Public Watchdog.org

Maine Township Investigation Report Released: Another Victory For H.I.T.A.

08.07.18

Last night a majority (barely) of Maine Township Trustees supplied the quorum for a special meeting, and then voted unanimously to release to the public the July 30, 2018 “Investigative Report” of the complaint of Trustee Kim Jones against Trustee Dave Carrabotta.

And before dawn’s early light today that Report was posted on the Township’s website – along with an August 5, 2018 letter from Jones to one of the Township’s attorneys, Keri-Lynn Krafthefer, ripping the Report, the “investigating attorneys” – even the court reporter’s transcripts of witness statements.

We recommend that you read both, especially if you have been following The Journal editor/publisher Todd Wessell’s regular pot-stirring articles/editorials about this situation over the past several weeks, or if you read the famous/infamous July 7, 2018 letter from the “10 Maine GOP Women”- including Jones herself, Supervisor Laura Morask, and non-Assessor Susan Moylan-Krey – to Maine Twp. Republican Committeeman Char Foss Eggemann, with copies to Gov. Bruce Rauner and several other notable Republicans.

We intend to share our views of this soap opera in greater detail in the coming days. This incident has many aspects that deserve something more than the slogans, sound-bites and rimshots that too often characterize what passes for public discourse these days. 

But for now we wish to remind our readers that it was Thomas Jefferson who wrote: “Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.”

And that’s why we wish to thank “The Reformers” – Carrabotta, Claire McKenzie and Susan Sweeney – for insisting on holding last night’s special meeting, for showing up to provide the necessary quorum, and for having the courage to vote to release the Report to the taxpayers who are paying for that Report, along with this particular drama and everything else that goes on at Maine Township.

Well done, people!

To read or post comments, click on title.

 

Tonight: A New Episode Of “As The Township Turns”

08.06.18

For those of you who might be following the continuing saga of the “As The Township Turns” soap opera, the Maine Township Board is holding a special meeting TONIGHT– 6:30 p.m. at Township Hall (1700 Ballard) – that might lead to a big reveal: The results of the Township’s attorneys’ investigation into whether Trustee Dave Carrabotta did, or did not, grope, grab, touch or brush Trustee Kim Jones’ derriere during Township functions on three separate occasions.

We say “might” lead to a big reveal because the sole purpose of the special meeting is for the Board to vote on whether or not to release the investigators’ report to us taxpayers who presumably paid several thousand dollars (if not much more) for that investigation and, therefore, deserve to know whether Carrabotta is some kind of sleazebag, whether Jones made the whole thing up, or something in between.

But unofficial Jones media flak Todd Wessell, the editor/publisher of The Journal newspapers, released an article last evening (Sunday, although the computer version is dated August 3) reporting that neither Jones nor Supervisor Laura Morask will be attending tonight’s meeting due to “prior commitments” (“Several Maine Twp. Officials Unlikely To Attend Monday’s Meeting On ‘Harassment’ Report”).

According to the Journal article, “only three trustees will likely attend”: Carrabotta, Claire McKenzie and Susan Sweeney. That would constitute a quorum for a legal meeting, and we believe that a vote by all three to release the investigators’ report would be lawful Board action.

Morask reportedly wants the meeting postponed until she and Jones can attend because she claims there is information in the report that needs clarification or correction, although she hasn’t identified any such information or why it needs clarification/correction.

So even before the Board gets to the issue of whether the report will be released, we may need to wade through a few preliminary dramas, such as: (a) Will Morask and/or Jones actually stay away or show up; (b) if Morask and Jones stay away, will Carrabotta, McKenzie or Sweeney decide not to show up so that there’s no quorum; (c) even if there is a quorum, will Carrabotta, McKenzie or Sweeney back down and vote to postpone a vote on releasing the investigators’ report; or (d) will something else occur that, while unpredictable, is clearly intended to keep the report hidden from the taxpayers, even if only for a short while longer?

Tune in to tonight’s episode of “As The Township Turns” and find out.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Could Theater Of The Absurd End “Reformers” Era At Maine Twp.?

07.17.18

Strap yourselves in, campers, because this is one is as long as it is bizarre.

Two articles in last week’s edition of the Park Ridge Journal merit your attention: “10 Maine GOP Women Sign Letter Demanding Trustee’s Resignation” and “If Touching Allegations Prove True, Leading Republicans Say Maine Township Trustee Should Resign.”

Both of them are allegedly written by Journal editor/publisher Todd Wessell, a long-time cheerleader for the RINOs who have run Maine Township government since the days of Mark Thompson, Bob Dudycz, Bob Provenzano and Gary Warner. The online versions of both articles are dated July 12, and both of them address a surreal situation involving two Maine Township Trustees: Kim Jones and Dave Carrabotta.

