Wheaton, IL – June 25, 2012 – Executive Director Manning’s sudden retirement came as a shock to the DuPage Forest Preserve and its President, Dewey Pierotti, as indicated in statements released by the Forest Preserve shortly after Manning’s retirement was formally announced.
Manning’s abrupt retirement after renewing his contract in late 2011 sparked the interest of Commissioner Candidates Steven Leopoldo (District 3) and Dennis Clark (District 5). Through Freedom of Information Act requests, they uncovered a memo of understanding between Manning and the District, outlining a generous severance package.
DuPage Forest Preserve President Pierotti signed the memo dated May 17 and it was approved as a non-public document by the Board of Commissioners on June 5. Manning is to receive a severance package of four months’ salary based on his annual salary of $165,000, all of his accrued vacation, sick and holiday benefits, and health and dental benefits through August.
A request was made by both Clark and Leopoldo to view Manning’s letter of resignation. The official response from the District’s Freedom of Information officer, Linda Klett, was that, “The District has no such records. Mr. Manning did not submit an official letter of resignation.” The Executive Director’s employment contract requires a 90 days’ written notice in order to be entitled to severance benefits. The May 17 memorandum of understanding terminated Manning’s contract on June 15.
Reviewing the memorandum, Leopoldo stated, “It is unfair, unnecessary, and an unethical act to force taxpayers to foot the bill for Manning’s retirement package, in particular because it seems as if he was encouraged to resign.”
A curious provision in the memo of understanding also releases Manning and the District from legal repercussions from their actions.
Manning’s early retirement announcement on May 18coincided with the District informing the public it would not abide by the Illinois Attorney General’s request to release records detailing payments made to Alamach Technologies, Inc. The payment records indicate how nearly a half of a million dollars were authorized by the District in the alleged scheme to defraud taxpayers.
On June 22 the District’s Freedom of Information Officer informed requestors that the Forest Preserve attorney moved to have the DuPage Circuit Court order signed to bar release of the documents. The motion making the request was sealed from public view, an extraordinary legal process to prevent the release of public information.
Speaking about the sealed documents, Clark said, “It is not hard to connect the dots. We won’t rest until the truth is out.” Clark further stated, “If Manning’s performance deserves a generous severance package, then why is a provision included in the memo of understanding that he can never again work for the District?”
Leopoldo and Clark stated that they are continuing to pressure the District to release information on how the Forest Preserve District is spending taxpayer dollars and are seeking further support of the Illinois Attorney General’s office.