Village of Tinley Park Sues Erstwhile Planning Director Amy Connolly in Federal Court for Her Role in Buckeye Scheme

Amy Connolly

Tinley Park, Illinois

On May 1st, 2017, the Village of Tinley Park filed a scathing federal lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Eastern Division) against erstwhile Planning Director Amy Connolly for deliberate breach of her fiduciary duties and for the significant harm she inflicted upon the Village by scheming with low-income housing project developer Buckeye Community Hope Foundation to tamper with the Village’s zoning codes last year, for both Buckeye’s and Connolly’s own benefit (at great detriment to the citizens of Tinley Park).

You can read the 5/1/17 court filing below. The Village of Tinley Park has retained the law firm of Kozacky Weitzel McGrath to represent it in this matter. It is unclear upon whom the difficult task will fall to defend Amy Connolly’s actions.

We reported extensively as this scandal has continued to unfold. Email records and other documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act showed that sometime in 2015 Connolly began scheming with Ohio-based Buckeye to knowingly tamper with the Village’s existing zoning ordinances so that a low-income housing project without any street-level commercial space could be shoved into the downtown core (which was required by law to only allow developments that had street-level commercial components in that special “Legacy” business district).

The Village of Tinley Park had invested heavily in a years-in-the-making master development plan called “The Legacy Code” that was painstakingly designed to assure that any new construction in “The Legacy District” along Oak Park Avenue would include revenue-generating commercial real estate corridors, specifically in the form of street-level retail and other commercial businesses such as bakeries, restaurants, boutiques, coffee shops, and grocery stores (with condos or apartments above them on the second or third floors). The Village carved in stone a mandate for street-level commercial enterprises to blossom in this “Legacy District” so that pedestrian traffic (and corresponding vitality) could be encouraged in that part of the Village; the idea was to transform the Legacy District into the vibrant beating heart of a prosperous Tinley Park for generations.

Amy Connolly worked in concert with Buckeye behind the scenes to circumvent and defeat that mandate in improper ways, but was foiled in her scheme by citizen sleuths and concerned local residents who saw through what she and Buckeye were doing and raised Holy Hell about it at Village board meetings in February and March 2016.

A long string of resignations, ethics complaints, and lawsuits followed, culminating in last month’s pivotal “drain the swamp” election when Tinley Park voters booted from office Mayor David Seaman, Clerk Patrick Rea, and other longtime office-holders that area residents held responsible for allowing the Buckeye fiasco to ever happen in the first place. Tinley Park citizens “threw the bums out,” essentially.

Shortly thereafter, while Mayor Seaman and the other defeated public officials still held the reins, the Village announced it would be quickly settling a meritless lawsuit filed by Buckeye and paying that controversial low-income housing project developer $2.5 Million to walk away from Tinley Park and abandon all plans for any low-income housing project there. This settlement angered many area residents, as it seemed to some outraged observers that Buckeye had essentially managed to extort taxpayers for a large sum of money when at no time did Buckeye ever propose building any project that actually satisfied the mandated zoning codes. Many wondered why taxpayers should foot the bill for any of this when the whole mess seemed to be Amy Connolly’s fault…yet, she never seemed to be held accountable for any of it.

The other shoe finally dropped when — on the very same day that new Mayor Jacob Vandeberg, a new slate of Trustees, and a new Village Clerk were sworn into office — the Village of Tinley Park filed suit against Amy Connolly to recoup the taxpayer money that was spent defending the Village during its year-long battle with Buckeye…a battle that the Village’s lawsuit contends would have never happened if not for Connolly’s scheming, tampering, and deliberate misrepresentations of the truth.

The no-punches-pulled lawsuit asks for a trial by jury and alleges that Connolly failed in her role as Planning Director and did not secure any large commercial developments for the downtown Legacy District, as she was required to do in her highly-compensated public position. The lawsuit accuses Connolly of abandoning her assigned task of locating appropriate commercial development in favor of circumventing the commercial requirement of The Legacy Code and creating a window for Buckeye to attempt to force through a low-income housing project that at no time ever met code requirements. The Village contends that Connolly’s motive was selfish, aimed at saving her own job by breaking ground on a construction project in the Legacy District (even if that project contained no commercial component, as was required).

The Village essentially appears to be making the argument that Connolly was desperate to be able to point to any new building at all that was constructed on her watch and — having failed to truly earn her high salary and accomplish anything worthwhile as a competent administrator and fiduciary — came up with an elaborate scheme to change the wording in a zoning ordinance through duplicitous means so that Buckeye could build its low-income housing project and she could, at last, have a building to point to and say: “That was built while I was Planning Director, so I should keep my job and big salary because at least something was built on Oak Park Avenue.”

Last year, Connolly abruptly resigned her position as Tinley Park Planning Director in disgrace and immediately left town for Racine, Wisconsin where, unbelievably, she was named the Development Director there in May 2016. Residents of Racine have questioned the wisdom of her hiring, especially in light of actions taken by her in Wisconsin that seem consistent with her pattern of behavior in Illinois.

The lawsuit filed against her by the Village of Tinley Park details willful and deliberate misconduct whereby Connolly abandoned her fiduciary duties and even actively worked against the interests of Tinley Park from roughly April 2015 through her resignation in May 2016. The Village’s lawsuit asks the Court to recover the salary paid to Connolly during that time period, as well as awarding punitive damages to the Village to punish Connolly for her behavior and discourage other public officials from engaging in similar schemes with questionable developers such as Buckeye.

