DuPage board gives powers back to chairman
Updated: October 2, 2012 2:25PM
WHEATON — With apologies to Job, the Almighty isn’t the only One who gives and takes away. Elected officials can do it, too.
Members of the DuPage County Board approved rules changes Tuesday that restore to the board chairman an array of powers they took away from the position two years ago.
The move effectively repeals measures they took in September 2010, a few weeks before Naperville resident Bob Schillerstrom wrapped up a dozen years at the board helm and former state Sen. Dan Cronin took his place.
That trimming of the chairman’s permitted duties was seen by some officials at the time as an attempt to curtail Cronin’s authority before he was seated in December 2010.
This week’s changes enable Cronin to set the makeup and leadership of the board’s committees, which function as parent groups to county departments. Included in the chairman’s restored powers is the ability to name committee heads when vacancies come up, rather than allowing vice chairmen to ascend automatically to the top posts.
The updated rules also shift from the finance committee, to which all 18 board members belong, to the chairman full control over the appointment and reach of ad hoc committees, and limit board members to one vice chairman position each, rather than the current two.
Board member Jim Healy of Naperville, a Republican, joined the board’s three Democrats in voting against the rules change. The remaining 14 members of the board supported the overhaul.
Healy echoed the perspective aired by others in the past that spreading out the power is a good way to ensure the maintenance of checks and balances.
“I believe that the County Board should be doing more of these things,” he said.
Healy — who wants DuPage to join most other Illinois counties in having an administrator or executive rather than a board chairman — said some of his colleagues who supported the return to the former way of forming subgroups appear to tie roles to people, rather than seeing the duties within a larger structural context.
“The problem is that people look at it as the personality that’s sitting in that office,” he said.
John Curran of Woodridge, the board’s vice chairman, didn’t see it that way.
“The theme for this is to bring all members in and include them in the process,” Curran said.
Aurora Democrat Tony Michelassi — who, like Healy, represents Naperville and the rest of District 5 — was focused on the parent group makeup.
“My concern is that we’re removing a lot of the duties of the vice chairmen,” said Michelassi, who also noted that some current chairmen would not have gotten where they are without the “natural succession” established by the automatic promotions.
Winfield Democrat Dirk Enger said he wanted the wording of the measure to be clearer, and was displeased with the limited discussion that preceded Tuesday’s vote on the changes, saying he wasn’t informed about them until last Friday. He said he would have preferred to put off deciding on the matter until after the Nov. 6 election, to allow “the new board to weigh in” on the changes.
But District 1 representative Don Puchalski of Addison sees the changes as an improvement.
“It’s going to be more fair, it’s going to be easier for people to get on the committees they want to be on, and it’ll be less political,” Puchalski said.
Healy, however, was displeased to see the rules rolled back. He thinks issues need to be discussed by the full board whenever possible, even when the discussion gives rise to disagreement.
“It puts back in the chairman’s column the things that those exact same people took away from him two years ago,” he said. “We’re going back to the time we were in 12, 14 years ago when the chairman did all those things.
“It’s a way to control people, and I don’t think the board should be controlled.”