Both articles involve the accusation by Jones of Carrabotta’s “inappropriately touching her” on three separate occasions during township-related activities over the last several months. Carrabotta reportedly has denied those accusations.

Not surprisingly, neither of those stories even addresses the threshold question presented by this situation: Assuming her accusation is true, why did Jones endure three separate incidents of inappropriate “touching” over several months, dating back to 2017, before finally saying something – and even then only in a secret one-on-one meeting with her alleged harasser?

Although Wessell and certain others appear to want to make this a #metoo moment, it’s not. In fact, it’s poltical theater of the absurd, Maine Township style.

For starters, Jones is a middle-aged career woman, not some naïve aspiring Hollywood starlet looking for her big break. She has been a township trustee since 2014, and a Park Ridge alderman from 2005 to 2007. She also has spent the past 28 years working for the State of Illinois in its Division of Banking. She’s as politically savvy as they come, and not going to be terrorized into silence by even the political equivalent of sleazebag Hollywood power-broker Harvey Weinstein.

Conversely, Carrabotta is a political neophyte whose first foray into public life was his election as Trustee in May 2017. His Township bio describes him as a licensed attorney, a licensed insurance agent, a husband and father of three children, an usher at St. John Brebeuf in Niles, a current Knight of Columbus (and former Grand Knight), and a member of Boards of Review for local Eagle Scout candidates and Judicial Review Boards for the Illinois State Bar Association. That’s hardly a Harvey Weinstein-style resume.

And because Carrabotta is both a newbie and the only male among five Township trustees, the idea that he could conceivably wield any personal or political power over Jones is ludicrous.

Equally ludicrous are the circumstances under which Jones accused Carrabotta of the alleged misconduct: She reportedly asked him to meet privately, one-on-one, in an ante-room behind the Board meeting table during the “bill pay review” meeting (from 6:30 to 7:00 p.m. on May 22), which led to Carrabotta’s seeking an “emergency” closed session to address “an accusation made against him at 6:46 p.m.” – according to the minutes of the General Assistance Budget Hearing

The closed session was approved by a vote of 3 (Carrabotta, Trustee Claire McKenzie and Trustee Susan Sweeney, whom we have dubbed “The Reformers” for their refusal – at least up until now – to play Maine Township RINO politics-as-usual since their election in April 2017) to 2 (Supervisor Laura Morask and Jones). You can watch the run-up to the closed session and vote on the meeting video, beginning at the 40 second mark.

According to Wessell’s “10 Maine GOP Women” story, Jones sought this private meeting with Carrabotta “[o]n the advice of the township attorney” from the Ancel Glink law firm.

Let’s set aside for a moment the utter asininity of an attorney purportedly advising an alleged victim of sexual harassment – especially harassment involving physical contact – to meet privately with the alleged harasser and, instead, focus on the inappropriateness of the Township’s attorneys unilaterally and secretly giving personal legal advice to one trustee who recently voted to hire those attorneys (Jones) about how to deal with alleged harassment by another trustee who voted against hiring them (Carrabotta).

Can you say “conflict of interest”? How about “appearance of impropriety”? Or, in tribute to the legendary Mike Royko: “Aggravated mopery with intent to gawk”?

Whichever it might be, it sure doesn’t sound like unbiased, top-shelf legal advice from attorneys hired a few months ago by the majority vote of Morask, Jones and McKenzie after the prior Township attorney resigned following the disclosure of a secret appeal by Township non-Assessor Susan Moylan-Krey of the Reformers’ refusal to certify that Moylan-Krey’s position, in which she doesn’t actually assess anything, requires the 1,000 hours of work per year minimum for her to accrue pension benefits.

You can read more about Morask’s and Moylan-Krey’s secretive efforts to reinstate Moylan-Krey’s pension in our 02.08.2018 post and our 02.13.2018 post

Compounding the stench of a Township attorney’s giving legal advice to Jones against Carrabotta (on the taxpayers’ dime?) is the odor from the same law firm appearing to have gone off to investigate the situation and prepare a “report” without any formal Board authorization. According to Wessell’s “10 Maine GOP Women” story, the investigation has been completed and the report “will soon be delivered to Morask,” who “will share its findings with the board and possibly the public.”

Assuming Wessell’s reporting is accurate, why isn’t the report from the Board’s attorneys going directly to the entire Board – including Carrabotta and Jones – and not just to Morask? After all. Ancel Glink is supposed to be representing all the Trustees collectively as a Board, not just Morask (or Jones) individually.

