Public Watchdog.org

Grau Needs Secrecy To “Talk Honestly” About Janak’s Replacement

01.29.19

Back in our July 7, 2014 post we criticized the Board of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 for hiding its deliberations on the appointment of a new Board member in closed session – “where the horse-trading and deal-making will go on” – because such closed session deliberations concealed from taxpayers not only the other Board members’ “reasons for and against each candidate” voiced during those deliberations but, also, “which reasons came from which of the six board members.”

Since then, the City of Park Ridge has held open deliberations on replacing two aldermen (Dan Knight and Bob Wilkening). Even D-64 changed its ways, conducting an open-session vetting and deliberation process this past November in appointing Bob Johnson as the short-term replacement for Eastman Tiu.

So it was good to see, at the January 17 meeting of the Park Ridge Park District Board, that a 3-1 majority of the commissioners present (O’Brien and O’Donnell MIA) expressed their desire to conduct the vetting and deliberations about the applicants to fill the Board seat of the late Commissioner Jim Janak in open session.

That commissioners Harmony Harrington and Rob Leach would support open-session vetting and deliberations was expected. But after watching Board president Mel Thillens spend his first 7-2/3 years on the Board running into closed session and hiding from the taxpayers every chance he got, it was refreshing to see him finally take a stand for transparency and accountability, even if he only has a mere 4 months left on what is his final term.

He even got the rationale right, noting that because “the public doesn’t get a chance to vote” on the applicant it deserves to hear the commissioners’ reasons for choosing one applicant over the others.

Better late than never, although much better early than late.

The one commissioner saying “no” to transparency and accountability was, not surprisingly, Commissioner Cynthia “Cindy” Grau, who wanted to discuss the merits of the various applicants away from the public’s eyes and ears. Her argument: She didn’t want the successful applicant to know which, if any, commissioners may not have supported the appointment, or made critical comments about that applicant.

“I don’t know that we could talk honestly in public,” Grau objected. “You couldn’t say what’s truly on your mind.”

Yes, Grau actually said that.

Since her election almost four years ago she has been a steady voice for the “Ubi est mea?” (A Latin phrase meaning “Where’s mine?” coined by the legendary Mike Royko as the unofficial motto of Chicago) special-interest crowd that wants their Park District amenities free of charge; or, failing that, with a heavy subsidy from all those non-user taxpayers who already pay to build and maintain the District’s parks and facilities.

SIDEBAR: That “Ubi est mea?” crowd consists of those people we have labeled “freeloaders” as shorthand for: “those residents who are always looking to leverage maximum benefits for themselves, their families and their friends by shifting the costs of those benefits onto the backs of their fellow taxpayers.” But if you prefer the Merriam-Webster online definition of “freeloader” – “a person who is supported by or seeks support from another without making an adequate return” – you also get synonyms like “bloodsucker,” “leech,” “moocher,” “sponger” and “parasite,” the last of which we use to describe vagabonds from lower-taxed places like Chicago who come to Park Ridge to use our better and/or free and discounted facilities and programs.

Grau has practiced “Ubi est mea” for her own benefit as well, supporting free use of facilities and programs for commissioners as a “perk” (short for perquisite) of being a commissioner, even though the office of commissioner is one that, by law, is unpaid.

We remind our readers that the policy of the State of Illinois is that The People’s business should be done openly and transparently, for maximum honesty and accountability. That’s why we have the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“IOMA”).

Although IOMA permits a limited number of exempted matters to be discussed in closed session, it does not require it. To the contrary, IOMA permits all matters, including those certain exemptions, to be discussed in open session. So whenever our public officials choose to go into closed session, you can bet dollars to donuts that it’s because they are trying to conceal what they are saying and doing from us taxpayers.

Since 2011 the de facto leader of the Park Board’s closed-session brigade has been Thillens. Now that he finally appears to have discovered H.I.T.A. (“Honesty,” “Integrity,” “Transparency” and “Accountability”), however, Grau looks like the Park Board’s new hide-and-seek leader who’s afraid to “talk honestly in public.”

Somehow we doubt that quote will make it onto her yard signs or flyers between now and Election Day, April 2, 2019.

So you’ll just need to remember it when you go to the polls to vote for Park Board candidates.

