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Village of Orland Park’s Karie Friling Eats Steak and Lobster on Public’s Dime –

January 11, 2017   ·   17 Comments

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Orland Park, Illinois (ECWd) –

Travel receipts obtained from the Village of Orland Park via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) raise questions about Orland Park’s longtime Development Director, Karie Friling, and her lavish travel expenses. Should taxpayers be made to foot the bill for extravagant trips to Las Vegas for public employees to have what amounts to an all-expenses-paid holiday? 

Last May, Friling headed down to Las Vegas for a week-long stay in the palatial Venetian Hotel. Ostensibly, this was for a “conference” of some kind, though the Village of Orland Park didn’t provide any explanation for what sort of conference it was, what Friling hoped to learn at the conference, or what real benefit her attending this conference in Sin City had for the people of Orland Park whose tax dollars bankrolled it. 

On May 23rd, Friling took herself out to a late-night meal at a high-priced restaurant named Joe’s Seafood Steak and Stone Crab (which has a 5-star OpenTable rating and is listed as an establishment where meals are easily $50 and up per person). Her receipt — on which she appears to have written “Business Dinner” — shows that she devoured $91.77 worth of shrimp cocktail, steak, lobster tail, and something called “big daddy taters” at 9:49pm. The check also seems to show that Friling was alone, as the receipt printed one guest for her table. How could Karie Friling have had a “business dinner” eating steak, lobster, and all the rest when there was just one guest at her “business dinner”? 

An even better question is: Why are steaks, lobsters, and shrimp cocktails approved for reimbursement for any public employee’s dinner in the Village of Orland Park?

In the modern age, Skype and FaceTime videoconferencing have rendered most out-of-state business travel obsolete, as colleagues in different states (or even foreign countries) can successfully meet any time they want over their computers. While public employees certainly enjoy going to Las Vegas to have a nice time without personally having to pay for it, even the federal government issued directives back in 2009 for government conferences to no longer be held in places like Hawaii, Orlando, Anaheim, or Las Vegas since the perception ends up being that the public employees are more interested in “free” trips to these fun destinations than they care about whatever “conference” they are supposedly attending there. 

Altogether, Karie Friling burned through close to $2,000 worth of Orland Park taxpayers’ money staying at the Venetian Hotel, lounging at its poolside bar (and incurring more charges to her bill there), and stuffing her face full of shrimp cocktail, steak, and lobster. What benefit did Orland Park homeowners receive from all this decadent spending? Many people in Orland Park have had to tighten their belts and forgo vacations in recent years so they could pay their property tax bills. How do families struggling to put food on the table every night feel about public employees like Friling sticking them with the bill for her lobster tail and week of fun at the Venetian in Vegas?

A good resolution for the year 2017 would be to start FOIA-ing the spending of “Development Directors” and similar positions in local public bodies, paying close attention to what conferences they attend and how extravagant they choose to be when ordering their “free” meals on the public’s dime. If Karie Friling truly needed to attend that conference in Las Vegas for a legitimate purpose, couldn’t she have found a cheaper hotel to stay in than the Venetian? At dinner, couldn’t she have had a hamburger or chicken caesar salad at a diner instead of the steak and lobster in one of the most expensive restaurants around?

No small business would ever be able to stay in business if it ran itself like the Village of Orland Park. But, that’s because a private company doesn’t have the ability to raise taxes and increase its own revenue whenever it needs more money to afford the expensive habits of employees like Karie Friling. 

 

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Readers Comments (17)

  1. Ray says:

    She makes $200,000 a year and if you check orland park plan meetings she put every thing to the board and it is always approved Why???

     Reply
  2. Oleg says:

    Very shameful the orland park city hall has grassroot corruption, nepotism and favors FOR friends is embedded. all supporters of the mayor have cushy 100K plus jobs, everyone should be FOID
    EDGAR COUNTY IS DOING A GREAT JOB, do more digging in the city hall and more pandoras boxes will open.

