A bill that would add two new members to the Plainfield Park District board of commissioners passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday — although at least one commissioner says she feels the legislation is unnecessary.
House Bill 5593, sponsored by State Reps. Tom Cross (R-Oswego) and Natalie Manley (D-Joliet) passed with 100 yes votes, 12 nos and 2 "present" votes. The measure now moves to the Senate, where it is sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood).
Under the proposal, state legislators would appoint two new members to the board for a two-year term. After those two years, the positions would be up for election. The bill would increase the board from five to seven members.
Cross has called the bill an "attempt to bring sanity back" to the park district amid allegations of nepotism, unethical purchases and, most recently, controversial dealings with youth sports leagues. He said it will help restore public trust to the board and ensure commissioners act in a responsible, accountable manner.
“Government needs to be held accountable to taxpayers, and the Plainfield Park District Board is failing at that duty,” Cross said in a press release Tuesday. “This bill takes the bold action needed to restore the public’s faith in the Board and end the abuse of taxpayer funds.”In addition to Cross and Manley, Rep. Emily McAsey (D-Lockport) voted yes on the bill. Rep. Larry Walsh Jr. (D-Joliet) voted no.
"I am impressed that 100 members of the House (including Republicans) recognize the unusual nature of the park district's situation and are willing to go to such extremes to immediately help," commissioner Larry Newton said after Tuesday's vote.
Proposed park district resolution
Park board vice president Janet Silosky told WJOL on Monday that she would like to see the issue handled locally. Silosky said the park board could take action to increase the number of board members without help from Springfield.
Silosky told WJOL's Kevin Kollins that the Illinois Association of Park Districts law book states that the number of commissioners can be increased from five to seven through a simple resolution. She said the resolution could be on a park board agenda as soon as next month, adding that allowing it to be handled at the state level opens a Pandora's box of issues.Commissioner Mary Kay Ludemann acknowledged that a resolution could also expand the park board, but said the state legislation could get things moving more quickly.
"I'm thankful to State Rep's Tom Cross and Natalie Manley and Senator Bertino-Tarrant for proposing this legislation to help our Plainfield Park District," she said in an email to Patch. "Two additional board members are welcomed by me personally especially since we are the ninth largest park district within the State of Illinois based upon the size of our population served. Without this legislation the board could indeed adopt a resolution to add two new board members; however, they could not begin their terms until May of 2015, when they are sworn in after the April 2015 election. This legislation would add two new board members as soon as it passes so we could move forward immediately rather than waiting until May of 2015."
The park board's next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. May 14 at the Heritage Professional Center, 24023 W. Lockport St.
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