To read or post comments, click on title.

 

 

Trustee Jones Can’t Get No “Assgate” Satisfaction From EEOC

01.21.19

After a couple of posts about the Park Ridge City Council’s incompetent procurement mismanagement – and its outright disregard for the City’s procurement rules on a $280,000 body cam purchase – we decided our readers need some comic relief.

And where can you find more comic relief in local government than Maine Township, where the clown-car full of Township officials keeps circling that clown-car known as Maine Township.

We know, we know: We said we were done writing about that Lilliput of local government. And we are.

But after our multi-part “Assgate” series we feel duty-bound to continue to track the further developments in its continuing saga, in this case the fully-expected dismissal by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) of Trustee Kim Jones’ (RINO, Park Ridge) complaint against Trustee Dave Carrabotta (Moron, Niles) for allegedly groping, brushing, swiping, touching, ogling or just thinking about Jonesie’s “ass” (her word). Check out the December 12, 2018 article by the Maine Township RINOs’ unofficial public relations flak, Todd “The Wet Sprocket” Wessell, published in his very own Park Ridge Journal newspaper, titled: “No Recourse For Jones-Carrabotta Issue, Trustee Told.”

According to that article, Jones claims the EEOC – as well as state and Crook County officials – told her that “[L]ocal officials are not a protected class” when it comes to sexual harassment. So, according to Jones: “[P]eople like Dave Carrabotta can sexually harass other elected officials with impunity”; and that her only alternative was to sue the Township and Carrabotta.

Remember, folks: That’s solely according to Jones. We’ve seen or heard nothing from the EEOC itself to corroborate anything The Journal is reporting. And after the woeful lack of evidence supporting her accusations against Carrabotta, her credibility is somewhere between that of the Little Boy Who Cried “Wolf!” (before the wolf showed up) and Chicken Little .

As of the date of the article, Jones was undecided on whether to file such a suit. Frankly, we really wish she would.

After all, she and Carrabotta have already cost the Township’s taxpayers over $38,000 because of Jones’ unproven (and, most likely, fabricated for purely political reasons) accusations that Carrabotta did something improper in her vicinity, which prompted Carrabotta’s moronic demand for a closed-session Board meeting followed by a Township-funded (a/k/a, a taxpayer-funded) investigation.

So we’d like to see both of them start spending bundles of their own cash as a consequence of Jones’ petty politics and Carrabotta’s idiocy.

Maybe some of Jonesie’s cheerleaders – Laura Morask, Susan Moylan-Krey, Wally Kazmierczak, Pete Gialamas, Rep. Marty Moylan (Dem., Madigan’s vest pocket), Sen. Laura Murphy (Dem., Cullerton’s vest pocket), or RINO groupie Jean Dietsch – could chip in for her attorneys’ fees and costs so that Jones won’t have to shoulder that burden solo. Since Jones got all that free legal advice about confronting Carrabotta and filing the complaint that started the investigation from her friendly neighborhood Township attorney, Keri-Lyn Krafthefer (whose firm conveniently pocketed that $38,000+ to conduct the investigation), it’s about time for Jones to start paying her own way.

Meanwhile, Carrabotta – who reportedly has been paying a private attorney for advice – could look to Trustees Susan Sweeney and Claire McKenzie for donations, considering how they foolishly indulged Carrabotta’s fit of pique and voted for both his arguably unlawful closed session meeting and his stupid Ancel Glink investigation.

McKenzie, however, may not be so inclined to contribute to the Carrabotta defense fund now that she is rumored to be angling for a Crook County Circuit Court judgeship and will likely need the intercession of Jonesie’s BFF, Marty Moylan, if she wants Boss Madigan to bless her candidacy. That also might explain why McKenzie seems to have abandoned her fellow “Reformers” and is siding regularly with Morask and Jones on Township Board votes.

But much as we would like Jones to continue this Township farce with a lawsuit of her own, if only for its perverse entertainment value, we’re pretty sure that won’t happen. Whatever political masterminds (using that term loosely) have been steering Jones through this goat rodeo (Morask? Kazmierczak?) up to now have to realize that they’ve already milked these unproved accusations for all they were worth.

