DeKALB – Cindy Capek, the DeKalb Park District executive director, has resigned, but district leaders will continue to pay her salary and insurance for six months under a separation agreement finalized Friday.
Park commissioners met for five minutes Friday morning to approve the agreement at a special meeting. Park Commissioners Phil Young, Per Fairve and Keith Nyquist voted to accept the agreement. Commissioners Don Irving and Mike Teboda were not present.
Capek, who was hired in July 2006, had an annual salary of $116,000.
The agreement lists her last day of employment as May 24, the date of a closed-door special park board meeting that Capek was asked not to attend. Capek was not at Friday’s meeting, but issued a statement listing her accomplishments with the district.
“I have enjoyed the nearly seven years of service as the executive director of the DeKalb Park District and grateful for the opportunity to work with the community,” Capek said in her statement. “I am proud of the projects that I have been involved with and the positive working relationships I have had with other governmental units and a number of community groups and organizations.”
Under the separation agreement, the DeKalb Park District will pay Capek her salary from May 24 through Nov. 30. With an annual salary of $116,981, that value is estimated to be $58,500.
She will also be given a lump sum for her 15 vacation days and 12 personal leave days, an estimated value of $12,150. The park district will also pay for health insurance for Capek and her family through Nov. 30, and it won’t contest Capek’s application for unemployment benefits.
After Faivre, Nyquist and Irving were sworn in as park commissioners May 9, Young said it became apparent they wanted a new director.
“It was basically a consensus of the new members,” Young said. “I supported this decision, too ... When each of them talked to me independently at different times or contacted me and said: ‘We would like to have a meeting.’ Once two talked to me, then that’s what started this process.”
The new commissioners campaigned in early 2013 as being agents of change. They voiced frustration at the park district’s inability to stop ComEd from cutting down trees and shrubs along the DeKalb Nature Trail. They also felt the park commissioners were moving too quickly with plans to renovate Hopkins Pool.
The Nature Trail has been replanted, and DeKalb park commissioners are exploring building and operating a pool with their counterparts in Sycamore.
Young said it would be impossible for Capek to continue her role as executive director once a majority of the board no longer backed her.
Before looking for a new executive director, Young said commissioners will review the district staff structure. He said the review is not in response to any situation, but should be done before Capek’s successor is hired.
The park district has 22 full-time employees, only three of which have started since Capek joined the district, according to information the Daily Chronicle obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Two assistant directors are running the daily operations: Bradley Garrison, who started in October 1981, and Lisa Wells Small, who started in August 1993. Both make about $80,000 annually.
Like her colleagues, Capek was an “at-will” employee, meaning she could have been dismissed by the board at any time.
“When you have anyone that’s hired in that format, when you have the majority of the board and a director of an organization going in different paths, the issue is not them staying,” Young said. “There’s a general agreement that we want to look somewhere else.”