Ironically, at one point before her sudden resignation, Connolly threatened a lawsuit of her own against the Village of Tinley Park for “discrimination” after she was placed on paid-leave while investigators were summoned to review all of Connolly’s dealings with Buckeye. That threat angered the community, as her own email correspondence (produced pursuant to FOIA) established that Connolly had indeed acted inappropriately, at the very least. Documents produced at various stages of the myriad lawsuits associated with this scandal have continued to paint an increasingly more alarming picture of what, exactly, Amy Connolly was doing with Buckeye and what she hoped to achieve for her own self-interests by doing it.

This latest lawsuit is seemingly the first court filing to assert the theory that Connolly’s motivation in scheming with Buckeye was to save her job as Planning Director…the best explanation yet put forward to explain why she tampered with that zoning code for Buckeye. To sell out one’s own town and community to an out-of-state developer (with an agenda at odds with what was best for residents) is arguably one of the worst things that a public official could ever do, especially knowing all the while that what the developer wanted to do to the village would completely destroy the carefully-crafted “Legacy Code” master development plan that Tinley Park had in place for years and had worked on so very hard.

Observers of public corruption no doubt will watch the Village of Tinley Park, Illinois v. Amy Connolly lawsuit carefully and eagerly await upcoming court filings. Should this case go to trial, one could expect a packed courtroom every day (with a fortune to be made in concession sales, if popcorn were allowed to be sold outside the gallery). In the interests of finally solving all mysteries and learning the full truth of what Connolly and Buckeye did behind the scenes to tamper with the Legacy Code (and why they really did it), one can only hope that the Village of Tinley Park accepts no settlement and the people ultimately have their day in court to compel Amy Connolly to explain her actions to a jury on the public record.

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Wheeling resident questions timing of former Mayor Argiris’ house payment, village’s gift of property to developer

WHEELING, IL. (ECWd) –

During the Wheeling Village Council meeting on May 1, 2017, a resident questioned the suspicious timing of a gift of public property to a developer, and the timing of the paying off of former Mayor Argiris’ home just days prior to it’s foreclosure/Sheriff’s sale.

Deborah Wilson has been vocal in relation to former Mayor Argiris’ use of public vehicles for personal and private business use, Argiris’ illegal use of public credit cards for personal and private business use, and his general inability to tell the truth in relation to a past arrest for solicitation of oral copulation, She publicly questioned the suspicious timing of these two events (house payment and gifting to developer) and asked the village council to look into where these funds came from to pay off Argiris’ mortgage.

Argiris had been in a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy for several years and failed to keep up with the court-ordered monthly payments. The mortgage company filed a motion to dismiss the bankruptcy and it was granted on January 18, 2017, by the federal bankruptcy court. The same day, Argiris’ monthly mortgage payment doubled. Wilson questioned how, since Argiris could not make payments towards his bankruptcy, how he came across the funds to pay off his home just days before the foreclosure sale. All of this happened while Argiris was still the mayor, and in our opinion is a legitimate question and should be investigated by the proper authorities.

https://youtu.be/W4lGriu7jiY


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Orland Park Public Library Intends to Waste $6,700 on Conferences for Staffers

Orland Park, Illinois (ECWd)

On Monday, April 17th, 2017, the Orland Park Public Library Board is poised to approve spending in the amount of $6,700 to send staffers and Board President Nancy Wendt Healy on another round of needless conference traveling.

It begs the questions: is this spending ever necessary, do these staffers ever learn anything truly worthy at these conferences, and does the public ever actually benefit from all these public employees going off on adventures outside their usual workplace (while collecting their full salaries as if they were at their desks working)?

According to their itemized agenda, $3,700 is being allocated for Library Director Mary Weimar, Assistant Director Mary Adamowski, Outreach Services Manager Kelly Cuci, Youth Services Manager Diane Norris-Kuczynski, and Library Spokesman Jackie Boyd to attend the American Library Association’s conference in downtown Chicago in June. The ALA event is a three-day affair, so the first question raised by this spending is whether it’s truly necessary for all of these people to attend all three days of the event.

Since day passes to the conference are much cheaper than the three-day-pass, why couldn’t the Orland Park staffers just attend one day and save the public some money? The conference is mainly just an exhibit floor where publishers have advance copies of selected new books that they give away and conference attendees are given little red trick-or-treating bags to walk from one exhibit table to the next collecting pens, posters, candy, and other goodies that the trade show exhibitors keep in little bowls for them to take. While this experience is fun for all who attend, is it necessary for all of these adult Orland Park staffers to trick-or-treat for three days straight?

According to its website, the ALA also offered a discounted price for early registration, which the Orland Park Public Library seems to have chosen to miss. If they had registered for the conference before March 22nd, the three-day-pass would have been $285/person; but since the OPPL chose to register after March 22nd, they are paying $300/person each for a three-day-pass. If they each attended just one day of the conference instead of three, the cost would only be $195/person.

It also appears they all intend to say in hotel rooms downtown instead of commuting from Orland Park to the conference every day, which would save the public a lot of money. Why do Orland Park Public Library employees — who work in a suburb of Chicago easily accessible by regular Metra commuter trains — need to stay in hotel rooms in downtown Chicago when they could just commute from the suburbs for this conference?

Additionally, the OPPL announced it would be spending another $750 to send Library Board President Nancy Wendt Healy to the conference as well. Over the years, Healy has traveled to many of these conferences. A few years ago, she made taxpayers cough up a small fortune to pay for her and Mary Weimar to wing off to New York City for another ALA conference. What’s the point in sending the same board member to the same conferences over and over again? If the point is to educate board members, then why not spread the experience around to other members of the Board besides Healy?

If Healy hasn’t learned anything worthwhile by now — and she’s been to multiple versions of this same event — then she’s clearly never going to learn anything and the experience is wasted on her.