Could it be because a more-transparent process wouldn’t give Morask (and Jones) a preview of the report and the opportunity to consult privately with the attorneys who authored it about its findings and conclusions before they become public? Or give them the opportunity to spin those findings and conclusions if/where needed to aggrandize Jones and/or prejudice Carrabotta?

Let’s try it again: Can you say “conflict of interest,” “appearance of impropriety,” or “aggravated mopery”?

Irrespective of which of those three it might be, it hasn’t stopped those “10 Maine GOP Women” – including…SURPRISE!…Jones, Morask and Moylan-Krey – from proclaiming Carrabotta guilty and demanding his resignation in a July 7, 2018 letter to Maine Twp. Republican Committeeman Char Foss Eggemann, with copies to Gov. Bruce Rauner and several other notable Republicans.

Just like the Queen of Hearts in “Alice in Wonderland”: “Sentence first – verdict afterwards!”

All of this drama strongly suggests that this situation isn’t really about sexual harassment. Rather, it’s about typically-sleazy Illinois politics, being played this time not by Mike Madigan and his henchmen/women but by RINO political hacks Morask, Jones and Moylan-Krey, with the help of those other seven “Maine GOP Women.”

Why?

Because those RINO hacks realize that they will be powerless so long as Carrabotta, McKenzie and Sweeney stick together as a Board majority and continue to vote the interests of Maine Township taxpayers instead of the interests of the bureaucrats trying to build themselves an even bigger fiefdom at Maine Township – complete with those constitutionally-guaranteed pensions like the one over which non-Assessor Moylan-Krey has been fighting The Reformers.

Although we suspect that Morask and Jones already have identified McKenzie – a Democrat and, therefore, a natural ally of RINOs – as the weakest link among The Reformers, they don’t yet appear willing to bet on McKenzie’s becoming their dependable stooge. So getting rid of either Sweeney or Carrabotta, and appointing a Morask flunky to fill that seat, is a pre-requisite for destroying The Reformers’ majority.

Nobody would believe that Sweeney would engage in the “actual groping” (per the “10 Maine GOP Women” letter) of Jones, so Carrabotta became the obvious patsy.

And it seems like he has let himself be played for a patsy – initially by foolishly demanding a closed-session discussion of Jones’ charges instead of publicly calling out her and her accusations in open session, then by hiding from the public and meekly claiming the matter is “confidential” while awaiting Morask’s release of that report by the Township’s new, Morask-friendly attorneys.

That requires us to ask: What’s so “confidential,” Trustee Carrabotta?

Either you did or you didn’t touch/grope Trustee Jones. And Trustee Jones either is or isn’t a stone-cold liar making this whole thing up for rank political purposes.

If you did it, Trustee Carrabotta, you should be drummed off the Board. But if you didn’t do it, why aren’t you publicly standing up for yourself instead of first hiding in closed session, then pleading that everything is “confidential” while Wessell churns out hit-piece after hit-piece, most likely at the bidding of your political opponents? How can the taxpayers of the Township trust you to stand up for them when you seem too timid even to call out Jones and defend yourself?

On the other hand, Ms. Jones, if you really were inappropriately touched or groped, why haven’t you filed a formal workplace harassment complaint against your fellow Trustee and fellow Township employee with the Cook County Dept. of Human Rights, the Illinois Dept. of Human Rights, or the federal EEOC? How can the women of the Township trust you to stand up for them when you aren’t even willing to file your accusations under oath and stand up for your own right to be free from sexual harassment in the workplace?

We’d love to hear each of them answer those questions in an open-session Township Board meeting, with the videotape running.

Because this is political theater, however, our guess is that Jones, Morask and their RINO political handlers are plenty content to rely on “news” stories like “10 Maine GOP Women” and “If Touching Allegations Prove True” from their media shill, Wessell, to figuratively inflict the proverbial 1,000 cuts – in the form of those two articles and six more Wessell has authored (dated May 30, June 6, two on June 13,  June 27 and July 4) – while hoping Carrabotta will continue to just stand there and bleed

And then resign, or course.

Will this be the way The Reformers’ era at Maine Township ends after barely one year – not with a bang but a whimper?

To read or post comments, click on title.

July 4, 2018: 242 Years And Counting

07.04.18

On this day we honor the passage of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, which is generally considered the founding day of these United States of America.

In order to guard against taking that event – and the principles of freedom embodied in the Declaration – for granted, we encourage you to watch this excerpt about that independence vote from the 2008 “John Adams” HBO mini-series – and to contemplate what it meant for those men in Philadelphia to pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor in the cause of liberty 242 years ago.