And the last thing they want is an actual court decision that might expressly find that Jones made all of this up, aided and abetted by the speculation and hearsay of Morask, Moylan-Krey, Kazmierczak and Gialamas.

Besides, now that Morask and Jones have lured McKenzie over to the Dark Side, the RINOs no longer need to push Carrabotta off the Board so they could replace him with RINO Kelly Schaefer (which was the only reason behind Assgate from the jump): They can now regularly outvote Carrabotta and Sweeney whenever the latter two attempt to act like “The Reformers” we believed them to be back when they had their 3-2 vote majority and were actually relevant.

So it looks like reform is dead at Maine Township.

Now, who’s going to tell Carrabotta and Sweeney?

To read or post comments, click on title.

No-Bid Body Cam Contract: Typical Illinois Bad Gov’t, Park Ridge Style (Part 2)

01.14.19

It took us awhile, but we finally finished Part II about how the Park Ridge City Council helped Police Chief Frank Kaminski (1) make a mockery of the City’s procurement requirements by (2) authorizing a no-bid, sole-source 5-year, $282,000 purchase of Axon body cameras for our police officers.

Back in April 2018, Kaminski told the Council he was going to test only Axon body cameras despite his failure (refusal?) to follow the City’s procurement rules. And he did it in the face of a warning by Ald. Marc Mazzuca (6th) that “nobody said that we’re going to waive our procurement rules to do this.”

Unfortunately, Mazzuca, et al. didn’t have to say they were waiving anything, because Chief K recognizes empty warnings from toothless wannabe-politicians when he hears them.

So when this body cam issue finally came up for a Council vote at the November 26, 2018 Finance & Budget COW meeting, the discussion that evening – running from the 2:57:34 through the 4:04:50 mark of that COW meeting video (including a 45-minute sales pitch from 3:05:15 to 3:50:35 from Axon’s Vince Valentine) – bounced between stupid, ridiculous and infuriating.

You can watch the entire video if you want, but we don’t advise it: We already have and it’s not worth the time. But if you want a few of the lowlights, try these:

  Ald. Marty Joyce (7th) endorsing Axon body cams (starting at 3:35:22) because Crook County and the City of Chicago both use them. Apparently the pervasive incompetence, wastefulness and corruption of those two cesspools of government is lost on Joyce: Otherwise, the fact that Axon was the body cam of choice for Toni Taxwinkle and The Rahmfather should have been reason enough to put the brakes on this sole-source deal.

  Ald. Charlie Melidosian (5th) claiming (from 3:50:40 to 3:54:36) that “[his] world is H.I.T.A.” (the acronym, originated by the late Mayor Dave Schmidt, for “Honesty,” “Integrity,” “Transparency” and “Accountability”) before endorsing Chief K’s choice of Axon body cams as “defendable” (How’s that for a ringing endorsement!) despite a procurement process that was anything but “H.I.T.A.”

*   Ald. John Moran (1st), who may have suffered whiplash (starting at 3:59:20) from voting against the sole-source procurement (while mumbling about needing “more information”) and then almost immediately flipping his vote in favor of Axon because he didn’t want to be seen as being against body cams.

But that night’s poster child for bad government was Mazzuca, who was able to fuse tediousness, whininess and spinelessness into a seamless ball of fecklessness.

It was in our 05.08.2013 post that we first described Mazzuca as “the kind of guy who, armed with an MBA from the University of Chicago, can spend an hour drilling down into a potato chip.” While that can sometimes be useful in obtaining information, all too often Mazzuca’s chip drilling has produced little but a worthless pile of crumbs, as it did back in 2013 when he drilled himself silly before (Surprise!) rolling over for Chief K’s cop shop renovations.

The past was prologue on November 26, as Mazzuca badgered both Axon’s spinmeister and Chief K with more observations, comments and questions than the rest of the Council combined – which he followed with a litany of time-wasting gripes (starting at 3:54:40) about the history and inadequacies of Chief K’s procurement process.

But when it came down to actually having to vote on the Chief’s body cam sole-sourcing, Mazzuca grabbed his ankles and announced that he would vote “reluctantly…and I cannot emphasize ‘reluctantly’ enough” to approve the sole-source deal, before finishing with gratuitous shots at the Chief for “sloppy execution,” “foot dragging” and “excuses.”