     Reply
  3. The Tax Man Cometh says:

    Could someone with better knowledge of taxation answer this? Is the value of food above the per diem taxable as a salary benefit? Perhaps these documents could be sent to the IRS and let them decide if any of the perks are taxable.

     Reply
  4. Mike says:

    Orland Park doesn’t have a policy on meal expenses with a daily or per meal limit and a requirement for an itemized receipt (referencing the hotel bar mystery charge)?

     Reply
    • Kevin duJan says:

      Orland Park officials have a long history of not thinking that the rules or laws apply to them. They seem to do whatever they think they can get away with and they roll the dice that no one will find out.

       Reply
      • Frank Rizzo says:

        See the section in the Orland Park Employee Manual for Travel policy?

        https://www.orland-park.il.us/DocumentCenter/Home/View/3771

        VILLAGE OF ORLAND PARK
        Employee Manual
        Issued September, 1999, Ordinance 3266
        Amended January 22, 2008 Ordinance 4333

        appendix
        village of orland park
        0.3
        employee manual
        1
        AUTHORIZATION TO ATTEND CONFERENCES, SEMINARS,
        AND HANDLING OF TRAVEL EXPENSES
        The Village has always advanced the training and professionalism of its staff and authorizes attendance to
        certain schools and conferences, and sometimes allows travel outside the Village to conduct Village
        business. The purpose of this regulation is primarily to set forth the policies governing reimbursement for
        conferences, seminars and travel expenses, and to describe certain procedural matters concerning travel
        authorization, documentation and accounting.
        The Village’s objectives are to allow travel arrangements that (1) conserve budgeted travel funds, (2)
        provide a uniform treatment for all employees, while (3) allowing the employee to carry out his mission in a
        manner that is dignified and reflects favorably upon his employer.
        REGISTRATION
        1.
        The Travel Advance/Check Request form must be approved by the Department Director and Village
        Manager well in advance of the event. The Finance Department has been instructed not to process
        any requests for advance travel and conference registration funds unless a copy of the subject form
        has been signed by the Village Manager and accompanies the Travel Advance/Check Request
        form.
        2.
        A training seminar must not duplicate a prior seminar attended by the employee. Each request for
        training must be materially and substantially different from previous sessions attended by the same
        employee. Determination of materiality and substantive differentiation is solely at the manager’s
        discretion. So you are advised to submit an explanation sufficient for those purposes.
        3.
        At the conclusion of a training program the employee should submit a concise narrative report to
        their Department Director outlining benefits received by attending this program.
        4.
        A Department Director may attend a national conference every other year and a reasonable number
        of regional or state conferences.
        5.
        Usually registration fees will be paid by the Village in advance; however, in those situations where
        time does not permit prior arrangements the employee shall be reimbursed via their Expense
        Report. A receipt must be provided.
        GENERAL TRAVEL
        1.
        Employees are expected to economize and incur reasonable travel expenses, as if they were
        paying for the program themselves.
        2.
        Travel expenses must be itemized on an Expense Report. This report must include mileage and
        receipts.
        MEALS
        1.
        The full per diem will be $35 per day. For part day travel, the per diem will be accounted for as
        follows: Breakfast $5.00, Lunch $10.00, Dinner $20.00.
        2.
        If the registration or tuition fees include one or more meals, the per diem will be reduced to reflect
        the included meals. Copies of registration materials (agenda) will need to accompany the travel
        request form.
        3.
        In order to account for the per diem, the travel times will need to be stated on the travel request.
        For example, “Depart Orland Park at 5:30 a.m. to Springfield arriving at 8:30 a.m” meals that meet
        the following criteria will be included in the per diem.
        Breakfast: When travel begins before 6:00 a.m and extends beyond 8:00 a.m.
        Lunch: When travel begins before noon and extends beyond 2:00 p.m.
        Dinner: When travel begins before 6:00 p.m or when travel occurs during evening hours due to
        Page 54
        special assignment.
        4.
        No per diem will be allowed for travel confined to the Orland Park area.
        5.
        The Village Manager or his designee will decide if travel is, and which meals are, reimbursable.
