Public Watchdog.org

Schmidt…For The Defense

03.19.08

Only a few short weeks ago, Mayor Howard Frimark and his Alderpuppets – Jim Allegretti (4th), Don Bach (3rd), Tom Carey (6th), Rich DiPietro (2nd) and Robert Ryan (5th) – expressed their condemnation of Ald. Dave Schmidt (1st) for daring to make public certain information about the hiring of attorneys to investigate/audit the Park Ridge Police Department, and about the City’s attempt to purchase 720 Garden for a new police station.
 
Frimark solicited support for that condemnation statement from the Alderpuppets and Ald. Frank Wsol (7th) – while keeping it secret from Schmidt – and then read it during the “Mayor’s Report” portion of the Council meeting, thereby preventing any pre-meeting publication and any citizen comment. That statement falsely claimed that Schmidt’s disclosures had compromised the acquisition of the 720 Garden property as well as the privacy of certain police officers. 

Not surprisingly, that statement – although clearly intended by Frimark as an official act of the Council – had no legal force and effect, a fact of which Frimark apparently was informed in advance of the meeting by City Attorney “Buzz” Hill. Consequently, Frimark’s subsequent reading of it was nothing more than a naked political ploy, a gratuitous shot at Schmidt for shining a light on backroom dealings concerning matters which deserved public scrutiny. 
 
This past Monday night (March 17), however, Schmidt presented his defense to Frimark’s charges.  For those of you who were unable to attend, we present the full text of Schmidt’s comments for your delectation:

ALDERMAN SCHMIDT’S RESPONSE
TO THE MAYOR’S “STATEMENT OF CONDEMNATION”

I.          PROCEDURAL HISTORY AND LACK OF DUE PROCESS

            On March 3, 2008, Mayor Frimark read a statement condemning my actions for disclosing to the public contents of two confidential memos authored by then-City Manager, Tim Schuenke, dealing with the Park Ridge City Council’s closed session discussion of issues related to a police station and an investigation of the City’s Police Department.  The condemnation was joined by Aldermen DiPetro, Bach, Allegretti, Ryan, and Carey.    

        According to Black’s Law Dictionary, to “condemn” an individual means to “[t]o find or adjudge guilty.”  The civil law definition of the term “condemnation” is “[a] sentence or judgment . . . which declares that [the individual’s] claim or pretensions are unfounded.” Exhibit 1.pdf 

            In other words, the mayor and the Frimark Five adjudged me of guilt by secret ballot, without giving me any opportunity to respond and defend myself. 

            Since the mayor and the Frimark Five have deemed it appropriate to adjudge me of being guilty of wrongdoing, I will take this opportunity to present my defense and then let the Court of Public Opinion decide who is guilty.

II.         I CANNOT BE CONDEMNED FOR TAKING ACTION WHICH WAS LEGAL
           
            First, and most importantly, I received an e-mail from Mr. Schuenke sent shortly after my disclosure of his memos confirming that he had no knowledge of any statute, ordinance or rule that prohibited the disclosure of closed session materials and discussions. Exhibit 2.pdf  I also received an e-mail from the City Attorney confirming that my actions were legal.Exhibit 3.pdf  Therefore, the mayor and the Frimark Five took the absurd action of condemning me for doing something which the City Manager and City Attorney conceded was perfectly legal.
           
            I am not alone in finding such an act to be absurd.  In fact, the Illinois Attorney General has stated in an official opinion letter that “the possibility of imposing sanctions against a member of a public body for disclosing what has occurred at a closed meeting would only serve as an obstacle to the effective enforcement of the Act, and a shield behind which opponents of open government could hide.  Such an absurd construction of the law, which would render ineffective the public policy of this State favoring openness in government, must be avoided.” Exhibit 4.pdf (emphasis added).

            To summarize, the mayor ran around behind-the-scenes and consulted privately with individual aldermen who gave their consent to what amounted to an adjudication of guilt against me without giving me any notice of the charges to be brought against me, without giving me any chance to respond and for doing something which the City Manager and City Attorney said was legal and which the Attorney General says is protected conduct.  Now, that is truly absurd.

III.        THE MAYOR’S “STATEMENT” WAS AN ILLEGAL RESOLUTION

            Black’s Law Dictionary defines a “resolution” as “[a] formal expression of the opinion or will of an official body or a public assembly, adopted by vote.” Exhibit 5.pdf

            According to the City Attorney, the mayor asked him to draft a resolution, which he said reflected the will of the majority of the aldermen. Exhibit 6.pdf  The document that the mayor circulated to the aldermen and sought their support for was labeled as a “resolution.” Exhibit 7.pdf

            At some time after the mayor circulated the resolution but before the City Council meeting, the mayor was advised that a resolution would require open discussion and an open vote.  To circumvent that requirement, the mayor had the audacity to simply change the heading of the document to “STATEMENT” and remove some verbiage which clearly identified the document as a resolution. Exhibit 8.pdf  However, Alderman DiPetro wrote to me, “A majority of the Council enacted a Statement condemning the release of Confidential Closed Session matters.” (emphasis added).  That is the definition of a resolution. Exhibit 9.pdf

            I hereby condemn the mayor and the aldermen who joined him in adopting such a resolution in secret, without any due process and in violation of the law.

