Chicago-area water district official resigns without explanation, collects $95K severance package
David St. Pierre is the latest Illinois government employee to receive a generous severance package, despite leaving under questionable circumstances.
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, or MWRD, the special-purpose state agency tasked with treating wastewater and preventing flooding in Cook County, agreed July 12 to award a $95,000 severance package to former executive director David St. Pierre, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The agreement also includes six months of health insurance.
St. Pierre had resigned from the agency effective June 27, following an investigation by the MWRD board, the contents of which have remained undisclosed. The agency officially announced St. Pierre’s resignation July 5, but declined to offer an explanation for his termination. MWRD Commissioner Debra Shore said the investigation did not involve sexual or criminal conduct but refused to comment further, due to a non-disparagement clause in the severance agreement.
St. Pierre is far from the first government worker in Illinois to receive a substantial severance payout under unclear circumstances. In fact, such extravagant severance packages, or “golden parachutes,” have been awarded to public officials across the state – from former Metra CEO Alex Clifford to former Des Plaines Elementary District 62 superintendent Floyd Williams Jr. – despite resigning amid controversy.
In 2016, College of DuPage trustees paid former President Robert Breuder a $763,000 severance package – one of the largest in state history – despite having hid nearly $100 million in public expenditures during his tenure.
More recently, Southern Illinois University, agreed to a $215,000 severance payout for outgoing President Randy Dunn. The university also offered Dunn a six-figure job as a visiting professor at the university’s Edwardsville campus, a position he will assume Jan. 1, 2019.
Fortunately, some Illinois lawmakers are seeking to curtail golden parachutes for government workers. Senate Bill 3604, which passed unanimously in the Senate and with strong bipartisan support in the House of Representatives, would bar government employees terminated due to misconduct from receiving severance pay. Moreover, the bill caps all severance payouts for government employees at an amount equivalent to 20 weeks of compensation. SB 3604 has been sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk and currently awaits his signature.
Illinoisans face one of the highest tax burdens in the nation. Too often, taxpayer money is wasted on parting gifts for government officials. While the details surrounding St. Pierre’s resignation remain concealed, what’s clear is that eliminating golden parachutes would reduce government waste. Rauner should sign SB 3604 into law and bring an end to rewarding failure in public office at the expense of taxpayers.