That’s 242 years of Federalists, Whigs, Know Nothings, Democrats, Dixiecrats, Republicans, slavery, a Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan, the Weathermen, robber barons, a Trust Buster, two World Wars, terrorist attacks, liberal Supreme Courts, conservative Supreme Courts, Democratic Congressional and Senate majorities, Republican Congressional and Senate Majorities, presidential impeachments, MSNBC, CNN, FOX, and the imprisonment of 4 of the last 7 Illinois governors.

This country survived all of those and far more, and it prospered, because of adherence – albeit imperfect in various respects – to the enduring values embodied in that Declaration and in the Constitution that followed, along with its 27 Amendments.

In this editor’s lifetime this country survived Presidents Harry Truman (D), Dwight Eisenhower (R), Jack Kennedy (D), Lyndon Johnson (D), Richard Nixon (R), Gerald Ford (R), Jimmy Carter (D), Ronald Reagan (R), George H.W. Bush (R), Bill Clinton (D), George W. Bush (R) and Barack Obama (D). And it will survive President Donald Trump (R?).

Because of what those guys in Philadelphia started 242 years ago.

Robert J. Trizna

Editor & Publisher

To read or post comments, click on title.

Memorial Day 2018

05.28.18

Maybe you like President Trump. Or maybe you don’t.

Irrespective of which opinion you hold, however, neither one – without more – will get you arrested, indicted or imprisoned, unlike elsewhere in the world where criticism of the government or the current leader(s) might cause you to vanish without a trace.

Today is the one day each year set aside to remember why that is.

Not the 4th of July: The 4th is a day to celebrate the principles on which this country was founded.

Today is the day we remember the men and women who laid down their lives defending those principles.

Approximately 658,000 lives lost in battle, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Approximately 658,000 individual futures sacrificed for this country’s future. And for ours.

Today is the day for remembering that.

And for being grateful.

To read or post comments, click on title.

IL AG Spanks Maine Twp.’s Morask, Jones And Gialamas

05.25.18

It wasn’t until January 24 of this year that we published our first-ever post about Maine Township government. Since then, we’ve published several more, on 02.08.2018, 02.13.2018, 04.02.2018, and on 04.24.2018.

Why did we ignore this backwater unit of local government for so long? Because the area it serves is primarily outside Park Ridge, the unofficial boundary of this blog’s focus. And because its budget is barely more than the Park Ridge Library’s.

But when the voters elected a bi-partisan group of Trustees – Dave Carrabotta (R), Claire McKenzie (D) and Susan Sweeney (R), whom we have labeled “The Reformers” – our curiosity overwhelmed our common sense. Soon we found ourselves ensnared by the institutionalized bad government administered by Supervisor Laura Morask and her puppet-Trustee Kim Jones; the non-Assessor Susan Moylan-Krey; Clerk Peter Gialamas, Road (& Track) Superintendent Wally Kazmierczak and various others drawing public paychecks from a unit of government time forgot.

This post is about a recent decision by the Public Access Bureau of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office that Morask, Jones and Gialamas “did not follow the proper procedure for approving the destruction of a closed session verbatim recording during its November 28, 2017 meeting.”

The Cliff’s Notes version of this goat rodeo is that on November 28, 2017 Morask – rarely right but never in doubt – insisted that The Reformers must abstain from the vote on destroying the verbatim audio recording of the March 22, 2016 closed session meeting because they weren’t trustees back in March 2016; and that Gialamas got to vote because he (along with Morask and Jones) was a trustee back then.

The Reformers had been trustees for only six months at that point and clearly weren’t yet ready for prime time: Even though Carrabotta and McKenzie are attorneys, and Sweeney has been active in local government for quite a while, they meekly acceded to Morask’s demand that they abstain.

Meanwhile, Gialamas – who should have known better and probably did – went along with the charade and became the ostensible third vote in what purported to be the majority of Trustees needed to authorize the destruction of the verbatim recording of those March 22, 2016 closed-session proceedings.

The Attorney General’s Office, however, disagreed.

“Accordingly, this office concludes that the Board violated OMA by destroying the recording without three of the five Board members affirmatively voting to approve the motion to authorize the destruction of the recording.”

Because the recording already had been destroyed, however, whatever evidence of dreaming or scheming it may have contained has been lost to the ages.

Since that time, The Reformers appear to have raised their games sufficiently to challenge Morask’s attempts at iron-fisted rule. Hopefully they have learned from this episode – and from Morask’s and Moylan-Krey’s secret appeal of The Reformers’ refusal to certify that the non-Assessor position requires the 1,000 hours of work annually to qualify it for a public pension – to just say “No!” to everything Morask says or proposes, at least until they can independently verify that it’s true and accurate.