That’s what’s called (borrowing a famous headline from the Boston Globe about a Jimmy Carter speech): “Mush from the wimp.”

Interestingly, even such mush was enough to provoke the ire of Chief K, who seems unwilling and/or incapable of tolerating anything but praise of himself and his department. So the Chief went after Mazzuca in a high-dudgeon defense of his integrity (starting at 3:57:59) before daring the Council to “fire [him] today!”

Dramatic, yes, but about as meaningless as the mush that provoked it: Only City Manager Joe Gilmore can fire the Chief. And for reasons known only to Joe Gilmore, he consistently provided alibis for the Chief’s eight-month trampling of the procurement rules.

Once the Council cast its unanimous 7-0 vote on November 26, the second vote required for final approval of the Axon contract, scheduled for the December 3, 2018 Council meeting, appeared to be a foregone conclusion.

On December 3rd, however, Mazzuca sprung a motion to defer the vote until the Council could review the Axon contract that the Chief failed (refused?) to deliver to the aldermen until minutes before that night’s meeting. Moran seconded that motion but, not surprisingly, it lost by a 3 (Yes: Mazzuca, Moran and Melidosian) to 3 (No: Wilkening, Shubert and Joyce; Milissis MIA) tie. And despite some additional mealy-mouthed complaints from Mazzuca and Moran, they dutifully grabbed their ankles and voted to pass the unread Axon sole-source contract by 6-0.

Fortunately, this episode of bad government lasted only ½ hour, from the 1:17:59 to the 1:49:35 mark of the December 3 meeting video.

But the no-bid, sole-source procurement charade turned into a cynical political travesty at the December 17 Council meeting (from 13:20 to 36:50 of that meeting video) when Moran made a half-hearted motion (“I don’t even expect it to [pass].”) for reconsideration of the Council’s December 3rd unanimous approval of the Axon contract.

Why did he make a motion that he did not expect would pass?

Moran claimed that he had done “some research” since the December 3rd vote (Nothing like an elected official waiting until after the deal is fully cooked before finally doing his job.). And in response to what seemed like an orchestrated “tell me more, tell me more” inquiry from Mazzuca (at 18:48), Moran noted that Kaminski never produced what he described as a “Department of Justice report” about the Elgin body cam vetting process and the wonders of Axon that he supposedly relied on in deciding to sole-source from Axon.

Moran also suggested that the information provided by Axon about purportedly unique features like 12-hour “battery life” and unique “interfacing” ability may not have been totally accurate, thorough and/or complete – notwithstanding its wholehearted endorsement by Chief K and CM Gilmore, and its previously unquestioned support by Moran and the rest of the Council.

All of those points could have, and should have, been raised during the seven months (between April 11 and November 26) that the aldermen sat on their thumbs, as could Melidosian’s abandonment (starting at the 30:05 mark of the video) of his previous support of Chief K’s “defendable” sole-source decision and his proposal for a full-blown competitive bidding process.

Predictably, this eleventh-hour gambit proved to be too little, too late – failing by another 3 (Yes: Moran, Mazzuca and Melidosian) to 3 (No: Wilkening, Shubert and Joyce; Milissis MIA) tie.

As best as we can tell, Moran’s do-over motion failed because he, Mazzuca and Melidosian did absolutely no lobbying of Wilkening, Shubert, Joyce and/or Milissis to change their own misguided sole-source votes.

So why no lobbying?

We suspect it’s because the Triple Ms were more concerned about creating some plausible CYA for themselves, and not about how badly they had botched the body cam procurement. So they pulled the kind of crass political stunt we’ve come to expect from the Madiganocrats and RINOs down in Springfield, and on the Crook County Board: Having let Kaminski ignore the procurement requirements and than having grabbed their ankles on two successive Axon votes, even a failed do-over let’s them argue that they tried to correct their mistake but didn’t get the support of any of their colleagues in the Council majority.

You might want to remember this the next time any of these three invoke the name, reputation or record of Mayor Schmidt, or claim to be proponents of H.I.T.A.

Because in passing this hinky deal those three didn’t have a thimble-full of H.I.T.A., or one calcified spine, to share among themselves.

To read or post comments, click on title.