Rough road for township official
WILMINGTON — The Wesley Township’s trustees might not like the job the elected township road commissioner is doing. But there’s little they can do about it.
This is becoming clear to residents of the Wilmington-based township. Last month, the township board of trustees gave Road Commissioner Travis Parsley a vote of no confidence. And the county’s top highway official says he has spoken to Parsley about residents’ concerns.
Last month, the Wesley Township board adopted a resolution saying it had “serious concerns of public safety and mismanagement” related to the road department.
The trustees allege Parsley has failed to respond to numerous phone calls, emails and text messages concerning issues such as downed trees, snow and ice removal, and damaged roadways.
According to the board, the Will County Sheriff’s Department and the county’s emergency agency took control and shut down Rivals and Angel roads on Jan. 22 because of severe icy conditions after repeated attempts to contact Parsley.
The trustees also said mail service was interrupted for several days after Parsley failed to salt and de-ice roads throughout the township.
And they said Wilmington’s public works department salted and de-iced roads near Bruning Elementary School.
Parsley, who was elected in 2017, didn’t return calls for comment.
In an interview, township supervisor JoAnn Quigley said officials have received a lot of complaints about the commissioner’s performance.
She said Parsley is alleging the township isn’t paying the road department’s bills. But she said he isn’t turning in the documentation for those bills.
“We were just hoping we could get some cooperation, put things in the past and move forward,” Quigley said. “My understanding is that he has done some plowing and some de-icing.”
Similar to many road commissioners, Parsley is considered part time. He makes $12,000 per year, Quigley said.
In December, about two dozen Wesley Township residents signed a petition complaining about Parsley’s performance. It was submitted to Will County road official Jeff Ronaldson.
But Ronaldson, the county’s engineer, said in a response letter that the residents’ petition did not conform to state requirements. Under those rules, the residents should have given Parsley 10 days’ notice about their concerns and given him a chance to address the issues.
The residents asked Ronaldson to enforce a November 2017 order requiring Parsley to fix roads, but Ronaldson said in the letter that he had no authority to enforce it.
Ronaldson’s reading of state law appears correct. While a county engineer can issue a order to a township road commissioner, there is no provision for the official to enforce it.
But the law does say that if a township commissioner “willfully” disobeys a county order to improve roads when sufficient money is available, he can be found guilty of a petty offense and subject to removal from office.
In a September 2017 hearing, residents testified about their concerns with Wesley Township’s road department.
Afterward, Ronaldson determined a number of roads needed maintenance. Based on the findings, Parsley was ordered to repair potholes on a number of roads.
Parsley was further ordered to assess whether the potholes were from routine wear and tear or caused by things such as poor drainage.
Ronaldson advised Parsley to take advantage of monthly road commissioner meetings to seek advice on best practices and establish contact with neighboring road departments.
Ronaldson said in the December letter to township officials he had recently met with Parsley to discuss the various complaints the county had received about Wesley Township.
“In general, the road commissioner was encouraged to review the various concerns raised by residents and assess if any changes in practice or policy might be in order,” Ronaldson said.
In an interview Monday, Ronaldson said nothing appears to have changed since his December letter.
“I’m still getting phone calls about roads being sheets of ice,” Ronaldson said. “I relay those comments to the commissioner.”
Jerry Crabtree, associate director of Township Officials of Illinois, said he gets calls all the time from people who are unhappy with their road commissioners. But he said he has no knowledge of any commissioners removed from office or found guilty of petty misdemeanors for not following county orders since he joined the organization in 2005.
“A judge would have to find that someone has not performed their duties,” Crabtree said.
In the 2017 election, Parsley defeated incumbent John North with nearly 70 percent of the vote — 289 votes to 128.