        The per diem will be paid as a reimbursement as part of the expense report submitted after the
        travel has been completed. Expense reports will be processed as part of regular bill listings only,
        and will be submitted within two (2) weeks of returning from the event.
        TRANSPORTATION
        1.
        An employee may use the most economical mode of transportation they prefer and will be
        reimbursed on the basis established by the following paragraphs. Ordinarily, round trip tickets
        would be purchased, but going by one mode and returning by another is allowed if schedules so
        dictate or if there is some advantage to the village.
        2.
        Air travel reimbursement shall be limited to “tourist” or “economy” fares where such services are
        available. Travel to and from airports should be by bus or limousine where such services are in
        operation and by taxi only as a last resort.
        3.
        Rail travel reimbursement shall be limited to coach fares for trips not involving overnight travel and
        to first class plus Pullman or roomette fares where sleeping accommodations are required.
        4.
        Village cars may be used to travel to destinations of up to 250 miles. Special approval for longer
        trips may be granted by the Village Manager if there will be more than one passenger making the
        trip or if there is some other justification. Parking and garage charges are reimbursable, but the
        employee should exercise care by selecting a facility that charges economical rates. For trips of
        more than 250 miles, the normal total allowance for transportation shall not exceed the air passage
        less tax exemption, if such service is reasonably available.
        5.
        Personal auto may be used for travel to destinations up to 600 miles or within feasible driving
        distance. Employees shall be reimbursed at the rate of 31 cents per mile (1999 rate, subject to
        change per IRS guidelines), and all parking charges are reimbursable. Expenses for travel in
        personal autos shall not exceed air passage rates unless intermediate stops or layovers are to be
        made for Village business. All details regarding the mileage log is required on the expense form
        when submitting for reimbursement.
        6.
        Local ground transportation shall be itemized and should be receipted in full whenever possible.
        Use of conference travel rates or travel agent is required in order to insure most economical fare.
        LODGING
        1.
        An employee is expected to make hotel or motel reservations well in advance whenever possible
        and take other actions to ensure that lodging is secured at moderate rates.
        2.
        Reimbursement for lodging shall be limited to the minimum number of nights required to conduct
        the assigned Village business. If a conference, for example, opens on Sunday evening and closes
        Thursday noon, reimbursement for Sunday through Wednesday nights would be allowed. If an
        employee chooses to arrive earlier or stay later, the additional lodging and other expenses related
        to this decision are their personal expenses.
        3.
        If an employee’s spouse or other family members share the lodging, reimbursement shall be limited
        to the rate for the room occupied. There is no objection to a spouse or any other family member
        accompanying the employee on an official trip provided their presence does not detract from their
        performance of duty with no expenses attributed to them, not even conference registration fees for
        spouses or special event charges will be reimbursed by the Village. In any situation where
        extraordinary travel expenses are to be incurred or where these regulations do not cover the
        situation, or would work a significant hardship if strictly applied, the Village Manager may authorize
        an exception.
        4.
        Bills, invoices, or statements charged directed to the Village for lodging must be sent to the Village
        Manager with the expense report in order to make payment from the voucher. Failure to observe
        this procedure may cause the employee to bear this expense.
        MISCELLANEOUS EXPENSES
        Page 55
        1.
        Allowance for tips, newspapers, telephone calls and other miscellaneous expenses shall be limited
        to $25.00 for each day and should be itemized in full.

         Reply
        • Kevin duJan says:

          If I’m reading that correctly, then Karie Friling was limited to just $35/day per policy for her meals.

          So blowing $91.77 on lobster/steak should never have been approved for reimbursement.

          The question then is why was this approved?

           Reply
          • “The full per diem will be $35 per day. For part day travel, the per diem will be accounted for as
            follows: Breakfast $5.00, Lunch $10.00, Dinner $20.00.”