It should also be noted that the American Library Association is a private lobbying group that often pressures public bodies to act contrary to the needs and wishes of communities. This is well-documented in the book SHUT UP!: The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment, where members of the ALA’s Orwellian-sounding “Office for Intellectual Freedom” encouraged the Orland Park Public Library board and staff to intimidate and silence the public when community members demanded that the OPPL stop allowing child pornography to be accessed and other sex crimes to occur in this suburban public library.

After funneling registration fees to the ALA, the OPPL Board will also vote on April 17th to send another 16 staff members to two other conferences, spending almost $3,000 more for that.

Whenever the Orland Park Public Library wants more taxpayer money (to squander), they threaten that unless a tax levy is raised that children’s story time programming will be canceled and they will not be able to buy any more Braille books for the blind and whole orchestras of tiny violins are conducted to tug at everyone’s heart-strings.

Why is it that children’s programming is always threatened unless taxes are raised or more taxpayer funds are diverted to the OPPL? Why is it never announced that conference spending will have to be cut and OPPL staffers won’t be able to sleep in fancy hotels and eat meals on the public dime at a trade show unless the levy is raised yet again?

If these conferences were truly so vital and if they actually did benefit the community, wouldn’t the Orland Park Public Library (and other public libraries) want to highlight their importance whenever possible and at the very least explain what the public gets out of sending so many staffers to these things annually?

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Tinley Park to settle nuisance lawsuit filed by Buckeye low-income housing developer

Tinley Park, Illinois

Elections indeed have consequences.

Just a week after voters booted Mayor David Seaman and his slate of running mates from power in the April 4th balloting, the Village of Tinley Park is seemingly racing at full-speed to settle what appears to be a meritless and retaliatory lawsuit filed against the Village by the Buckeye Community Hope Foundation, that controversial Ohio-based low-income housing project developer that embroiled Tinley Park in deep and lasting scandal last year.

This lawsuit has been hanging over the Village’s collective heads for some time, but the Village seems to be rushing to settle it now while the current Mayor and Board are still in office…which appears to leave the new incoming Mayor, Jacob Vandenberg, and newly-elected trustees no say in the matter. Is the rush to settle this now, with a vote scheduled for the next board meeting, a way for the current Mayor and Board to make the issue go away while they still hold the reins of power in Tinley Park?

Does settling now mean records will be sealed and that the public will never know everything the Mayor and Trustees did wrong during the Buckeye scandal?

We covered this matter extensively as it unfolded last year; the matter was also well-documented by freelance reporter Megan Fox in her widely-viewed video series. The scandal boiled down to Buckeye — a controversial entity from Columbus, Ohio with a litigious reputation nationwide for suing communities that resist Buckeye’s schemes in any way — appearing to collude with former Tinley Park Planning Director Amy Connolly as she tampered with the Village’s zoning code enough for Buckeye to try to force through a low-income housing project in what was supposed to be an area reserved for street-level commercial developments (with apartments or condos on the upper floors, above revenue-generating commercial space such as restaurants, boutiques, hair salons, book stores, bakeries, etc.).

Tinley Park’s “Legacy Code” zoning ordinance required new construction in this particular part of town to have a mandatory commercial component on the ground floor, as residents wanted walk-up storefront commercial ventures (and not just residential housing) to be built along the sidewalks in what is envisioned as the southern gateway into Tinley Park’s downtown. This requirement was meant to solve longstanding problems in the Village, which has burdened homeowners with too high of a residential tax rate due to a dearth of commercial tax generating businesses near downtown. The “Legacy Code” was meant to leave a “legacy” of solving these issues by encouraging downtown Tinley Park to develop with street-level commercial properties all along the main drag through town that would ultimately link the Convention Center and other amenities to the downtown core by the train station. (Currently, there is a large gap between these two areas, with nothing incentivizing people attending events at the Convention Center to head to Tinley Parks’ downtown and vice-versa.) Having only housing along this important civic corridor would never allow such linkage to develop and would do nothing to alleviate homeowners’ tax burden. The “Legacy Code” was designed to remedy all this for future generations.

Emails produced by the Village pursuant to FOIA requests made by local citizen sleuths such as Michael Glotz (whose tenacious search for the truth ultimately won him a seat on the Village Board in the April election, replacing former Trustee T.J. Grady…who had once mocked and insulted Glotz’s sleuthing efforts) appeared to show Connolly and Buckeye maneuvering together behind the scenes to manipulate an illegal change in wording in the zoning ordinance without following the proper procedures to make such code-altering changes and notify the public that the Legacy Code was being decimated. After loud community outcry and what seemed to be one shocking revelation or development after another (including the sudden resignation of Connolly and the firing of Thomas Melody, the Klein Thorpe Jenkins attorney who appeared to be assisting Connolly with the zoning code tampering), the Village affirmed in circuit court that its zoning code indeed required street-level commercial development in the area in question and that Amy Connolly, Thomas Melody, and others seemingly working in the interests of Buckeye (and not in the interests of Tinley residents) never succeeded in legally altering the code to allow the low-income housing project to be built as Buckeye proposed.

For more than a year now, the Village has emphatically stated that Buckeye was welcome to build apartments on the land in question if it would adhere to the Legacy Code zoning ordinance and build street-level commercial space on the first floor, just as the Legacy Code mandates.

Buckeye refused to do this, apparently because the federal funding, grants, tax rebates, and other financial incentives it sought (from both Washington and Springfield) with this construction project would not come through if they built commercial space as Tinley Park required. The millions of dollars of quick profit that Buckeye wanted from this venture would not materialize if street-level commercial space was included in this project, per the terms of all those lucrative tax rebates and grants.

