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May 25, 2024

Oak Brook Park District – “Free For Us, But Not For Thee”-

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On May 16, 2024

Oak Brook, Ill. (ECWd) –

It has come to our attention that the Oak Brook Park District has been gifting public property and resources to its commissioners and their families. While not as expansive as Naperville Park District’s freebees to commissioners, this needs to be placed on an agenda to rescind the entire 2010 Ordinance.

Section 4.1 of the Park District Code specifically states that “…the members of such governing boards shall act as such without compensation…”

Compensation** can take a variety of forms, including free entrance to park property and programs.

A 2010 Park District Ordinance is the source of this unauthorized compensation, and contains, among other things:

  • the usual whereas and wherefore statements about commissioners exercising their alleged duties of obtaining “feedback” from residents
  • Commissioners get free admission to facilities, property and programs
  • Commissioners can invite EIGHT guests per quarter to get all the free stuff too, including memberships, facilities, special events, etc
  • Family members of Commissioners get all the free stuff too

While we understand a commissioner’s (but not their family) need to obtain feedback from residents and people who use the facilities, those commissioners could simply be reimbursed for any program or event they attended for the purpose of evaluating or obtaining feedback instead of a blanket free pass to everything for them, their family, and eight guests.


We found some definitions of “Compensation” – included 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 commissioners, their guests, and family members and comply with the language of the Park District Code.


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  • Dave
    Posted at 10:23h, 16 May Reply

    How could they possibly think that was lawful?

  • andrew
    Posted at 12:45h, 16 May Reply

    I get why something like this would upset people. Rules are rules and they should be regularly updated to address any perceived gray area. I think a reasonable stipend for each board member is reasonable alongside the elimination of perks. We want educated and experienced folks in office. Nominal stipends or compensation help attract and retain such individuals.

    • Kirk Allen & John Kraft
      Posted at 09:26h, 17 May Reply

      The law says they are to serve without compensation. Cant offer those stipends when the law forbids it.

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