Public Watchdog.org

There’s More To Board/Commission Performance Than Meeting Attendance

03.05.18

As a member of the Park Ridge Library Board for six years, I found a recent article in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“Park Ridge aldermen recommend city track, publish meeting attendance by appointed board members,” Feb. 22, 2018) problematic for a few reasons.

First, during my tenure (2011-2017) on that Board I missed less than five of over 160 “official” meetings – regular full-board meetings, regular committee meetings, and “special” meetings – for a 97% attendance record; and one of those absences resulted from being stuck on a METRA train for 3 hours after it collided with a car near the Armitage overpass on the evening of December 20, 2016.

Consequently, I was never concerned about the City’s mandatory meeting attendance ordinance for City board and commission members, which reads:

4-17-6 ATTENDANCE REQUIREMENT

To remain eligible to serve on any Board or Commission, each member shall attend not less than 75% of all meetings for such Board or Commission during each calendar year. Any member who becomes incapable of attending at least 75% of all meetings for such Board or Commission may be disqualified from serving in that office and can be removed by the Appointing Authority in the manner described in Sections 3.1-35-10 or 11-13-3 of the Illinois Municipal Code, as applicable. Failure to meet the minimum attendance requirement shall be considered good cause for removal of any member appointed to any Board or Commission. (Ord. No. 2016-03 , 2(Exh. A), 1-18-2016)

Attendance at “official” meetings is the simplest, easiest and most objective way for measuring one aspect of a board or commission member’s commitment to his/her office. But it’s a huge mistake to consider just attendance at those “official” meetings as an absolute performance benchmark of any board or commission member – as Library Trustee Mike Reardon so cogently pointed out in his remarks to the City Council at its February 19, 2018 meeting, the text of which can be found here.

Since being appointed to the Library Board in June 2015, nobody – N.O.B.O.D.Y. – on that Board has done more, or better quality, work than Reardon. Whether analyzing staffing, measuring performance both internally and vis-à-vis other comparable libraries, exploring efficiencies from the automation of certain operations, budget numbers-crunching, dealing with personnel issues, or just providing the clear, hard-eyed insight that an engineer with a Northwestern (Kellogg) M.B.A. and an abiding love of this community (and its Library) can provide, Reardon’s contributions demonstrate the foolishness of using “official” meeting attendance as the sole benchmark of commitment or effectiveness.

And because his meeting attendance has consistently been in the 90% range, his opinions in this regard cannot be challenged as self-serving.

Most of what can be said about Reardon also can be said about Trustee Joe Egan, another engineer but with a Chicago (Booth) M.B.A. and a similar love of this community and its Library.

Although Egan’s attendance was a bit below the 75% target because of the travel demands of his job, he also has put in plenty of uncredited overtime on some of the same projects as Reardon, as well as being the Board’s point man in dealing with the Library’s architects on design issues for the proposed renovation; in working with the City on fire and safety issues related to the renovation; and in hammering out an intergovernmental agreement with the City to correct the longstanding, half-baked arrangement whereby the non-home rule Library is supposed to pay for capital repairs and improvements to the Library building – like a new roof, new windows, HVAC, etc. – out of its relatively modest budget even though the building and grounds are owned by the home rule City with a budget 15 times larger.

Despite those extra-curricular projects undertaken by Reardon and Egan often impinging on their day jobs – unlike the more accommodating evening schedules for the “official” meetings – they most certainly have saved the taxpayers thousands of dollars in outside consultant services.

So when residents like Alice Dobrinsky and Amy Bartucci suddenly pop out of the woodwork to make an issue of Egan’s meeting attendance, or the attendance of Library Trustees Stevan Dobrilovic and Pat Lamb – both of whom also have carved good chunks of time out of their day jobs to undertake extra-curricular activities on behalf of the Library – it’s naïve to assume it’s just about attendance.

Just like it would have been naïve to assume it was just about attendance a couple of years ago when another resident, Walter Szulczewski, popped out of the woodwork and attempted – along with former Library Board members John Benka, Patricia Lofthouse and Dick Van Metre, and former Library business manager Kathy Rolsing – to nuke the reappointment of Egan and Trustee Char Foss-Eggemann because they disagreed with Egan’s and Foss-Eggemann’s philosophy of running the Library based on Honesty, Integrity, Transparency and Accountability, and with an emphasis on fiscal responsibility.

You can read about their unsuccessful 2016 nuking effort in this blog’s 06.10.2016 post.

Not surprisingly, Bartucci and Dobrinsky – like Szulczewski before them – were notably MIA during all of those years of bad management, even after it led to the closing of the Library on summer Sundays in 2014 – despite Sundays regularly being the busiest days for the Library on a user-per-hour basis – in order to send a political message to then-mayor Dave Schmidt and the then-city council. We wrote about that in our 04.14.2014 post.

