CARY, IL. (ECWd) -
We will start this article with a challenge to newly elected Cary Park District Commissioner Melissa Victor (and the remaining Commissioners): Please work to eliminate these unlawful benefits (compensation) provided to Commissioners and their family members when the Park District Code, Section 4-1, provides the specific prohibition on receipt of compensation.
We asked the Park Director for comment on the below benefits, and here is his response:
"Mr. Kraft. Thank you for the email follow up on your FOIA request and prior to your publishing of an article that may include the Cary Park District. I’m confirming that your email with feedback and review of Cary Park District policy 1-010a is received. As a long standing best practice, the Cary Park District Board of Commissioners reviews its policies on a regular basis. I will pass along your email comments/questions to both the Board of Commissioners and the attorney for the Park District as input and feedback for consideration upon the next review." Dan Jones.
What do Cary Park District Commissioners and their family members receive while acting as Commissioners in their uncompensated capacity?
It is spelled out on pages 37, 38, and 40, of their Board Policy:
- FREE Golf and Cart Fee (see rate schedule here) (Season Pass for a couple is $2,999.00)
- Discounts on guests with “NO FEE” Mon thru Thursday
- Range Fee – NO FEE
- 50% DISCOUNT on clubhouse purchases
- Merchandise is retail LESS 25%
- Programs: NO FEE
- Season Pass – spouses and dependent 5-day pass, 50% OFF RESIDENT RATE
- DISCOUNT Room Usage and 10% off food
- FREE Fitness Center pass ($579.00 for a family)
- FREE Aquatics/Pool Membership ($89.00 for a family of three)
The Cary Park District attempts to disguise these perks as being used to "evaluate" park services, but never require a formal written evaluation. We believe this is merely a tactic to continue receiving free golf, fitness, and aquatics for themselves and their family members on the backs of the taxpayers (and in violation of state law).
If the intent is for Commissioners to legitimately "evaluate" park services, then the commissioner can simply pay the going rate, provide a legitimate written evaluation, and be reimbursed by the district for their expense in evaluating the program or service.
The Park District Code, as we have written about numerous times in the past, prohibits these benefits:
(70 ILCS 1205/4-1) (from Ch. 105, par. 4-1)
Sec. 4-1. Each member of the governing board of any park district before entering upon the duties of his office shall take and subscribe an oath to well and faithfully discharge his duties, which oath shall be filed with the secretary of said board. The members of such governing board shall constitute the corporate authority for such district and a majority of such members shall constitute a quorum for said board at any meeting thereof. The members of such governing boards shall act as such without compensation, and each member of the board shall be a legal voter of and reside within such district.
(Source: Laws 1951, p. 113.)
We read this prohibition to mean, as the Illinois Supreme Court has stated numerous times, and most recently in Harlan v. Sweet, that the term "salary" is synonymous with "compensation" and includes all types of benefits received by the elected official no matter what name is placed on the benefit (read this paper).
Additionally, the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure states that: “Compensation, benefits or remuneration” includes regular compensation, overtime compensation, vacation compensation, deferred compensation, sick pay, disability pay, sick leave, disability leave, medical, dental, optical or other health benefits, pension or retirement benefits or any other pay, compensation, benefits, or any other remuneration.
This is a problem across the State of Illinois with Park Districts in particular. Someone has convinced them they can reap benefits for their service, without calling it what it is: compensation.
We urge the Cary Park District to immediately discontinue these improper benefits.
If they are genuinely interested in Commissioners "evaluating" their services and programs, then reimburse the commissioner for expenses incurred, but only after providing a detailed written evaluation.