It’s Not The Event But The Cover-Up


In our previous post we wrote about how the Maine Township Assessor, Susan Moylan-Krey, doesn’t really assess anything but nevertheless runs at least a five-person office (herself included), and how she has crossed swords with The Reformers – new Trustees Dave Carrabotta, Claire McKenzie and Susan Sweeney – over whether the non-assessor’s job truly requires the 1,000 hours annually needed to qualify for one of those sweetheart public pensions.

Today we shed some light on how that battle has been waged – not only outside the public’s view, but also outside The Reformers’ view – by Moylan-Krey and Supervisor Lauren Morask, primarily through correspondence with the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (“IMRF”).

After The Reformers refused in August 2017 to certify that the non-assessing Assessor’s position requires 1,000+ hours of work per year, Township “Bookkeeper” Denise Jajko e-mailed the IMRF’s then-general counsel, Kathy O’Brien, to inquire about Moylan-Krey’s appealing the non-certification and getting back on the pension contribution rolls. That inquiry set off a string of telephone calls and e-mails among O’Brien, Morask and Moylan-Krey from September 2017 into January 2018, some of which Township attorney Dan Dowd was copied on.

But guess what?

Nobody apparently advised The Reformers about the appeal until Morask finally provided them with a copy of her November 20, 2017 e-mail string containing the IMRF’s confirmation that Moylan-Krey’s appeal was successful – but not until the January 23, 2018 Board meeting, two months after she received that confirmation e-mail.

In other words, Morask, Moylan-Krey and attorney Dowd withheld from The Reformers all information regarding Moylan-Krey’s IMRF appeal not only during its two-month pendency but, also, for an additional two months AFTER the appeal had been adjudicated in Moylan-Krey’s favor – and her pension contributions had been reinstated at their customary rate of the Township (a/k/a, the taxpayers) matching Moylan-Krey’s monthly contribution by a ratio of more than 2.65 to 1.

Can you say “Unethical, dishonest and sleazy political gamesmanship”?

Of course you can!

Not until one of The Reformers, McKenzie, contacted IMRF and explained how Moylan-Krey’s situation had been concealed from The Reformers – and arguably misrepresented by Morask, et al. – did the IMRF’s new general counsel, in a January 26, 2018 letter, conclude that “all members of the Maine Township Governing Body have not been adequately informed of the IMRF administrative inquiries and decisions”; and that the Board, presumably acting through The Reformers’ majority, can appeal the results of Moylan-Krey’s secret appeal.

The seeming conspiracy of silence by Morask/Moylan-Krey/Dowd reeks so badly on so many levels that it’s hard to imagine how any of them could muster the chutzpah to continue in their respective positions. But from everything we’ve seen, heard and read about those three, they are nothing if not shameless when it comes to preserving their hegemony over the Township fiefdom.

Maybe it’s because Morask has been feeding at the Township trough for 17 years, while Moylan-Krey has spent the last 12 years rubbing elbows with her there. That kind of tenure generates an air of invincible entitlement that may explain why the fact that both of them have full-time private-sector jobs – Morask as a criminal trial attorney and principle in the Law Offices of Laura J. Morask, Moylan-Krey as a RE broker with Century 21 Langos & Christian – did not cause them even a fleeting concern about how incredible it looks for each of them to claim that their Township position requires at least 1,000 hours a year.

Instead, they appear to be blithely doubling down on their claims, challenging The Reformers to prove the negative: That those Township positions don’t require 1,000 hours.

Hopefully, the IMRF and its new general counsel see through that ruse.

And Dowd? He’s been the Township’s attorney since he was appointed – without any bidding or request for proposal – in 1994. Township paychecks have become like an annuity for him since the days when the likes of Mark Thompson, Gary Warner, Bob Provenzano, Carol Teschky and Bob Dudycz owned Maine Township government. Dowd knows on which side his bread is buttered, and by whom.

And he knows it’s not by The Reformers. Hence, his deafening silence about Moylan-Krey’s under-the-radar appeal.

Unfortunately, such perverse tenure virtually guarantees that Morask, Moylan-Krey and Dowd will not just slink away after being caught with their hands in the IMRF cookie jar.

But it should be interesting to see how much of a shelling those three take if/when the IMRF gets around to considering both sides of the Moylan-Krey issue, not just Moylan-Krey’s (and Morask’s) side presented while The Reformers were kept in the dark.

Hopefully the IMRF will demand that Moylan-Krey actually prove, with real evidence and not just the typical bunch of warm-and-fuzzy anecdotes, that the duties of her non-assessing Assessor’s job require 1,000 hours or more to perform, especially given that her office employs at least four deputy non-assessors; and given her self-proclaimed status as “a full time real estate professional.”

The same goes for Morask, whose criminal trial practice would similarly appear to be incompatible with a Supervisor’s position whose duties require 1,000 hours to perform.

As for Dowd, we can’t wait to hear him explain, on the record, whether his failure to report Moylan-Krey’s appeal to the full Township Board – including The Reformers – was the product of dishonesty, blatant favoritism, incompetence, or (with a nod to the late great Mike Royko) “aggravated mopery with intent to gawk.” Whichever explanation it turns out to be, however, this sordid situation is a clear indication that Dowd has outlived his Township annuity.

Exactly how much we taxpayers hear about these IMRF proceedings, however, will depend on whether The Reformers have finally and fully removed their training wheels and are willing to insist upon the kind of transparency and accountability that have been anathema to Morask, et al. and their predecessors for at least the past two decades. 

Meanwhile, attorneys Morask and Dowd should remember one of the lasting lessons of Watergate, as articulated by the late Tennessee Senator (and attorney) Howard Baker:

“It is almost always the cover-up rather than the event that causes trouble.”