Buckeye is a developer that appears to be expert at playing the system and manipulating grants and tax breaks to make large profits off building low-income housing; but if a project has commercial space, that project no longer qualifies for the low-income housing grants and federal or state rebates and Buckeye then doesn’t seem to want to go ahead with the project. (Imagine that!) Buckeye never appeared interested in building new homes that would have met the zoning code in Tinley Park so much as Buckeye appeared to want to make millions of dollars exploiting that grant/tax rebate system. And they would have gotten away with it too, if not for the Freedom of Information Act! 

When Buckeye was rightfully called out by area residents for nakedly bullying the community and attempting to push through a project that did not meet the existing building code, Buckeye employed some of the Alinsky Rules for Radicals and essentially labeled everyone opposing the project to be “racists.” In particular, Buckeye dispatched its then Vice President, David Petroni, to attend Village Board meetings and hint that Buckeye would sue if it did not get its way and imply that Tinley Park residents must be “racists” if they didn’t let Buckeye do whatever it wanted to do. Petroni was so lead-footed and heavy-handed with his threats and bullying that it enraged the community, prompting subsequent Village meetings to be canceled because the building could simply no longer hold all of the residents Petroni had angered with his threats and insults. At some point, Petroni seems to have quietly left Buckeye with no fanfare and all mentions of him are now apparently scrubbed from Buckeye’s website as if the man never worked there and never even existed; additionally, Petroni’s own recently updated LinkedIn profile now bears no mention of him ever having been affiliated with Buckeye. It’s almost as if Petroni created such an embarrassing public relations disaster for Buckeye at those board meetings that both he and Buckeye now want to pretend that he and the developer never had anything to do with each other.

According to a press release from the Village of Tinley Park issued April 13th, the Village has tentatively agreed to pay Buckeye a total of $2.45 Million to walk away from Tinley Park and presumably never darken the community’s door ever again. The settlement requires Buckeye to drop its low-income housing project scheme in Tinley Park. The bulk of the money being paid to Buckeye appears to come from a municipal insurance fund (IRMA, the Intergovernmental Risk Management Association) that the Village has been paying into for years, to protect itself from situations just like these.

Observers of this scandal have seen that Buckeye’s strong-arm tactics, threats of lawsuits, and actual litigation have succeeded in other communities where Buckeye was able to build what it wanted over residents’ objections, often using intimidation tactics and legal muscle to bully small towns. The wrinkle that thwarted Buckeye in Tinley Park was the simple fact that what Buckeye wanted to build did not meet the Village’s zoning code…and tampering with the zoning code by Amy Connolly and Thomas Melody, seemingly working on behalf of Buckeye, was thwarted when their actions came to light during open public meetings last year. If not for FOIA requests shining a light on what these Village employees were up to behind the public’s back, perhaps Buckeye would have broken ground and they would have gotten their way in Tinley Park too.

The Village claims that settling with Buckeye now will save taxpayers a fortune in legal fees it would have incurred if the lawsuit had continued to be litigated. The Village’s insurance handler (IRMA) no doubt pressured the Village to settle, based on calculations that a settlement would cost less than continuing to fight Buckeye in court (even though we believe that Tinley Park would have won, especially if a jury would have been privy to everything that Connolly and Melody had been up to with Buckeye).

Since Buckeye has been defeated in terms of agreeing to abandon its construction project and move on (to some other unsuspecting town), Tinley Park does win in the sense that the Legacy Code has been upheld and that whatever ultimately is built on the land that Buckeye wanted (affectionately known locally as “Stuckley’s Corner,” due to the months-long picketing and protests led at the site in opposition to Buckeye by local resident Michael Stuckley) will have to include street-level commercial space as the code requires.

Another interesting twist in all of this is that the Justice Department changed hands in January 2017, as the Obama regime gave way to the Trump administration. Buckeye is the sort of developer that has a history of strong-arming communities by using the Justice Department as a weapon, claiming that any resistance to its construction plans is racism and civil rights violations. This, again, is a prime example of how unscrupulous people use Saul Alinsky’s tactics to get what they want. As ludicrous as this is, accusing a community of racism when it insists its commercial zoning codes be followed is something that was allowed (if not encouraged!) when far-left Alinsky acolytes Loretta Lynch and Eric Holder were each the Attorney General of the United States. With a new administration in Washington — and now Jeff Sessions leading the Justice Department — it’s hard to imagine an entity like Buckeye being able to count on the AG’s office signing-off on terrorizing communities with false charges of racism when they refuse to be bullied by the likes of Buckeye.

If Hillary Clinton had won the presidency in 2016 and Loretta Lynch (or someone ideologically like her) was retained as Attorney General, perhaps Buckeye would not have agreed to drop its meritless lawsuit all of a sudden.

So, elections at the national level have ramifications and consequences down to the local level too. Buckeye appears to be covering its legal and development costs with that $2.45 Million settlement from the Village. Sadly, this will likely be used by Buckeye to target some other community out there for a low-income housing project shell game wherever there are tax incentives and rebate schemes that Buckeye would hope to exploit like they wanted to do in Tinley Park.

This is the first time, however, that Buckeye seems to have been stopped by a community and did not get its way over residents’ objections. The fact that David Petroni, once the face of Buckeye in all of this, has now seemingly erased all ties to Buckeye as far as his web presence (and vice versa) seems to indicate that Buckeye, at least on some level, knows it screwed up royally in Tinley Park. This certainly won’t be the end of Buckeye or its schemes, but Tinley Park sure was a memorable pie in Buckeye’s face that hopefully will give other communities ideas on how they can defeat predatory developers on their turf too.

