UPDATED: Elmhurst Mayor Pete DiCianni Has Hurdles if He Wins County Board Seat
DiCianni releases statement in response to state's attorney's opinion.
UPDATE Jan. 30, 4:45 p.m.
Elmhurst Mayor Pete DiCianni has released a statement via email in response to DuPage State's Attorney Robert Berlin's opinion regarding the ability to serve on two government boards that have contractual obligations to one another:
"While I have high respect for Robert Berlin, the DuPage County State's Attorney, I must admit I am not convinced of his recent opinion that, 'no member of a county board, during the term of office for which he or she is elected, may be appointed to, accept, or hold any[other] office…' There is not one court case that upholds his recent opinion. In fact, there are many mayors and municipal members that currently serve in dual capacities, both at the county and state levels, and are extremely effective and well-respected. I am determined to prove I can serve effectively in both capacities, as Mayor of Elmhurst, and if elected, as county board member. My dedication to public service and the communities within District Two is my motivation; accordingly, I will donate my mayoral salary to the City of Elmhurst if elected to the county board. I trust the voters will gather the facts they need to choose whom will best represent them in DuPage County.”
Although Elmhurst Mayor Pete DiCianni pledged to forgo his salary as mayor if he is elected to the higher-paying DuPage County Board, that might not be an option, according to city officials.
Elmhurst City Manager Jim Grabowski said city staff has not looked into whether or not the mayor can opt to not receive his annual stipend of $6,000.
When DiCianni announced his bid for an open District 2 County Board seat, he said he would continue to serve as mayor of Elmhurst but would not draw that salary while serving if he was also elected to the County Board. A County Board member draws a salary of $50,000.
DiCianni is one of eight candidates seeking one of the three District 2 spots on the board. The primary election is in March.
If DiCianni wins a seat on the County Board and city officials determine the mayor can forgo his salary, that action will impact his pension eligibility. As mayor DiCianni is eligible to draw a pension from the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund if he serves a minimum of 20 hours per week in his mayoral capacity. DiCianni signed an affidavit pledging to work the required hours, but if he gives up his salary he will not be able to pay into the pension plan.
“If he’s not being compensated then he couldn’t earn service,” said Linda Horell, an IMRF spokesperson.
Horell said he could certainly participate in the retirement plan as a member of the DuPage County Board. That would require another pledge to work at least 20 hours per week on county business. To qualify for the county pension plan elected officials are expected to perform at least 1,000 hours of county-related work annually for eight years. However, the elected officials don’t have to prove they meet the requirement. Neither the IMRF nor the county requires that they document their time.
However, Horell said that if DiCianni was elected to the board and was able to drop his mayoral salary, it would stand to reason that the eligibility affidavit would be moot.
There are no IMRF rules against a member holding simultaneous elected positions, Horell said. She said officials can hold multiple positions at the same time, but will only be eligible to draw a pension based on the highest paid position.
As per his request, Patch posed multiple questions to DiCianni via email about his candidacy, including his pension and whether or not he believes he can faithfully serve constituents on two elected boards. DiCianni did not respond to the questions by the time this article was published.
Another obstacle for DiCianni’s serving on two government boards is DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin. On Jan. 20 Berlin issued a legal opinion that said DuPage board members cannot simultaneously hold another elected office with another government body that the board has a “contractual obligation with.”
“It follows that the existence of any contractual relationship between the county and another unit of local government would prevent a County Board member from taking advantage of this ‘safe harbor’ provision,” Berlin wrote.
If a locally elected official takes a seat on the County Board, Berlin said the candidate must resign the local office.
DiCianni said precedents say otherwise.
“There are plenty of locally elected officials who hold higher office (in Illinois) at the same time,” DiCianni said, before asking that all other questions be submitted in writing.