Highland Park News

Highland Park gets another park resignation

Thursday, September 16, 2010

All six major players involved in the Park District of Highland Park's pay-and-pension controversy have now either left the district or have announced that they will step down within the next few weeks.

The Park Board announced the latest resignation Wednesday night, relaying Finance Director Ken Swan's intent to step down effective Oct. 1.

The remainder of Swan's five-year contract, including pending five-figure bonuses, will not be paid because his resignation is voluntary, park officials said.

It was revealed in August that Swan's compensation package, which jumped from $124,908 in 2005 to $218,372 in 2008, was one of three district contracts that exploded between 2005 and 2008 as a result of exorbitant pension-boosting bonuses and salary increases.

Park District Executive Director Liza McElroy said the chief finance position opening should be posted on the district website by the end of the week.

Swan's resignation is the fourth related to the pension controversy in the last three weeks, joining Park Board President Lorry Werhane and commissioners Nancy Rosenbaum and Stacy Weiss.

The three elected officials came under fire recently for voting for the compensation spiking, which also benefited former executives Ralph Volpe and David Harris.

Werhane will remain on the Park Board to maintain its three-member quorum until it installs a new commissioner.

After another lengthy session of public comment and its remaining agenda Wednesday night, commissioners went into closed session to discuss the nearly 40 residents who have expressed interest in the three vacant seats on the board.

No new commissioners were installed Wednesday, but commissioner Cal Bernstein said the remaining members are committed to speeding up the process to seat a new quorum as soon as possible.

"We have a very difficult choice to make," Bernstein said. "We are doing the best we can."

Commissioner Elaine Waxman called the resident interest and the quality of applicants heartwarming.

One of the interested residents is Chuck Schramm, who has participated or coached in park programs for more than 50 years. He told commissioners that he would be a great asset to the board to bring back the confidence of Park District staff and taxpayers.

"I'm here to say we need leadership, we need experience, and I think I can bring this," Schramm said.

The district also received its annual financial report and audit Wednesday night, though the lengthy document did not highlight the controversial compensation packages.

Residents voiced frustration in the disconnect; however, it was explained that the board-approved bonuses and salary increases warrant additional notes in a $20 million budget.

The audit's goal, officials explained, is to detail whether revenue met expenditures and gauge the district's liabilities against its assets.