Mayor David Seaman and the other outgoing Tinley Park officials appear to want everything Buckeye-related to be sealed away and over and done with before they leave office next month, hence this rushed settlement that seems to be happening out of the blue. That sure feels like there is a lot more to this story and what all really went-on behind closed doors, which now the public will likely never know about. The Buckeye scandal ended several political dynasties in Tinley Park, ultimately booting from office individuals who had held the reins of power for decades and replacing them with brave souls who stood their ground and exercised their First Amendment rights to petition, challenge, and criticize bad government.

It would have been nice if Buckeye had been forced to slink away without a single penny, but the residents of Tinley Park are no doubt celebrating this permanent end to the Buckeye scandal that they’ve been presented with. Tinley Park controls its own destiny and its Legacy Code endures. Buckeye got a little money…but then had to get the hell out of town.

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Rosemont and Rolling Meadows Public Library Waste Public Money Having Lawyers Answer FOIA Request

Rosemont, Illinois and Rolling Meadows, Illinois (ECWd)

This seems to be the standard for a public body – pay an attorney to answer simple Freedom of Information Act requests, and then complain later about how much the FOIA requests are costing the public.

The real issue is public bodies paying attorneys to answer simple FOIA requests, like providing copies of  7 checks from Rosemont, and in the case of the library, requesting an extension of 5 days to respond.

Did they really need an attorney to perform that function?

We asked the Village of Rosemont for copies of checks that met certain criteria, and they produced 7 checks, along with a letter from an attorney explaining that the city answered the FOIA request.

The Rolling Meadows Public Library paid their attorney to type a simple letter telling the requester they are taking an additional 5 days to provide the requested records.

Both are Cook County public bodies, and the Rolling Meadows Public Library decided recently that instead of responding to a Freedom of Information Act request, it would hand the matter over to its attorneys at the law firm of Storino Ramello & Durkin for them to say nothing more than they were taking another 5 days to answer.

This is similar to how the Orland Park Public Library famously wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years by allowing its own law firm, Klein Thorpe Jenkins, to run up massive legal bills handling that public library’s FOIA requests (instead of having the library’s designated FOIA compliance officer respond).

There is no valid or justifiable reason for a public body, in most instances, to choose to pay attorneys hundreds of dollars by the hour to produce letters and documents instead of having its own salaried public employees perform these tasks, as mandated by our state’s Freedom of Information Act as found in Section 3.5(a).

So, why do public bodies like the Village of Rosemont, Rolling Meadows Public Library and Orland Park Public Library farm out their FOIA requests to law firms?

In Orland Park’s case, the library unsuccessfully tried for years to hide documents that proved crimes had been covered-up in that building and that staff and board members were stealing from the public, including abusing spending by buying gold jewelry to give each other as presents, taking expensive trips without some board members ever producing proper receipts, and stuffing their faces with $500 steak dinners in violation of the Illinois Local Library Act (which prohibits library board members from being compensated for serving on the board). Orland Park Public Library had to be sued in circuit court to produce many of the documents that Klein Thorpe Jenkins appeared to have helped them stonewall and keep from the public for years, including that law firm’s own legal invoices and records of payment (which the library tried excessively redacting to conceal what, exactly, Klein Thorpe Jenkins was being paid to do with taxpayer funds).

The Village of Rosemont seems to simply not want to deal with FOIA requests and prefers to pay an attorney to perform that function – after all, it isn’t coming out of their pockets.

Is this what Rolling Meadows Public Library is doing, too? Did they punt this FOIA request for spending documents over to their attorneys at Storino Ramello & Durkin in hopes of hiding some kind of wrongdoing or abuse of funds from the public?

Another theory on why some public bodies choose to have their law firms charge them a small fortune to respond to FOIA requests is that this is a strategy on the part of public bodies to discourage FOIA requests in the first place. The general public is in large part afraid of attorneys. Receiving a letter from a law firm in response to a FOIA request (instead of just receiving the documents asked for from the public body itself) might have a chilling effect on an inexperienced person’s willingness or ability to continue investigating that public body. So, having lawyers respond to requests for documents about a public body’s spending habits might be a strategy to intimidate members of the public into giving up on an investigation and walking away without ever figuring out if the public body is up to anything shady or not.

Using an attorney to respond also gives the impression of believability – with the Village of Rosemont, we knew a village department had made a donation of a certain dollar amount – and a copy of that check was never provided with the 7 checks meeting the criteria requested. Now I have to figure out if I need to be more specific in the request, or believe the attorney who responded to it.

Additionally, a public library such as Rolling Meadows or Orland Park can moan that responding to FOIA requests is just too expensive and they can’t afford to produce documents…while failing to mention that the public body decided on its own to run up massive bills by needlessly bringing in attorneys (at around $200/hour) to do work that library staffers already on the payroll are supposed to do under the state’s FOIA statute (which requires public bodies to have FOIA compliance officers on staff to handle FOIA requests). The Orland Park Public Library engaged in this strategy for years, running to the Media at every opportunity to claim that FOIA investigations into the library’s wrongdoing were costing them a fortune…but neglecting to tell reporters that the library deliberately decided to squander over $500,000 in an ill-conceived scheme to try to keep its most embarrassing and shocking internal documents from the public and scare away prying eyes.

These are not the only public bodies acting in this manner – the City of Carlinville recently paid their attorney to deny several FOIA requests that are the subject of multiple Attorney General inquiries and a lawsuit – the city council even directed their attorney to provide the requested record by last Friday, today is 5 days past that directive, and we still have not received anything from Carlinville.

As good as Illinois’ Freedom of Information Act is compared to other states, there is still a long way to go to force compliance.

