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UNDER THE RADAR: Full-time salary, part-time hours

Dixon Township supervisor had another job for first 2 years

DIXON – Elected officials with full-time salaries typically work full time. The sheriff does. So does the county clerk and circuit clerk.

But Dixon Township’s supervisor worked only part time in 2009 and 2010.

As supervisor, Doug Farster, elected in 2009, pulled down a salary of about $56,000 a year, far more than Dixon’s median household income of $40,550. However, during his first 2 years, he still worked for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, making nearly $80,000 a year.

In 2011, he retired from IDNR.

In a recent interview, Farster said he worked 20 to 24 hours a week during his first 2 years as supervisor, putting in hours at night and during weekends. He said he now works full time.

In the April 9 election, he faces Ed Fritts, who was the supervisor of South Dixon Township for a decade.

Fritts said the Dixon supervisor’s position is full time and that he would work as a full-time employee if elected.

At the same time, he wouldn’t comment on Farster’s situation. That should be left to the judgment of voters, he said.

Farster defended how he handled the two jobs. He said the state has no requirement for how many hours elected officials should work.

“It’s how many hours it takes to do this job,” he said. “I would call [to the township office] during breaks and at lunch to check if there were any problems. I didn’t do this on state time.”

He noted that state legislators have other jobs, although they have similar salaries. He questioned whether Fritts would stop being a farmer if elected.

Farster said that when he campaigned, he told the public that he would keep working the state job and retire as soon as possible, which he said he did 22 months after taking the township position.

“When I ran, I didn’t hide what I was going to do,” he said.

Farster added that the township board voted last year to freeze the salaries of the township supervisor and clerk for the next 4 years. Both officials agreed to the decision, he said.

Brad Burton, a Dixon resident, said that in 2009, he was concerned about Farster working part time for a full-time salary. He brought the issue to state Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, and the Lee County state’s attorney’s office. He said he was told an elected official could legally work part time.

“I thought $56,000 was quite a bit for someone who showed up 20 hours a week,” Burton said. “I thought maybe something could be done about it.”

Maryam Judar, an attorney with the Elmhurst-based Citizen Advocacy Center, said state law allows township supervisors to have other full-time jobs. At the same time, she said, such situations can be cause for concern.

“I think it’s fair for people to question someone who is working full time and making a decent salary and, in addition to that, making an adequate salary at another job, especially in the tight fiscal environment that we have now,” she said.

Bob Anderson, a McHenry County barber who has long criticized townships, said it’s probably not unusual for township officials to log part-time hours while getting full-time salaries. But he called it “terribly wrong.”

“That’s a betrayal of the people who put him into office,” Anderson said. “I don’t think the voters wanted him to work 20 hours a week for $56,000. It’s very typical of township government. It’s under the radar.”

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