And speaking of truth and accuracy, this post would not be complete without our giving a giant PublicWatchdog bark-out to the real hero of this situation: Kirk Allen, one (along with John Kraft) of the Edgar County Watchdogs who submitted the Request for Review of Morask’s/Jones’/Gialamas’ IOMA violation to the Illinois AG’s office.

Even though they are based down in Edgar County (located along the Indiana border south of Danville IL and just west of Terre Haute IN), those two retirees appear to be kicking butt and taking names well beyond their county’s borders, including investigating – along with OpenTheBooks.com’s Adam Andrzejewski – the since-discredited and fired College of DuPage president Robert Breuder; and looking into the mismanagement of the Algonquin Township Road District.

Changing Illinois’ culture of mismanagement, waste and corruption isn’t going to happen overnight, nor in a sweeping broad-brush manner. It will take a lot of people chipping away at the local level, electing and appointing officials committed to H.I.T.A. (Honesty, Integrity, Transparency and Accountability) and rejecting those who are not.

But it can be done.

And the Edgar County Watchdogs just showed Morask, Jones and Gialamas how.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Good Riddance To Maine Twp. Attorney

04.02.18

If anyone wonders just how sclerotic and out-of-touch the Maine Township government establishment has become, look no farther than an article in this week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“Maine Township attorney resigns, citing ‘disagreement and controversy’ on divided board,” April 2), which reports that Dan Dowd has resigned as the Township’s attorney after more than 25 years in the position.

His alibi: He’s uncomfortable being “put in the middle” between the Board’s new majority – Trustees Dave Carrabotta, Claire McKenzie and Susan Sweeney, whom we have labeled “The Reformers” – and the Board’s old-line business-as-usual minority of Supervisor Laura Morask and Trustee Kim Jones.

In reality, Dowd is not “in the middle” of anything: He’s firmly in the corner of Morask, Jones, non-Assessor Susan Moylan-Krey, Clerk Peter Gialamas and Highway Commissioner Walter Kazmierczak; and he’s firmly opposed to The Reformers.

As reported in the H-A story, Dowd acknowledged he would be “uncomfortable” representing The Reformers’ majority in appealing a seemingly kinky deal cut by Morask and Moylan-Krey with the outgoing general counsel of the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (“IMRF”) that granted a secret appeal by Moylan-Krey of The Reformers’ refusal to certify that her position requires at least 1,000 hours of work per year, thereby qualifying her for continued pension participation.

We wrote about that rancid situation in our 02.13.2018 post.

Fortunately, the new IMRF general counsel, upon being apprised of the secretive skullduggery, re-opened the process by which the Township can appeal the Moylan-Krey deal, via a majority vote of The Reformers.

That Dowd is pulling the pin on his Township gig is one thing. That he has been the Township’s attorney for more than 25 years – having been handed the position on a no-bid basis back in 1993 by then-Supervisor Mark Thompson and then-Trustees Carol Teschky and Jim Reilly, and having remained a Board majority lackey until The Reformers became the majority last May – is quite another.

With either Dowd’s advice or acquiescence, Morask has orchestrated Illinois Open Meetings Act (“IOMA”) violations for such boneheaded maneuvers as having Clerk Gialamas vote as a trustee on a motion to destroy a closed-session audio recording; and conducting Township bill review meetings without keeping official minutes. That would be unacceptable from a rookie municipal attorney.

The H-A reports that Morask has a candidate for Dowd’s replacement that she intends to present at the Board’s April 17 meeting.

Given her track record, anybody Morask suggests should be considered as radioactive as Polonium-210. Now is the time for The Reformers to demand the issuance of an RFP for Dowd’s replacement.

And if Morask resists, she should follow Dowd out the door.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Sunshine Week 2018: Better Late Than Never

03.14.18

Anyone who has read even a couple of posts on this blog knows that we’re obsessed with “sunshine” in government, our focus being local government here in Park Ridge.

Which is why we’re embarrassed that it’s already halfway through “Sunshine Week” – started in 2005 by the American Society of News Editors to promote a dialogue about the importance of transparency, open government, and freedom of information – and we haven’t even acknowledged it. And even more embarrassed that we’ve overlooked every year since our post of 03.16.2009

Years before the late Mayor Dave Schmidt got elected in April 2009 on the platform of H.I.T.A. – Honesty, Integrity, Transparency and Accountability – and made those principles the hallmark of his sadly-abbreviated tenure from 2009 until his sudden death in March 2015, this blog had begun regularly advocating for transparency, starting with its “Statement of Principles” published in its third post, on May 8,.2005:

“Government operations must be transparent so that both our elected and appointed officials can be held strictly accountable to their constituents.”