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Orland Park Public Library Caught Spending Public Funds on Gourmet Jelly Donuts Again

 

Orland Park, Illinois – (ECWd) –

Director Mary Weimar at the Orland Park Public Library is at it again: once more buying an obscene amount of expensive gourmet jelly donuts from the Orland Park Bakery with funds that taxpayers naively believe the library ought to be spending on books, DVDs, and other materials that actually benefit the public. Weimar’s incurable sweet-tooth is well-documented in the book, SHUT UP!: The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment, where her lavish spending on pastries and other diabetes-encouraging goodies for staff was particularly memorable.

Something to note is that prior to the OPPL being scrutinized for its spending through FOIA production, Weimar never allowed the public to eat any of the treats she purchased from this or any other bakery. After this sort of frivolous spending was exposed and written about in letters to the editor in the local paper The Orland Park Prairie, Weimar was shamed into begrudgingly allowing the public to sample the sweet treats like these jelly donuts, too (instead of just keeping them for herself and chosen staff of gluttons).

In a seeming act of defiance, Weimar apparently refuses to ever stop buying the expensive jelly donuts (and paying the absurd premium of $140 for a large box of them!) no matter how many people see her spending receipts…but public scrutiny has curtailed her activities. Weimar used to spend money like this on sweets every month, but is now limited to doing it only once in a while (when she thinks either no one will notice or she can get away with it). So that’s a kind of limited progress.

Still, this remains a glaring example of a public employee (Weimar) enjoying something on a personal level (the gourmet jelly donuts at Orland Park Bakery) and wanting to eat them without having to pay for them herself. So, she uses her public position to have the public body buy the thing she covets (the jelly donuts) and use public funds to buy that for her. If Weimar was not still the Director, it’s highly unlikely that these purchases would continue, as we believe Weimar personally is the driving force behind them and there’s no true public benefit that ever comes from indulging her personal sweet-tooth.

A true steward of the public trust would end the trips to the Orland Park Bakery entirely, but Weimar appears to feel she is entitled to have her jelly donuts (though she doesn’t want to pay for them herself out of her own pocket and nearly $200,000/year compensation package as Library Director). Just because Weimar can legally do something as Director doesn’t mean she should be doing it.

It should be noted that $140 could have purchased several new hardcopy books, more than a dozen new DVDs, and baskets full of activity books for small children. Since the Orland Park Public Library is a public body that regularly cries that it needs more taxpayer funds to keep offering programs to the public, it remains a question as to how any spending at all on sugary sweet treats and gooey goodies for Mary Weimar and friends is ever justified.

If even one book that a member of the public asks the OPPL to buy remains unpurchased due to lack of funds to buy every book that the community wants to be in the library’s collection, why is even a penny (let alone $140!) squandered on jelly donuts that only one woman (who unfortunately happens to be the Library Director) thinks is worth such a high price tag?

Costco has jelly donuts for very affordable prices that are much lower than Orland Park Bakery’s. If Mary Weimar wants to throw herself a donut party with public funds, why can’t there be a compromise that involves less expensive donuts so more money is left over to buy some books?

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AG: Wheeling City Council violated Open Meetings Act –

WHEELING, IL. (ECWd) –

The Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor has issued a determination stating that the Wheeling City Council violated the Open Meetings Act on  November 21, 2016 when it failed to follow its own written policy on public comment, which resulted in preventing a speaker from addressing the city council.

The core issue was the city’s written and established public comment policy by requiring someone wishing to comment to sign-up on the clipboard that was neither visible nor presented for sign-up.

Wheeling city policy did not require prior sign-up, but the city thought is could place arbitrary rules in place at the meeting in spite of their written and established policy.

The AG determined that any written and established policy trumps any arbitrary policy not formally adopted and that does not rescind previous policy.

The city violated Section 2.06(g) of the Open Meetings Act by their conduct – which consisted of listening to their attorney and the village manager (neither of which hold any type of authority during a public meeting), who were wrong (again).

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Regime Change Finally Comes to Orland Park and Tinley Park After Years of Scandal

Orland Park, Illinois

On April 4th 2017, fed-up voters in both Orland Park and Tinley Park toppled longstanding political regimes that have been embroiled in one scandal or another for the last several years.

This regime change was a direct result of citizens using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to uncover and expose corruption, wasteful spending, and duplicity committed by shameful or inept public officials in these southwestern Chicago suburbs. It is proof positive that an active citizenry shining a light on what public officials are really up to can have a big impact in our state. The swamp in Illinois can indeed be drained…but everything has to start locally at the community level. 

In Orland Park, Mayor Dan McLaughlin was removed from office after 24 years in power because alert citizens there became aware of financial mismanagement and the Mayor’s consistent refusal to ever put an end to any of the wasteful spending or other abuses that Orland Park has become synonymous with (and infamous for) in recent years. Keith Pekau, a political newcomer, handily defeated McLaughlin despite never having run for public office before and acknowledging that the only reason he decided to run for Mayor was because he was so disgusted by the Village’s recent pension scheme that would have benefitted McLaughlin. This scheme, enacted by the Village last year, would have increased McLaughlin’s compensation from $40,000/year to $150,000/year while automatically increasing his state pension upon retirement from $30,000/year to more than $100,000/year.

Pekau was outraged by what many saw as a scam to drastically increase McLaughlin’s salary in what was likely to be his last term in office…resulting in what was calculated to be over $2 Million in long term state pension payouts to McLaughlin under this new scheme when he likely retired before the next election. In Illinois, many public officials have been busted for pension schemes similar to this, where their salary is excessively raised shortly before they leave their positions so that their pensions are guaranteed to be dramatically increased. And once increased to the new  (and much higher!) level, those officials would receive that figure every year for the rest of their lives (with additional increases of 3% or more for inflation). Voters in Orland Park appear to have been sickened by this outrageous scheme and voted to oust McLaughlin in a landslide, thus denying him both the exorbitant new salary and pension increases.

