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Brown: Suburban pol Zuccarelli calls it ‘working simultaneously’ — not double-dipping

Updated: August 9, 2013 12:36AM



Thornton Township Supervisor Frank Zuccarelli, under fire for being named to the CTA board by Gov. Pat Quinn, said Thursday he supports Quinn’s re-election “no matter what happens to my appointment.”

Zuccarelli, who also serves as the Thornton Township Democratic committeeman, said he asked the governor for a position with the state, and Quinn’s staff steered him to the CTA opening.

Zuccarelli spoke in a brief interview following a private meeting he organized with south suburban elected officials at a South Holland pancake house, where Quinn was the featured guest.

Zuccarelli said his political organization will not make a formal endorsement until later, but he made clear that he personally backs Quinn and expect his Thornton Township Democrats to follow suit.

“We like Pat Quinn. He’s helped us out here,” Zuccarelli said. “He’s helped us at South Suburban College. He’s helped us at Thornton Township. He’s helped many of the mayors that were up here today.”

”Pat Quinn is a different kind of a politician, but I think he’s a good man, and I like him and I respect him,” Zuccarelli said.

Quinn, likewise, called Zuccarelli a “good man” when he arrived for the meeting and told him he had just come from defending him to reporters at an earlier press conference. The pancake house confab was intended to discuss the transportation needs of the south suburbs.

Zuccarelli said the CTA appointment grew out of him telling Quinn “I was looking for another position because I was leaving the [Cook County] Employee Appeals Board.”

Asked why he wanted a second government job, Zuccarelli said: “Because I’ve always been interested in working simultaneously. Since I was fifteen years old, I’ve had more than one position.”

“And I think my position at the township adds some, not only credibility, but my ability to understand the needs of the transportation requirements of the people who live out here in the south suburbs,” he added.

Zucccarelli said he was unaware of the law prohibiting most state and local elected officials and employees from serving on the transit board when he sought a position through the governor’s office. That law does not specifically address township officials.

He said he had mentioned his interest in transportation to the governor’s office, but it was the governor’s staff that suggested the spot on the CTA Board. The part-time position pays $25,000 annually. The Thornton Township website reports Zuccarelli’s total compensation as supervisor at $186,418. He also is the unpaid chairman of South Suburban College.

Asked if he would consider foregoing the CTA salary, Zuccarelli said: “At this point, I’m taking the money. I’ve been in public service for 35 years, and I’ve got about four or five more years left and I’m looking to retire. And I don’t have anything in savings. So at this point I’m not interested in really thinking about giving back the salary.”

“It’s not that much money, but it’s enabled me to start putting some money away so that if I retire in five or six years, I’d have some kind of retirement.”

The Better Government Association has reported that Zuccarelli already qualifies for a pension from his township job. He broke off the interview before I could inquire further about his pension.

Email: markbrown@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkBrownCST



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