LOMBARD – The spirit and tradition of Lilac Time trumped the letter of the law during Thursday's Lombard Village Board meeting, as a $1,000 college scholarship was awarded to Lilac Princess Morgan Fugiel – the daughter of Lombard Trustee Mike Fugiel.
The measure, placed on the agenda as a separate item in the interest of transparency, was approved 4 to 2. Trustees Peter Breen and Laura Fitzpatrick voted against approval, and Fugiel abstained from the vote.
Per the annual, time-honored tradition in Lombard, the five princesses that make up the Lilac Court are each awarded a $1,000 college scholarship courtesy of the Lombard Junior Women's Club, who began sponsoring the Lilac Princess Program in 2001. The other four scholarships were unanimously approved during the meeting's consent agenda.
The issue is not about the princess program, but rather a taxing body issuing a cash prize to the family member of an elected official, Breen said, calling the matter a conflict of interest.
"The members of this board did not invite this conflict and if somehow Miss Fugiel was assured she would be given a check by the Village Board, surely it was not right to make that assurance," Breen said.
Fitzpatrick, referencing a past conflict that involved her son's employer potentially purchasing land adjacent to village property, said granting the scholarship would be morally wrong.
"We are on a board not for the benefit of ourselves," Fitzpatrick said. "I must always go back to the practices of good government."
Penny Chanez, president of the Lombard Junior Women's Club, speaking during public comments, urged the board to approve the scholarship. During the judging process, none of the princess candidates' last names are provided to the judges, she said, dismissing any claim of favoritism or clout.
"This is not Springfield, this is Lombard," Chanez said. "This issue is about a Village Board fulfilling a scholarship that was promised."
Lombard President Keith Giagnorio, balling up the speech he had prepared, said he was "beyond furious" two days ago when he heard this was an issue.
"One of my biggest duties as village president is to uphold our traditions – our values," Giagnorio said. "This court was selected over a month ago. It's two days until the coronation. I can't help think what Morgan Fugiel is thinking.
"We ran this past our attorney. This is no time to change the rules or set a policy to punish someone who devoted … I don't know how many hours it must take to be a princess."
In the future, the board may want to consider a policy to address conflict issues, but changing the tradition to sully the hard work of this year's princesses is wrong, Giagnorio said.
"Talk about putting a damper on Lilac Time," Giagnorio said. "There is no way this scholarship [check] should not be cut and given to Princess Fugiel.
The 2014 Lilac Queen will be chosen at 1 p.m. Saturday in Lilacia Park during the 2014 Lilac Queen Coronation. The event has been an annual event in Lombard since 1930.