Similarly, voters gave a resounding NO! to McLaughlin’s proposal to build yet another wasteful flight-of-fancy in Orland Park, this time a spare-no-expense “outdoor multi-purpose sports facility.” Orland Park has a well-earned reputation for wasting public funds on fanciful construction projects that never seem to provide any public benefit other than building something shiny and expensive that digs the Village deeper into debt. Pekau’s campaign mailings accused McLaughlin of running Orland Park more than $150 Million in debt in recent years, largely through wasteful spending on opulent public projects. Pekau has promised a course correction and was supported in his election by radio commentator Dan Proft’s Liberty Principles group, which is dedicated to shining a light on wasteful and corrupt practices by local government in our state. Liberty Principles got the word out in Orland Park that it was time to put an end to all of the wasteful government spending by sending mailings critical of McLaughlin to residents and running commercials on cable TV in the area to alert the community that it was time for a change.

Voters began souring on McLaughlin back in 2013 when he seemingly refused to intervene and put an end to the accessing of child pornography and other sexual crimes that were documented to have been occurring in the Orland Park Public Library. (This and other Orland Park scandals are well-documented in the book, SHUT UP!: The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment.) Residents brought complaints to the Mayor that their public library — another spare-no-expense construction boondoggle — was being used as a place where perverts and predators would engage in illegal activity while library staff deliberately looked the other way. Instead of addressing this problem, Village officials at all levels (including the Police Chief) seemingly chose instead to harass whistleblowers and intimidate the public while stonewalling and refusing to clean up the library. Sadly, this is a classic pattern in our state, where public officials entrench themselves in their positions, refuse to admit they’ve made mistakes, and attack the public (because they think scaring critics away is the only way they can avoid responsibility for what’s gone wrong). McLaughlin was presented with an opportunity to be a true leader and make the Orland Park Public Library a safer place for children and families but he chose to do nothing and allowed the problems there to fester.

In recent months, other spending abuses have come to light in Orland Park because of FOIA requests made for public employees’ expense accounts, including Development Director Karie Friling being caught using public funds to eat lobster, steak, and shrimp cocktail at the opulent Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas and violate the Village’s spending per diem limit…seemingly without ever receiving any sort of disciplinary action for doing that or being made to pay back taxpayers for what she was not authorized to be spending. When voters see that a Mayor like Dan McLaughlin allows Village employees like Friling to waste money so frivolously (on lobster dinners!) without any consequence, they clearly leap at the opportunity to put someone like Keith Pekau in office instead, as he’s promised to end such wasteful practices.

Similarly, in nearby Tinley Park, voters enthusiastically swept away the current regime, booting Mayor David Seaman, Clerk Patrick Rea, Trustee Kevin Suggs, and others from office and replacing them with members of a group of concerned citizens who have loudly criticized village mismanagement for the last year.

Seaman and Rea behaved badly during open public meetings when they were confronted with findings citizens made using FOIA requests that showed Tinley Park officials were lying to the public about what exactly went on in shady dealings between former Planning Director Amy Connolly and the Buckeye Community Hope Foundation. Connolly abruptly left her position shortly after her email correspondence with Buckeye was exposed, revealing what many saw as collusion between Connolly and Buckeye to inappropriately alter existing Village code so that Buckeye’s scheme to construct a low-income housing project (in violation of existing planning codes) could slip through largely unnoticed by the public. A massive scandal unfolded after these and other revelations that resulted in the entire Planning Commission resigning like rats fleeing a sinking ship, Trustee Bernie Brady giving up his seat, the Assistant Village Manager suddenly resigning, and two other poorly-behaved Trustees (Brian Maher and T.J. Grady) opting not to run for re-election this year. Several lawsuits are still ongoing related to Connolly/Buckeye and the large mess that Seaman and others created by not intervening and putting a stop to whatever was going-on in the Village’s Planning Department.

The defeat of Seaman and Rea and the rest of their slate of candidates on April 4th is a resounding rebuke for local government in Tinley Park. Freelance reporter Megan Fox covered the Connolly/Buckeye scandal as it unfolded, with her multi-part video documentary capturing the contempt that the sitting Village board showed towards a concerned citizenry that demanded explanations for all of the shady dealings that kept being uncovered in FOIA production. Local citizen sleuth Michael Glotz — a construction worker by trade — earned himself the nickname “The Excavator” by using the Freedom of Information Act to dig deeper and deeper into the corruption in Tinley Park and expose everything that Connolly, Buckeye, Seaman, Rea, and others had done. Month after month, Glotz attended Village board meetings and hammered the Mayor and Trustees with his latest findings from FOIA production. Famously, disgraced Trustee T.J. Grady was so upset with Glotz for digging up embarrassing or contradictory emails that public officials sent one another that he called Glotz “a dick” under his breath during one board meeting (which was caught on video).

One year later, Michael Glotz now holds T.J. Grady’s seat on the Board of Trustees, as of the April 4th election. A member of the public who used the Freedom of Information Act to dig into all of the shady and dirty dealings the local government was involved in now holds the seat of the pompous and arrogant Trustee who once sat on a stage, looked down upon him with contempt, and called him “a dick.”

That shameful Trustee is now removed from power and in his place is the concerned citizen who knew his rights, became skilled in utilizing FOIAs to uncover corruption, and attended board meetings to express his opinions and question public officials who were either behaving badly or breaking the law. April 4th was a wonderful, wonderful election day in southwestern Chicago.

