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State legislation expands Plainfield park board to seven

Published: Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 5:31 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 5:32 p.m. CST
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Rep. Tom Cross, R-Oswego
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Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood

PLAINFIELD – Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill Friday afternoon that expands the Plainfield Township Park District board from five to seven commissioners, according to spokesman Dave Blanchette.

"This new law is intended to make the governance of the park district more accessible, accountable and transparent," Blanchette said.

House Bill 5593 is a reaction to several controversial decisions by park district commissioners Peter Hurtado, Peter Steinys and Janet Silosky.

Silosky has since started voting with dissenting commissioners Mary Kay Ludemann and Larry Newton, breaking up the majority that had dozens of residents protesting at meetings.

Effective immediately, the bill amends the Illinois Park District Code, singling out the Plainfield park district and allowing Rep. Tom Cross, R-Oswego, and Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood, to select two people to serve on the board until next spring.

The two positions will be up for election for two-year terms in the spring.

"This is very important because it will help move the board forward," said Ludemann, president of the board. "Seven commissioners is a better representation of the district."

Ludemann hopes the new candidates are selected in time to be sworn in at the Sept. 10 board meeting.

“Given the seriousness of these allegations of misconduct, it is evident that our community needs this change,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “This law will restore public trust to the Plainfield Park Board.”

“Today is the first step toward a fresh start and renewed accountability on the park district board,” Cross said, thanking local residents, Bertino-Tarrant and bill co-sponsor Rep. Natalie Manley, D-Joliet, for their efforts in getting the bill passed.

During discussion on the bill, there was concern it could set a precedent of state politics interfering in locally elected positions.

There was also the option of the board voting itself to expand to seven members, avoiding state intervention but delaying the change until the spring elections.

But bill proponents said the situation was so dire that immediate action was necessary.

Problems on the board

Steinys and Silosky ran for the board uncontested in the spring 2013 elections after other candidates were kicked off the ballot for invalid petitions.

Steinys and Silosky formed a new majority with Hurtado. They made several questionable decisions, including the hiring of Garrett Peck as executive director over a much more experienced candidate, Cameron Bettin.

Hurtado, who was president of the board at the time, is currently the subject of a grand jury investigation into the sale of LED lighting to the park district and was recently subpoenaed to testify.

At Wednesday's meeting, the board approved the hiring of Worth Park District director Carlo Capalbo as executive director of the Plainfield park district. He will begin Sept. 8.

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