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New Chicago Heights Park District Board Refusing To Pay $212,000 Buyout To Departing Superintendent, But It May Not Be So Simple

CHICAGO HEIGHTS, Ill. (CBS) -- The fight over a hefty payout for the outgoing Chicago Heights parks superintendent is a story we have been following for weeks, and now it has taken a new turn.

As CBS 2's Jermont Terry reported Wednesday night, opponents say the superintendent's exit comes as critics accuse him of questionable spending – and a newly-elected board is refusing to pay his buyout.

At the Chicago Heights Park District, you can still find Frank Perez's name out front – yet Perez walked away from his position after the outgoing board signed off on a separation agreement for $212,000.

"We are refusing to make the payment," said parks Commissioner Jessica Mangiaracina.

The stopped check comes two weeks after a newly-elected board reversed Perez's payout.

"The fight that we're doing right now is to keep that quarter million dollars at the park district, for the park district, for the community," Mangiaracina said, "not to pay someone to quit their job and abandon their position."

There was profound outrage with raised voices not long ago when it was revealed just how much Perez would get to walk away with, and with a year and a half left on his contract.

The previous board agreed to pay vacation, sick time, and health benefits to Perez for another 17 months.

The park district is run separately from the City of Chicago Heights, but the mayor supports the move made by the new board.

"You want your money that bad? You come and sue us, sue the park district, and you prove you're entitled to 17 months and you quit your job," said Mayor David Gonzalez.

CBS 2 obtained a copy of the eight-page agreement, and one sentence could legally keep the board from reversing the deal. When we checked out Section 15, it reads that the deal is legally binding on all future parties.

"The board will have a very hard time rescinding this," said CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller.

Miller pointed out that, with the deal being legally binding, it could cost taxpayers more if the park district fights to prevent payment.

"The bottom line - does it pay to sue, or does it pay just to, you know, consider it a learning experience and pay what you have to pay?" Miller said.

As it is, the Chicago Heights Park District and Mayor Gonzalez prefer to keep Perez from cashing in.

"You don't get paid to quit your job," Gonzalez said. "Therefore, we don't believe that separation agreement will be legal."

So to court this will likely go.

The new parks board will also request a forensic audit to pinpoint all the questionable spending that many believe went on under former Supt. Perez. Meanwhile, Perez – once again – is not talking to us about the changes to his separation agreement.

We should also point out that two parks commissioners who voted to pay Perez remain on the newly-elected board. But both were absent from the meeting on Wednesday.

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