‘Incompatible’ elected offices called into question
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY email@example.com May 17, 2013 8:48PM
Updated: June 20, 2013 6:14AM
Two Southland officials who in April were elected to positions deemed “incompatible” with elected seats they already held apparently are taking different approaches toward the issue.
Pam Kohlbacher, who won a seat on the Summit Hill School District 161 Board in April and already has been sworn in, has resigned as a Frankfort Square Park District Board member after 18 years. She submitted a letter of resignation and did not attend Thursday night’s board meeting, according to park director Jim Randall, who said Kohlbacher’s husband was appointed to succeed her.
By contrast, new Midlothian Mayor Sharon Rybak — who also holds a seat on the Bremen Community High School District 228 Board — had not resigned from the school board as of last week, according to a district spokeswoman.
But previous opinions issued by the Illinois attorney general’s office suggest she resigned by accepting the mayoral post.
Shortly after her election in April, Rybak said she planned to keep both elected seats as well as her full-time job at the Midlothian Park District.
While state law does not specifically prohibit a person from simultaneously holding two offices, the Illinois attorney general’s office said it must weigh whether the offices are incompatible.
Incompatibility arises when the duties of the two offices are such that the holder “cannot in every instance, fully and faithfully discharge the duties of the other,” the attorney general’s office said.
Elected offices such as park board and school board, and village mayor and school board in a district that includes the village, are “incompatible,” could create potential conflicts of interest and may not be held simultaneously, the Illinois attorney general’s office said.
Villages often provide water and sewer service to schools, and have financial and development agreements with each other. Similarly, schools and parks often share facilities and equipment, the Illinois attorney general’s office said.
“One person cannot adequately represent the interests of two governmental units when those units contract with one another,” it said.
Asked last week to clarify Rybak’s situation, the attorney general’s office cited a 1980 opinion regarding incompatibility between the posts of mayor and school board member.
“It is well settled in Illinois that the acceptance of an incompatible office by the incumbent of another office will be regarded as ipso facto (by the fact itself) resignation of the first office,” the opinion said.
Rybak did not return recent numerous calls for comment.
Kohlbacher’s departure from the Frankfort Square Park District Board became official Thursday but was not the reason for her absence. Randall said it was the first meeting Kohlbacher missed, and that she was with her daughter, who was giving birth to Kohlbacher’s first grandchild.
In an earlier interview, Kohlbacher said she “thoroughly enjoyed” her years with the park district.
“I do not think I would be able to do a good job for both (boards). I would be pulled in too many directions,” she said.
The former Summit Hill teacher and principal said she sought the school board position because she believes that the school board should have educators on it.
“It’s time to try something else,” she said. “I hope to bring something to the (school) board.”
Her husband, Jim Kohlbacher, was appointed to fill her two-year vacancy on the park board. Over the years, Jim has been a “popular instructor” at the park district, Randall said.
“Having Jim on board softens the blow of losing Pam,” Randall said. “He’s the perfect fit.”