This blog’s editor, as a member of the Park Ridge Park District Board from 1997 to 2005, was instrumental in getting that public body to become the first unit of local government in our community to videotape its meetings and make the tapes available for public viewing.

Shortly after his election, Schmidt dragged his first City Council into doing likewise, going so far as to donate the camera and enlist supporters George Kirkland and Charlie Melidosian (now the 5th Ward alderman) to, respectively, run the camera and upload the videos to his own Motionbox site until WOW provided a better system as part of its licensing to provide cable service in Park Ridge.

And through the subsequent efforts of Schmidt and his successor, Mayor Marty Maloney, the City applied for, and received, the “Sunshine Award” from the Illinois Policy Institute in both 2014 and 2015 – making it 1 of only 72 Illinois taxing bodies (among the thousands of those in Illinois) to receive that award in 2015, while also increasing its transparency score from 86% to 94.8%.

Not until the summer of 2011 did Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 jump on that bandwagon, but only after being shamed into it by Marshall Warren, Char Foss-Eggemann and Susan Sweeney, who brought in their own camera to tape that School Board’s August 8, 2011 meeting and then upload it to a YouTube site labeled “sunshine4d64.” We understand that Maine Twp. High School District 207 started taping its Board meeting sometime after that

But it took the election of Reformers David Carrabotta, Claire McKenzie and Susan Sweeney (yes, that Susan Sweeney) to the Maine Township Board last April to finally bring videotaped meetings to that previously opaque political backwater.

Make no mistake about it: When it comes to government, information is power. And the career bureaucrats who populate so much of government know that if they want to manipulate the opinions or decision-making of elected/appointed officials, or of the general public, they can do so by concealing the relevant information that doesn’t serve their purpose; and, worse yet, they are being paid by us taxpayers to do so.

Unfortunately, too many of our elected and appointed officials either knowingly and spinelessly accede to the bureaucrats’ manipulations, or they cowardly hide information and documents from us taxpayers in order to limit the scrutiny of their own decisions and decision-making. They seize upon every opportunity the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“IOMA”) provides for them to run into closed-session meetings even though IOMA merely permits, but does not require, any such closed sessions.

Exhibit A: The D-64 Board, which rarely has seen a closed session opportunity it won’t exploit. From what we’ve seen, heard and inferred, those folks – under the thumb of president Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli, who’s under the thumb of Supt. Laurie “I’m The Boss!” Heinz – have more substantive discussions and do more public business in closed session than in open session, with the latter doing little more than satisfying the barest IOMA requirements regarding the taking of actual votes.

So as we find ourselves in the middle of Sunshine Week, we embed here a guest essay from the editor of the Valdosta (GA) Daily Times and ask you to take a minute to read it, repeating the following lines out loud both for effect and to enhance recall:

“Every action of government is your business.

Every document held in government halls is your piece of paper.

Every penny spent by government is your money.”

Remember: Those low-paid or unpaid “volunteer” elected and appointed officials, just as much as those well-paid and over-paid bureaucrats (including our teachers and school administrators), work for US – not the other way around.

To read or post comments, click on title.

There’s More To Board/Commission Performance Than Meeting Attendance

03.05.18

As a member of the Park Ridge Library Board for six years, I found a recent article in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“Park Ridge aldermen recommend city track, publish meeting attendance by appointed board members,” Feb. 22, 2018) problematic for a few reasons.

First, during my tenure (2011-2017) on that Board I missed less than five of over 160 “official” meetings – regular full-board meetings, regular committee meetings, and “special” meetings – for a 97% attendance record; and one of those absences resulted from being stuck on a METRA train for 3 hours after it collided with a car near the Armitage overpass on the evening of December 20, 2016.

Consequently, I was never concerned about the City’s mandatory meeting attendance ordinance for City board and commission members, which reads:

4-17-6 ATTENDANCE REQUIREMENT

To remain eligible to serve on any Board or Commission, each member shall attend not less than 75% of all meetings for such Board or Commission during each calendar year. Any member who becomes incapable of attending at least 75% of all meetings for such Board or Commission may be disqualified from serving in that office and can be removed by the Appointing Authority in the manner described in Sections 3.1-35-10 or 11-13-3 of the Illinois Municipal Code, as applicable. Failure to meet the minimum attendance requirement shall be considered good cause for removal of any member appointed to any Board or Commission. (Ord. No. 2016-03 , 2(Exh. A), 1-18-2016)

Attendance at “official” meetings is the simplest, easiest and most objective way for measuring one aspect of a board or commission member’s commitment to his/her office. But it’s a huge mistake to consider just attendance at those “official” meetings as an absolute performance benchmark of any board or commission member – as Library Trustee Mike Reardon so cogently pointed out in his remarks to the City Council at its February 19, 2018 meeting, the text of which can be found here.

