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August 7, 2022

Naperville Park District Commissioners Receiving Improper Gifts/Discounts –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On October 4, 2021

NAPERVILLE, IL. (ECWd) –

Three Naperville Park District Commissioners have received statutorily unauthorized compensation for their service as Park District Commissioners.

The rest of you subjects must pay full price.

Commissioners Mary Gibson, Leslie Ruffing, and Alison Thompson (all three elected in 2021) have received “discounts” on services or merchandise from the district, when the statute says “The members of such governing boards shall act as such without compensation” – Section 4-1 of the Park District Code.

Gibson used her “benefits” thirteen times in May, June, July, Aug, and Sep of 2021. Ruffing used her “benefits” three times in Jun and Aug 2021. Thompson used her “benefits” nine times in Jun, Jul, and Aug 2021. These are the “benefits” that are actually tracked by the district. It is unclear, and we did not ask if they also track the free things like golf, beach access, and team/league fees.

The last time we wrote about this park district and its unauthorized compensation, the district replied stating that the commissioners provide valuable feedback when using their free or discounted “benefits” for being commissioners. We disagree with everything in their letter of excuses and rely on the single sentence in the above paragraph referencing compensation.

According to the public records provided, there has been no feedback or comments in writing or during meetings since March of 2015 related to any “benefits” used by commissioners or family members. Here was the laughable “feedback” received prior to March 20, 2015.

Additionally, the district added additional “benefits” since our last article, this time they included free fitness memberships with no initiation fee for commissioners, with a 20% discount with no initiation fee for family members, and free access to facility drop-in programs for family members for the Fort Hill Activity Center.

No person in their right mind could look at the expansive list of free and discounted items given to Commissioners (based solely on their elected position), family members of Commissioners (based solely on their relationship with the elected official), and former Commissioners and their family members (based solely on the fact that they once were elected as a Commissioner or were the family member of someone who was once an elected Commissioner), and agree that it does not meet the definition of Compensation.

We found some definitions of “Compensation” – including in various statutes and case law:

The Illinois Governmental Ethics Act defines “compensation” as: “Compensation” means any money, thing of value, or economic benefit conferred on, or received by, any person in return for services rendered, or to be rendered, by himself or another.

The Illinois Code of Civil Procedure talks about this in Section 20-101 when providing for the recovery of fraudulently obtained public funds: 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.

The Illinois Supreme Court, in Harlan v Sweet, has weighed in on the subject of defining compensation (read this paper) – “We also note that the terms “salary” and “compensation” are virtually synonymous (Cummings v. Smith (1937), 368 Ill. 94, 99, 13 N.E.2d 69) and are used interchangeably in these provisions of the constitution.”

Black’s Law Dictionary’s definition of “Compensation”: “The word also signifies the remuneration or wages given to an employee or officer. But it is not exactly synonymous with “salary.””

Black’s Law Dictionary’s definition of “Remuneration”: “Reward; recompense; salary. Dig. 17, 1, 7. The word “remuneration” means a quid pro quo. If a man gives his services, whatever consideration he gets for giving his services seems ‘to me a remuneration for them. Consequently, I think, if a person was in the receipt of a payment, or in the receipt of a percentage, or any kind of payment which would not be an actual money payment, the amount he would receive annually in respect of this would be “remunera- tion.” 1 Q. B. Div. 003, 664.”

It is long past time for this park district to eliminate all of these so-called “benefits” for elected officials and family members and comply with the language of the Park District Code.

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8 Comments
  • Justice Seeker
    Posted at 07:51h, 05 October

    Why would this park district stop when there is absolutely no consequence for this illegal and unethical action. Yet again, a state’s attorney who sits silent. Taxpayers are going to have to start demanding change. The attitude that it will never change, will not change it. It will only change when taxpayers band together and demand change. Taxpayers need to realize this causes their property taxes to go up and elect people who will protect them.
    It is time in Illinois for taxpayers to fight as hard against the corruption of fraud and elected officials not doing their jobs as they have the mask mandate. Maybe we could get something done. Don’t sit and wait for someone to do it! It is going to take an army to take this state, county or municipality back.

  • Rusty Shakleford
    Posted at 08:42h, 05 October

    Run the same FOIA for literally any other park district in the area and you’ll likely find the same. They’ll excuse it away all the same as “oh they are inspecting the golf course”, “oh their family is auditing the pool this summer.”

  • Kathiann
    Posted at 09:49h, 05 October

    This is how private entities buy favorable policies…see it all the time at state and federal level. Just another form of lobbying. Agree with Justice Seeker people need to band together and demand change.

  • PK
    Posted at 12:34h, 05 October

    Unfortunately, a financial audit might not be able to ferret out the tax implications of the un-lawful benefits/compensation lost to the park district’s commissioners. It’s a status quo leakage.

  • Cindy
    Posted at 05:29h, 06 October

    LOL Liars and thieves, all. Integrity is lost on the whole of the world.

  • Mags
    Posted at 08:15h, 06 October

    Taxpayers in Dupage County need to push Mr. Berlin to do his job. He has been lax throughout this whole so called pandemic.

  • Roger
    Posted at 09:41h, 06 October

    Their “experience” should be that of an anonymous full-fare-paying customer rather than a pampered/discounted insider guest.

  • jannie
    Posted at 18:35h, 07 October

    Those “taxpayers” did vote those people in. Or, did they even bother to vote since it wasn’t a “big election.

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