on the health board last until June 30, 2023.
While 10 county board members supported Ligino-Kubinski's appointment, seven of the panel's 11 Democrats -- Ozog, DeSart, Deacon Garcia, Schwarze, Liz Chaplin, Julie Renehan and Sheila Rutledge -- and Republican Pete DiCianni voted against it.
"I have absolutely nothing against the nominee," Rutledge said of Ligino-Kubinski. "She's a wonderful citizen. But she's already on (the) Choose DuPage board. She's already holding a couple of positions. And I have long supported that we need new fresh faces on these boards."
Ligino-Kubinski lives a mile away from the airport. She also was recommended for the post by West Chicago Mayor Ruben Pineda to represent the city's interests, Zay said.
"We have no representation from anybody who lives in West Chicago where the airport is and where it has the biggest impact," he said.
Ligino-Kubinski is a part-time project coordinator for HBK Engineering. Her board term will expire at the end of January 2027.