Naperville, IL. (ECWd) –
The Naperville Park District sent an official response to this article referencing compensation to commissioners, past commissioners, and their families. Read it and my response to each paragraph below:
“The Park District reviewed and revised its Board Policy with the assistance of legal counsel in September 2012; the Policy is in full compliance with Illinois law. It is important to note that when the District went through this most recent revision, the parameters of the Policy were further narrowed to include fewer discounts and expense reimbursements.“
I suggest their legal counsel is wrong and the Policy is non-compliant with the law. Just because you further restricted reimbursements and discounts doesn’t make it comply with the law. The only thing that will bring this in compliance is to eliminate the discounts and freebees.
“First, the Blog ignores the duties of sitting Commissioners. Among the duties of sitting Commissioners is the responsibility to monitor customer service and the quality of experiences provided by staff, programs and facilities. The Policy encourages Commissioners to make greater use of facilities and participate in programs (including programs for family members of disparate ages) by defraying the expense of doing so for selected facilities and programs. During the policy review process, staff produced evidence of numerous instances where feedback from the Commissioners and their families was valuable in improving the experiences provided by the Park District. If a Commissioner does not participate in a program or use one of the facilities listed in the Policy, the Commissioner receives nothing.“
In their Board Policy, Page 54, Item 5.7.1, it explains that Commissioners are invited to “audit” such programs and activities and provide feedback to the Executive Director. That makes sense, and reflects on the duties of a Commissioner to be able to make informed decision about the District.
Providing free or discounted goods and services to “family members” of commissioners, and to “former commissioners and their family members” does not reflect on the duties of a sitting commissioner – a point conveniently avoided in the District’s response. that is where this crosses the line into “compensation” – including the providing of goods at a discount.
Please ask yourself this: Will discounts on merchandise really help the District better serve the public? Will discounts on merchandise really help provide meaningful feedback to the Executive Director? What, if any, public purpose is served by allowing past commissioners and family members free and discounted merchandise and services? By providing a discount how can you expect those commissioners to fairly address the costs of the services they are auditing?
“Second, the Blog confuses defraying expenses with paying compensation. Defraying the cost of reasonable expenses incurred by Commissioners in the service of the District is not compensation. An example of the payment of reasonable expenses incurred is when Commissioners travel to Springfield to meet with legislators and other Park Districts on matters of policy. The payment of those expenses does not constitute “compensation” to a Commissioner. If a Commissioner does not go to Springfield, the Commissioner receives nothing. A second example is participating in the annual Illinois Association of Park Districts conference. One of the requirements of those holding the office of Park Board Commissioner is to educate themselves regarding policy changes, best practices and industry standards. For those Commissioners attending a conference of this kind, a payment of reasonable expenses would be acceptable. In both instances, the focus is on defraying an expense incurred in the service of the office. Because the Policy carefully links the discounts to the duty of the office, there is no compensation paid and no violation of Illinois law.“
The above paragraph has nothing to do with my previous article as I realize these mentioned items are consistent with the law and are a reasonable expense to a sitting commissioner as part of his duty as commissioner. Neither example used above reflect on anything I talked about.
“As for all persons who are not sitting Commissioners, the District has the power to market and encourage use of programs and facilities through a wide variety of incentives and discounts – including those offered to employees, former Commissioners and others (who experience shows are also good sources of customer feedback) – and the Policy serves that purpose. As with any discount or incentive, it can be changed at any time and so there is not even an implied promise of some benefit for service. It also is important to state that only some current commissioners choose to participate in District programs, while others do not.“
I agree the District has the power to market and encourage use of their facilities and programs. What they do not have the power to do is offer incentives and discounts to services and merchandise for sitting commissioner family members and former commissioners and their family members.
The District next argues that there is not even an implied promise of some benefit or service – what do they think Appendix D is? This District – as a matter of policy – has given benefits and services. They cannot get any clearer than putting it in writing in a policy. Appendix D spells out in no uncertain terms what benefits and discount are given.
Simply because only some of the commissioners participate in the program doesn’t make it legal.
Finally, the District states:
“In short, no compensation is paid to Commissioners.”
They couldn’t be more wrong with that statement. Their entire response is confirmation that “compensation” as defined in Black’s Law Dictionary is being paid – and it is based solely on the positions held as a sitting commissioner and deferred compensation based solely on a position held in the past as a commissioner. I may be able to understand “discounts” for the actual sitting commissioner for certain programs and services provided it was not frequent AND a written evaluation of the program was submitted to the Executive Director, however, under no circumstance should discounted MERCHANDISE ever be provided, even to a sitting commissioner.
Black’s Law Dictionary’s definition of “Compensation”: “The word also signifies the remuneration or wages given to an employe or officer. But it is not exactly synonymous with “salary.””