Water District Approves $95,000 to Former Executive Director Following Unexplained Resignation

Executive stepped down at the end of June after sanitary district’s board conducted investigation.

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District on Thursday agreed to pay $95,000 to its recently departed executive director following an investigation by the agency’s board that precipitated his mysterious resignation earlier this month.

David St. Pierre headed the $1.2 billion, 2,000-employee agency that treats wastewater and works to prevent flooding in Cook County since 2011, but the agency announced his resignation on July 5 without giving any reasons for his departure.

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David St. Pierre

On Thursday, the board approved the $95,000 separation plus health insurance for six months from the time of his resignation, which, according to a district document, was effective June 27.

District commissioner Debra Shore said in an interview that a board investigation involving St. Pierre was recently concluded but she would not describe the nature of the inquiry other than to say that it didn’t focus on criminal or sexual allegations. Shore said there is a non-disparagement clause in the separation agreement with St. Pierre and she wouldn’t discuss the board probe any further.

Shore said St. Pierre “had both admirers and detractors” on the water district’s nine-member board. Shore described herself as an admirer.

St. Pierre, who was paid about $292,000 in 2017, declined to discuss the investigation or his resignation.

“It was the right time, and I look forward to the future,” he said in an interview.

St. Pierre added he was most proud of efforts the district took to reduce flooding from storms.

The board investigation was conducted by Zaldwaynaka “Z” Scott when she was a partner at the Chicago office of law firm Foley & Lardner. Scott, a former U.S attorney and state executive inspector general, has since joined Chicago State University as its president. Scott wrapped up her investigation prior to leaving the law firm, Shore said.

Scott didn’t return calls seeking comment.

Under St. Pierre’s leadership, the district had a sometimes contentious relationship with some environmental groups.

In early 2017, MWRD settled a pair of lawsuits from several environmental advocates that were filed six years earlier and claimed the district violated the U.S. Clean Water Act from discharges of phosphorous from three of its sewage-treatment plants into the Chicago River.

In 2015, the Better Government Association and the Chicago Sun-Times reported the district, which leases out 10,000 acres along Chicago and suburban waterways, rented some of its land to companies taken to court and fined by state officials for violations of environmental law.

John P. Murray, who was most recently serving as the district’s director of maintenance and operations, will serve as acting executive director until a permanent replacement is selected.

 
About the Author
  • Brett Chase

    Brett Chase investigates waste, fraud and corruption in a number of areas, including the environment, housing, health care and transportation. A former reporter and editor for Crain's Chicago Business, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Bloomberg News, Chase has covered government and business for more than 20 years.