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Is “Reform” Finally Coming To Maine Township Government?


Illinois has almost 7,000 units of government – a whopping 2,000+ more than first runner-up Pennsylvania. In contrast, Florida deserves the taxpayers’ Miss Congeniality award for serving 6 million more residents than Illinois with only 1,650 units of government.

Critics of our banana republic (formerly known as the “Land of Lincoln”) correctly attribute its nearly bankrupt condition to our surfeit of taxing/borrowing/spending entities. And one of the bigger contributors to our fiscal buffoonery is township government.

Illinois has 1,432 individual units of township government, even though 17 of Illinois’ 102 counties have none at all. That leaves 85 counties with an average of 16.85 townships apiece. And because all townships sit within county borders, there are two higher layers of government – state and county – already in place to address the needs of township residents.

But all townships also contain municipalities (Park Ridge is home to portions of Maine, Norwood and Leyden townships) that provide yet another layer of government services to township residents within those municipalities’ borders, to say nothing of the park districts, school districts, library districts and even mosquito abatement districts that do the same.

Against the backdrop of such perversely-comical redundancy we offer today’s post, our first ever that focuses exclusively on Maine Township government and on how three newly-elected (in April, 2017) trustees – Dave Carrabotta (R), Claire McKenzie (D) and Susan Sweeney (R) – have forged a bi-partisan majority to challenge the Township’s sclerotic business-as-usual operations and shake it loose from its historical Illinois Combine-style politics.

We’ll refer to them collectively as “The Reformers.”

To illustrate what they are up against, we direct your attention to a January 2, 2018 article in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate: “Maine Township trustees set property tax levies amid pushback” – which captures some of the half-truths, “what ifs” and wrong-thinking that have made Maine Twp. government a sluggish political backwater for decades.

Back in November The Reformers voted 3-2 (Supervisor Laura Morask and Trustee Kim Jones voting no) to lower the Township’s general town fund and general assistance levies by 5 percent, arguing that the Township was sitting on substantial reserves and did not need the higher levy Morask was seeking.

Imagine that: A majority of Maine Twp. elected officials actually voting to reduce a tax levy. They must be taking lessons from the Park Ridge City Council, which last month reduced its levy for the second consecutive year – this time by 8.99% – as Mayor Marty Maloney credited the late mayor Dave Schmidt and the late alderman Dan Knight for starting the do-more-with-less effort that City staff and the current Council have built upon.

Although The Reformers won that November vote, at the Township Board’s December 19 meeting Morask argued vigorously against the reduction while her long-time ally, Township Highway Commissioner Walter Kazmierczak, insisted on a 2 percent increase in his road and bridge levy that would push his department’s annual revenue to over $2 million.

That brought a rebuke from Sweeney, who pointed out that Kazmierczak’s department had spent approximately $1.8 million the previous year, and well below $2 million in previous years.

But Morask and Kazmierczak weren’t giving up.

They threw every single uncertainty, contingency and catastrophe they could imagine against the Town Hall wall: Uncertain health care costs, successful property tax appeals, increased user fees, the potential for a cold and snowy winter, increased overtime costs, possible increases in commodity costs, an increase in the CPI – even the possibility of the General Assembly approving a property-tax freeze.

When that didn’t appear to be swaying The Reformers, however, Morask and Kazmierczak insisted that the Board was legally required to approve Kazmierczak’s road and bridge levy request – with Morask telling them: “You guys really don’t have a choice.”

Fortunately, The Reformers are learning that Morask is often wrong, even if never in doubt.

McKenzie, an attorney, pointed out the absurdity of the Board’s having to vote on a levy without being able to vote “no” – especially given Kazmierczak’s admission that his department “had plenty of money left over” from last year due to a mild 2016-2017 winter. Maybe he’s looking to create a slush fund (pun intended).

That left it to Morask to provide the night’s biggest whopper in trying to impose her will on The Reformers:

“Right now, we have the perception of being good government.”

We can only wonder where Morask acquired the delusion that “good government” consists of spending almost $700,000 a year to give out less than $200,000 of general assistance benefits.

That’s right, folks: According to the the Township’s own report, the Morask Administration – which more accurately should be called the “Morass Administration” – it appears that last year the Township paid $697,804 out of its “General Assistance Fund” (presumably in staff salaries and related expenditures) in order to distribute $183,833 of benefits to the needy residents of the Township. By our calculation that’s an efficiency rating of 21%.

If Maine Township were a private charitable organization it would be flagged as one to avoid because of its excessive overhead expenditures!

Hopefully that kind of inefficiency factored into The Reformers once again approving a 5% reduction in the general town fund and general assistance levies, and a flat road and bridge levy, by a 3-2 (Morask and Jones again voting “no”) majority.

We realize Maine Township, with an annual budget of around $7 million, absorbs less than 2% of our RE tax bills – even as the City of Park Ridge and the Park Ridge Library combined take about 13%, and the schools grab the lion’s share of approximately 69% (with a majority of that going to Park Ridge-Niles School District 64). At the December 19 meeting, Sweeney noted the Township’s relatively small RE tax bite while correctly observing: “[T]hat doesn’t mean we should go without scrutiny or [not] look at saving whatever tax dollars [we can].”

We quoted scripture in our 03.17.2011 post about how D-64’s bumbling of its lunchtime supervision program did not bode well for its bigger decisions: “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much.” Luke 16:10 (King James Version). That same passage could apply to Maine Township if not for The Reformers.

Here’s hoping Carrabotta, McKenzie and Sweeney stick together and remain faithful to both the Township’s taxpayers and its neediest residents by even more aggressively calling out the business-as-usual incompetence (if not outright waste) that has been SOP for Township government for too long.

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