IV.        MY ACTIONS IN RELEASING CLOSED SESSION INFORMATION WERE PROPER AND IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CITIZENS

            Finally, let’s examine the substance of the meaningless condemnation/resolution itself.  I was accused of compromising the City’s position on the purchase of real estate for a police station without any evidence supporting the accusation.  In fact, before the mayor delivered his statement at the City Council meeting, he knew, and had told others, that the negotiations with the potential seller were still very much alive.  Moreover, I make no apology for disclosing to the public the fact that the City was attempting to purchase property for a police station before having public discussions as to whether we should put a police station there or anywhere and, if so, how we were going to pay for it.

            The second transgression I was accused of was compromising the integrity of police officers and the police department in general.  However, not a single active police officer was named in Mr. Schuenke’s memo. (See the memo attached as Exhibit 10.pdf.)  The mayor simply made it up.  Moreover, I again reiterate that I have no qualms at all about my disclosure to the public.  The citizens had every right to know about the Council’s discussions concerning the scope of the police department investigation.

            So, in short, the mayor ignored the Open Meetings Act, circumvented proper procedure for a resolution and fabricated grounds for a condemnation, and the Five joined in without discussion.  Why?  The answer seems pretty clear.  I have stood up to the agenda of the mayor and the Five which has rewarded the mayor’s political contributors at the expense of the residents and the taxpayers.  I will let the residents decide who is right and who is guilty.

            The defense rests.

Well said, Alderman.

11 comments so far

That’s awesome coverage PW.

Alone and / or combined with what PRU has published this is must reading for the citizenry of Park Ridge and I will be passing this to friends and foes alike.

It will be very interesting to see how the local press covers this as they were in attendance at the Monday meeting. Getting all of these goings on as wide as possible coverage is important. The more people that know AND understand what is going on the better.

Thank you, Ald. Schmidt, for your continuing battle against what Public Watchdog has branded the “Culture of Secrecy.” Nothing is more important to a government “of the people, by the people, for the people” than timely information about what that government is doing. And you have done more in your short time in office to get information to “the people” than any other city official in the 20 years I’ve lived in Park Ridge. Bless you sir.

it is TIME, Park Ridge, to oust our clown of a mayor.
RESIGN Frimark.

Condemned for telling the truth? What a novel concept our mayor has come up with! And he’s worried about Schmidt queering a deal for the insurance agency property when he’s offering two hundred grand more than the city’s appraisal, and now is asking for an even higher appraisal???????????????????

I get the idea that Frank Wsol didn’t sign onto Frimakr’s statement, which is good. But I don’t hear Wsol saying too much in support of Schmidt (or against the Frimark Five), either. Is there anything more to Wsol than his canary-eating smile?

I think Wsol is more than just his smile, although I’m not sure how much more. He comes across a little too much like a typical politician, probably because he’s looking to run for something else and doesn’t want to leave too many fingerprints behind. That way, it will be easier to create a new Wsol to fit the new position. And yet he’s still the second best alderman we have after Schmidt – with a big drop-off after Wsol. Bring back Craig Tomassi and Larry Friel.

Maybe it’s time we thought about recalling Frimark. Just an idea.

Schmidt would be thrown off any Corporate Board Of Directors I have served on for his action.

MK:

We’re going to take a wild guess here, but by any chance could that be because none of those boards of directors on which you have served are governmental bodies bound by the disclosure requirements of the Illinois Open Meetings Act (IOMA) or another state’s equivalent?

Yeah, we thought so.

Frankly, MK, if we owned a thousand shares of IBM and Schmidt was on its board of directors, we wouldn’t want him blabbing to the press about what new products it was developing or where it was looking to build a new plant. But there’s a big difference between the duties of a corporate director and those of a public official – which is why one has to comply with IOMA and the other one doesn’t.

Go figure.

MK… I see you posted the same inane comment on PRU. While the moderator here has responded quite well, I can’t help but do a ditto here same as you, so:

Gimme a break. As the moderator rightly points out, there is a SLIGHT difference between being a BOD member of a (Public, I assume you mean) Corporation and a public servant – in this case an Alderman.

Schmidt has, I dare say, proven without a doubt that his actions were legal and within his rights as a member of the City Council. The City Manager and City Attorney both advised him that the actions he took were not illegal or against any ordinance. Oh, and the Illinois Attorney General has opined the same.

Now, did what he did piss the others off? Yes, without a doubt. And one must ask themselves why they all got so worked up. Why did the others insist on keeping secret the memos he released and so much more? And now, if what’s he’s done is so bad, why has the Mayor backed off and said essentially – let’s move on?

Lastly, any nitwit can stamp “CONFIDENTIAL” on a piece of paper. Whether in a Corporation or, more pointedy, in a public body, that doesn’t necessarily deem it so. It just means it’s a document that has been stamped “CONFIDENTIAL”.

Read Schmidt’s response to the Mayor’s idiotic public condemnation, it’s real enlightening my friend.

Thanks ‘Dog, but let’s run with MK’s analogy.

He is wrong for a second reason as well: Assuming he is equating the Council with a Board of Directors, who do those entities answer to?  The answer is the Council answers to the citizens, and the Directors answer to their stockholders. If a Board of Directors tried to pull on its stockholders what this Council tried to pull on its citizens – ie. approving a purchase of real estate without going through the proper procedure and perhaps squandering stockholders’ and corporate assets in the process, and hiding details regarding an internal investigation of alleged wrongdoing in a division of the corporation – the stockholders would have every right to sue those Directors for malfeasance and breach of fiduciary duty.



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