Since being appointed to the Library Board in June 2015, nobody – N.O.B.O.D.Y. – on that Board has done more, or better quality, work than Reardon. Whether analyzing staffing, measuring performance both internally and vis-à-vis other comparable libraries, exploring efficiencies from the automation of certain operations, budget numbers-crunching, dealing with personnel issues, or just providing the clear, hard-eyed insight that an engineer with a Northwestern (Kellogg) M.B.A. and an abiding love of this community (and its Library) can provide, Reardon’s contributions demonstrate the foolishness of using “official” meeting attendance as the sole benchmark of commitment or effectiveness.

And because his meeting attendance has consistently been in the 90% range, his opinions in this regard cannot be challenged as self-serving.

Most of what can be said about Reardon also can be said about Trustee Joe Egan, another engineer but with a Chicago (Booth) M.B.A. and a similar love of this community and its Library.

Although Egan’s attendance was a bit below the 75% target because of the travel demands of his job, he also has put in plenty of uncredited overtime on some of the same projects as Reardon, as well as being the Board’s point man in dealing with the Library’s architects on design issues for the proposed renovation; in working with the City on fire and safety issues related to the renovation; and in hammering out an intergovernmental agreement with the City to correct the longstanding, half-baked arrangement whereby the non-home rule Library is supposed to pay for capital repairs and improvements to the Library building – like a new roof, new windows, HVAC, etc. – out of its relatively modest budget even though the building and grounds are owned by the home rule City with a budget 15 times larger.

Despite those extra-curricular projects undertaken by Reardon and Egan often impinging on their day jobs – unlike the more accommodating evening schedules for the “official” meetings – they most certainly have saved the taxpayers thousands of dollars in outside consultant services.

So when residents like Alice Dobrinsky and Amy Bartucci suddenly pop out of the woodwork to make an issue of Egan’s meeting attendance, or the attendance of Library Trustees Stevan Dobrilovic and Pat Lamb – both of whom also have carved good chunks of time out of their day jobs to undertake extra-curricular activities on behalf of the Library – it’s naïve to assume it’s just about attendance.

Just like it would have been naïve to assume it was just about attendance a couple of years ago when another resident, Walter Szulczewski, popped out of the woodwork and attempted – along with former Library Board members John Benka, Patricia Lofthouse and Dick Van Metre, and former Library business manager Kathy Rolsing – to nuke the reappointment of Egan and Trustee Char Foss-Eggemann because they disagreed with Egan’s and Foss-Eggemann’s philosophy of running the Library based on Honesty, Integrity, Transparency and Accountability, and with an emphasis on fiscal responsibility.

You can read about their unsuccessful 2016 nuking effort in this blog’s 06.10.2016 post.

Not surprisingly, Bartucci and Dobrinsky – like Szulczewski before them – were notably MIA during all of those years of bad management, even after it led to the closing of the Library on summer Sundays in 2014 – despite Sundays regularly being the busiest days for the Library on a user-per-hour basis – in order to send a political message to then-mayor Dave Schmidt and the then-city council. We wrote about that in our 04.14.2014 post.

So if I had to bet the Vegas line on why Bartucci and Dobrinsky are suddenly beefing about Library trustee attendance, I’d put my money on attendance being the easiest way to pressure the mayor and at least 4 aldermen into getting rid of Egan, Dobrilovic and Lamb – and replacing them with old-style, fiscally irresponsible, go-along-to-get-along trustees who might assist a couple/few old-style trustees currently on the Board in walking back the H.I.T.A. and the fiscal responsibility that have taken hold at the Library.

Make no mistake about it: Meeting attendance is important. I wouldn’t have gone through the effort to attend 97% of the “official” meetings if I didn’t believe it was. But taking the easy way out by making an arbitrary 75% attendance standard the sine qua non of board and commission service, and effectively ignoring the extra-curriculars of board and commission members like Reardon and Egan, is a sham wrapped in a fiction inside a fraud.

And it increases the likelihood that good government can be subverted by bad politics (redundancy intended).

Robert J. Trizna

Editor and publisher

Former Park Ridge Library Trustee

To read or post comment, click on title.

Maybe Not “Fake News”…But Nowhere Close To The Whole Truth

01.05.18

In our most recent post we wrote about our wish for more H.I.T.A. from our units of local government in 2018. We also observed how televised and videotaped meetings have compensated for “sketchy” reporting by our local newspapers.

Not surprisingly, an anonymous commenter to that post accused us of being unfair to our local press on our way to playing the “fake news” card.