            That sounds reasonable.

            “An employee is expected to … ensure that lodging is secured at moderate rates.”

            That sounds reasonable.

            It appears to me what was charged is unreasonable.

            It appears to me approval for unreasonable charges is unreasonable, at a minimum. Why have rules if you can just blow them away and enrich yourself at the same time?

            “Allowance for tips, newspapers, telephone calls and other miscellaneous expenses shall be limited
            to $25.00 for each day and should be itemized in full.”

            It appears to me tips were not itemized in full, but I have not looked at the 200 page PDF.

             
  5. Rory Steidl says:

    “Let them eat cake!”, she says.

    Why do people put up with this crap ?

     Reply
  6. Dennis Finegan says:

    These are just the receipts. I notice she doesn’t have a tip on the dinner receipt. Did she request a higher amount for reimbursement than what is on the receipt? Doesn’t the Village have guidelines for meals in their policy manual? Did she OK her own expense report? This just begs more questions. Sounds like an audit should be demanded. As I don’t live in Orland Park, I’ll leave any follow-up to someone who does.

     Reply
    • Kevin duJan says:

      These are good questions. I asked them for all her documents related to her travel spending in 2016 and received a 200+ page PDF. Her Vegas trip included all of the pages for her Venetian Hotel folio and then the receipts for her meals at restaurants outside the hotel. I’m also really curious about the charges she made at the hotel bar…look at those on her Venetian hotel bill. On two separate occasions, she got something at the hotel bar but there’s no receipt for those. She just billed it to the room. What did she have at the bar? She could have ordered food at the swim-up bar, but she could have ordered drinks too. If she made taxpayers pay for alcohol, that would be a very interesting story because that’s almost certainly not allowed.

       Reply
      • Frank Rizzo says:

        I can almost taste that Taxpayer Lobster.

        Here is the May event in Las Vegas:

        RECon The Global Retail Real Estate Convention
        May 22, 2016 – May 25, 2016 – Las Vegas, NV United States

        Event Details

        RECon is the global convention for the shopping center industry and provides networking, deal making and educational opportunities for retail real estate professionals from around the world. With over 34,000 attendees and 1,000 exhibitors it is the largest industry convention, making it an unparalleled opportunity to do a year’s worth of business in just three days!

        Join the Conversation on Twitter: Tweet using the hashtag #RECon16 and follow @ICSC for the latest news and updates on the event.

        ICSC mobile app enables you to connect with attendees before, during and after ICSC events. ICSC members have access to over 70,000 industry contacts to keep you connected 365 days a year. Download now for your iOS or Android device!

        http://www.icsc.org/events-and-programs/details/recon-the-global-retail-real-estate-convention4

        It looks like Orland Park was scheduled to be in Sin City.

         Reply
  7. Joe says:

    Only $2000? LIsle Mayor Joe Broda could show her a few tricks. http://keepingagreeneyeonlisle.blogspot.com/2013/10/its-vegas-baby-broda-in-1-of-mayors.html

     Reply
  8. Delicious!

     Reply
    • Kevin duJan says:

      At many private companies, when people travel on an expense account they are not allowed to order steak, shrimp cocktail, or lobster. They are told to order things like hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, etc. No one will ever be able to criticize you for ordering a chicken caesar salad. And no one will ever criticize you for going to Applebee’s or the Olive Garden and places like that. The nicest place a public employee should ever go and bill the public is PF Chang’s. I don’t think it’s okay for public employees to go to any place that is called “Bar & Grille” either. If it’s primarily a bar, they have no business spending taxpayer money in there. There are plenty of TGIFriday’s, Applebees, Chili’s, etc. to satisfy even the most hungry of public employees. If they don’t like that, then they can eat wherever they want and pay for it themselves out of their very large public salaries.

       Reply
      • kev says:

        This is all made up.

         Reply
  9. Kev says:

    Good for her. Yum!

     Reply




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