So if I had to bet the Vegas line on why Bartucci and Dobrinsky are suddenly beefing about Library trustee attendance, I’d put my money on attendance being the easiest way to pressure the mayor and at least 4 aldermen into getting rid of Egan, Dobrilovic and Lamb – and replacing them with old-style, fiscally irresponsible, go-along-to-get-along trustees who might assist a couple/few old-style trustees currently on the Board in walking back the H.I.T.A. and the fiscal responsibility that have taken hold at the Library.

Make no mistake about it: Meeting attendance is important. I wouldn’t have gone through the effort to attend 97% of the “official” meetings if I didn’t believe it was. But taking the easy way out by making an arbitrary 75% attendance standard the sine qua non of board and commission service, and effectively ignoring the extra-curriculars of board and commission members like Reardon and Egan, is a sham wrapped in a fiction inside a fraud.

And it increases the likelihood that good government can be subverted by bad politics (redundancy intended).

Robert J. Trizna

Editor and publisher

Former Park Ridge Library Trustee

To read or post comment, click on title.

10 comments so far

Thank you for putting this into perspective, it makes sense now.

Also thank you for your years of service to Park Ridge.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You’re welcome, but it was an honor and privilege for which I am grateful to everyone who helped give me the opportunity.

I think there should be a minimum expected attendance but I agree that it should not be the sole factor in determining whether somebody should be dismissed from a board or not reappointed. And 75% is arbitrary.

From what you write about Messrs. Reardon and Egan, they are major assets to the Library Board and also major targets for the snipers, much as you were last summer when you were denied reappointment because your no-nonsense outspokenness scared Moran and Mazzuca, and their snowflake constituents.

I don’t know Bartucci of Dobrinsky but I remember Szulczewski popping off on FB about Egan and Foss-eggemann a couple years ago.

Do you know who on the Council came up with the 75% figure?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We tried to find the Council’s discussion of the 2014 amendment that may have imposed the 75% figure but have not been able to find it.

All these folks are essentially volunteers. They deserve all of our thanks. That said, if the council thinks 75% is the wrong number they should change it. Once a number is published people should be held to it.

There is an example in the local rag that relates to attendance that I think is a bit of a joke. http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/park-ridge/news/ct-prh-park-director-raise-tl-0308-20180305-story.html

The Park Board hands out a raises on a 4-0 vote with three absent?!? It seems to me that vote should have been delayed until all could go on the record with their vote.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Those 4 votes would have been enough to pass it even if the other 3 were against it; and the other 3 were present a couple of weeks later to approve a performance bonus for Executive Director Mountcastle, so your point is…?

To Anon on 03.06.18 2:02 pm:

Just because people serving on these boards are volunteers doesn’t mean they get a pass on anything related to their official duties. But the point of this post as I read it is that the City code standard is artificial and arbitrary to the point of discriminating against people who may be doing more for but getting penalized because they do it “off the clock” so to speak.

I don’t object to the 75% attendance standard, but I agree with Mr. Trizna that it should be flexible to recognize major efforts outside of meetings.

It sounds like any attendance problems for Egan and Dobrilovic relate to their business travel. Although that by itself should not excuse poor attendance, I would rather have people like them on these boards than have the boards filled with people who don’t work.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Your last comment is particularly noteworthy because, from this editor’s joining the Library Board in July 2011 until July 2014, at least a 5-person majority of the Board was comprised of retirees (3-4) and/or people who worked from home (1-2) who clearly had no job-related excuse for not making meetings.

Not surprisingly, that just happens to coincide with much of the ruinous deficit spending and other mismanagement – free computer use and programs for non-residents, non-merit based employee raises while neglecting needed repairs, forgoing thousands of dollars in overdue fines through the Food For Fines program, closing the Library on Sundays in summer 2014, etc. – while that board majority and the Library director blamed Mayor Schmidt and the Council (sneeringly referred to by those Board majority members as “the guys across the street”) for not giving the Library more money without the Library’s going to referendum, which the Council ultimately imposed on the Library in November 2014.

I know Mike Reardon and he is everything you wrote about him and more. And even though I don’t know Mr. Egan, just your comparing him with Mike Reardon is enough for me to think he’s a major asset to the Library Board who should remain there despite the criticisms of small-minded political partisans.

I also have met Mike Reardon’s wife, Jayne, and hope that she can one day serve on a board or commission, preferably the D64 board. Thanks to this blog’s Sept. 19, 2016 post I watched her unfailingly polite but thorough destruction of board member Tom Sotos over the lack of transparency surrounding the negotiation and adoption of the last teachers contract.

EDITOR’S NOTE: JAYNE REARDON FOR D-64 BOARD! (Or any other Board or commission she wants.)

Jayne & Mike Reardon are well spoken, thoughtful assets to Park Ridge and it would be wonderful to have them serve on any board or commission, especially D64!

Who are Bartucci and Dobrinsky? Have they ever run for any office or sought appointment to any board or commission?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Neither of them have ever run for public office, nor are we aware of either of the serving on any board or commission.

I was at the d64 meeting when Jayne Reardon spoke about how non-transparent the board was about the new teachers contract and she would be an excellent board member. She was far more thoughtful and bette spoken than any of the board members or the superintendent.

Thank you so very much!! 🙂



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