So what a fortuitous coincidence it is that an article in this week’s Park Ridge Journal just happens to provide a timely illustration of how the local press subtly – or not so subtly – attempts to influence opinions rather than just report the facts.

The article in question, “Library Board Gears Up For New Director Candidates” (Jan. 3), is by Anne Lunde, who has covered local government in Park Ridge for as long as we can remember.

Throughout her career Ms. Lunde has displayed a decided bias favoring governmental bodies – the bigger, more expansive and more expensive, the better – first at the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate and currently at the Journal. This being Illinois, and Ms. Lunde being an unapologetic Chicagophile, that means her views are about as anti-H.I.T.A. as possible.

To which, of course, she is entitled as a citizen.

As an experienced journalist, however, she has learned how to promote her bias in nuanced ways intended to be undetected by the casual reader, which she gets to do from a media platform not generally available to the ordinary citizen. It’s not what the current POTUS criticizes as “fake news,” but it’s also a far cry from what legendary WaPo reporter Carl Bernstein described as good reporting: “[T]he best attainable version of the truth.”

In order to understand and fully appreciate Ms. Lunde’s advocacy in what should be objective fact reportage, one needs to deconstruct and analyze her article, virtually paragraph by paragraph.

The first two paragraphs subtly attribute the Library Board’s “losing their top finalists” for the director position to its “[e]fforts to be very transparent.”

What’s her favored remedy to prevent losing future finalists? A third paragraph that extols “interviews in closed session” followed by “deliberat[ing] in closed session” before “return[ing] to deliberate in a separate closed session and determin[ing] a salary offer in closed session” – the process adopted by a majority of Library trustees at their December 19th meeting.

That might be a record for use of “closed session” in one paragraph, at least when the author is not condemning them. And Ms. Lunde isn’t about to condemn a closed session: In her view of government, which she has shared with this blog’s editor on several occasions over the past decade, closed sessions and behind-the-scenes schmoozing are how government gets things done.

Which is why her final paragraph attempts to excuse those secretive closed sessions by pointing out that the Library Board – after interviewing the candidates outside the public’s view, after deliberating about the candidates’ qualifications and suitability outside the public’s view, and after debating and deciding the salary and benefits to be offered the candidate outside the public’s view – still has to conduct the actual vote on hiring the chosen candidate in open session.

Big whoop. That’s the absolute barest minimum transparency required by the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“IOMA”). But IOMA’s bare minimum is apparently what a utopian government looks like to Ms. Lunde.

In our opinion, however, Ms. Lunde’s most devious journalistic device resides in her shortest paragraph, of only five words, about those closed sessions: “There was not universal agreement.”

What’s so “devious” about that? Because it is the truth but not the whole truth.

The lack of the whole truth advances Ms. Lunde’s political agenda at the expense of honest journalism – about which conservative public intellectual Thomas Sowell warned thusly:

“If people in the media cannot decide whether they are in the business of reporting news or manufacturing propaganda, it is all the more important that the public understand that difference, and choose their news sources accordingly.”

How does she advance her political agenda at the expense of her journalism?

Simple: By not identifying the dissenters – Library trustees Joe Egan, Char Foss-Eggemann and Mike Reardon, whom we identified in our 12.26.17 post – and thereby marginalizing them and their dissent.

She knows that Egan, Foss-Eggemann and Reardon are the Library Board’s strongest H.I.T.A. proponents. She also knows that they are well respected by many members of this community. Because of that, she knows that identifying them by name would likely cause folks who know and respect them to question the legitimacy of those closed sessions, as well as the judgment of the members of the Board majority – Karen Burkum, Steve Dobrilovic, Josh Keim, Garreth Kennedy, Pat Lamb and Judy Rayborn – who prefer to hide from their constituents in such sessions.

So she reports the bare fact of the dissent but leaves the dissenters numberless and nameless. That also helps their fellow trustees escape scrutiny for their anti-H.I.T.A. beliefs, policies and conduct – like the bogus, chicken-bleep “survey” of their closed-session hiring process instead of an actual vote on adopting it. That way, the majority gains the political cover of not having a public record of their actual votes for more closed sessions.

You can watch that discussion on the meeting video, starting at the 29:45 mark and ending at the 53:45 mark.

So while we hope for more H.I.T.A. from our local governments in 2018, the same is sorely needed from our local press. Which reminds us of a quote from Pres. John F. Kennedy that Ms. Lunde and the Library Board should consider:

“The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.”

If Lunde and the Library Board majority actually care about “a free and open society” – or, at least, care about it more than they do about pandering to the anti-H.I.T.A. propensities of mercenary headhunter John Keister and about hiding from their constituents – they sure have an odd way of showing it.

To read or post comments, click on title.