These resounding regime changes in both Orland Park and Tinley Park would never have been possible if not for the Freedom of Information Act and concerned citizens who know how to FOIA their corrupt governments. This is a lesson for other communities across our state who have been plagued with terrible officials like Dan McLaughlin, David Seaman, Patrick Rea, Brian Maher, and T.J. Grady. These people are not royalty and they are not our betters. People like this do not have to remain in positions of power forever. They can indeed be defeated and real change can come to Illinois at large if members of the public shine a light on wrongdoing and take too action like Michael “The Excavator” Glotz and others have done.

You can do this too wherever you live.

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Orland Park Public Library Calls Police on Black Man Watching Young Girls

Orland Park, Illinois (ECWd) –

An odd incident report was written on February 9th by Orland Park Public Library employee Howard Griffin, documenting a recent episode involving an adult male allegedly watching and leaving a note for three high school girls; the note allegedly asked the girls to “contact him.”

This official OPPL incident report (obtained via the Freedom of Information Act) made a point of identifying the race of the man involved as being black. Orland Park is an affluent suburb of Chicago that is approximately 96% white.

Library Director Mary Weimar (who is herself white) chose to contact the Orland Park Police about this black man in her library on the morning of February 10th and no less than 3 patrolmen were promptly dispatched to the OPPL. Apparently, the black man had returned to the OPPL a second day in a row. According to the report, Responding Officer Hartstock (Badge #724) and the two other policemen spoke with the unidentified black male for an unspecified length of time but took no action against him.

Contrast this episode with how Mary Weimar behaved 6 years ago, when in March 2011 an adult white male was observed by three witnesses accessing child pornography on the OPPL’s computers. In that instance (which is detailed fully in Chapter 12 of the book, SHUT UP!: The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment), Weimar and fellow OPPL staff chose not to call the police and they allowed the man to return and access computers again, despite his being identified by three witnesses as someone who was looking at child pornography in their Library (which is an obvious federal crime). But here in February 2017, a black man allegedly “watching” three high schoolers and leaving them a note prompted Weimar to call for the police to come to the Library (when this man’s alleged behavior was not obviously criminal in any way). Did the race of the subject involved factor into Weimar’s decision-making here? Or is this an indication that Weimar has possibly learned from her egregious past mistakes and now calls the police if there’s even a question that something bad could be happening in her Library?

It’s clear that Mary Weimar and the other OPPL staffers made a horrific and stomach-turning decision to knowingly allow that man in 2011 to get away with accessing child pornography on public computers. For many years, Weimar and the OPPL Board of Trustees refused to acknowledge that they were wrong to have chosen not to call the police when they should have. Since a grown man has no business hanging out in a public building “watching” three high school girls and leaving them notes, it seems appropriate that the OPPL would contact the police and let them know about this individual. Other incident reports written by OPPL staffers through the years detailed episodes where young women were stalked and sexually harassed by men in this Library. It would appear that the OPPL staff are now taking appropriate action when informed that something creepy could possibly be going-on in their building (at least in instances where the creepy person happens to be black).

This change at the OPPL would likely have never happened if the public had not actively scrutinized and criticized the OPPL staff’s behavior through the years. Mary Weimar was transformed from a director who knowingly looked the other way when crimes against children were being committed in her building to someone who phones the police and asks them to intervene when something even remotely suspicious is happening. That sort of progress would have never happened on its own. It took public interest in the goings-on at that Library and loud public condemnation of poor judgement and mismanagement in the past for a public employee like Weimar to make such a 180-degree change in behavior.

It remains to be seen if all situations involving inappropriate conduct are handled properly at the Orland Park Public Library going-forward or if this February 9th episode was just a fluke dependent on the race of the subject involved. But it seems clear that calling the police and having them weigh-in on and speak with parties involved in anything remotely sexual happening in a public building is always the right move. If the police determine that no further action is warranted, it was still smarter to let them be the judge of that than deciding (as Mary Weimar had done in the past) to look the other way, ignore a problem, and pretend it was not happening in the library.

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Wheeling’s Mayor Dean Argiris’ Prostitution Solicitation Arrest Record –

WHEELING, IL. (ECWd) –

Oral copulation for $20. That’s right.

One thing that most voters expect and demand of a candidate is Truth. Especially on a candidate questionnaire.

When candidates for office decide to try and skirt around the Truth, we believe it is our duty to call them out while informing potential voters so they may make an intelligent decision at the polls.

Mayor Dean Argiris has been telling some tall tales lately in an effort to thwart bad press that he brought upon himself.

Recently the Daily Herald (and ECWd) wrote on Argiris’ use of the city credit card for personal purchases – of course, Argiris denied using it for personal purchases, but we still insist the fact he reimbursed the city (receipt and check) as evidence its use was most certainly a personal purchase. He apparently lied to the public about the most recent reimbursement of personal purchases, which we believe to have included alcohol.

Additionally, he reimbursed the city several times from a business he operates (AIM Insurance Agency, Inc.), so not only was it a personal purchase, some were also purchases in the course of his private business, which meant the Village of Wheeling was subsidizing his private business expenses – however, its registration with the Illinois Secretary of State had been involuntarily dissolved years earlier and it has no longer been registered to operate in Illinois since mid-2012. But he was still using its checking account as late a November of 2016.

Top that off with late payments, 32 times in the last 34 months, to the city for water/sewer bills – which, had it not been for a State Representative from Naperville who introduced a Bill several years ago to change the Illinois Municipal Code allowing this type of debt owed to municipalities, Argiris could have been ousted for those late payments.

He also allegedly used the city vehicle for personal and private business purposes – both of which the city manager and attorney were well aware of, and condoned with their silence. Yes, he used the city vehicle in the course of making money with his private business enterprises. We believe he should be rotting in jail for this alone.

Arrest Report – Click to enlarge

Finally, back in 2013 on a Daily Herald Candidate Questionaire, when asked the question of “Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime?” He answered “NO”, which is not what Court records indicate. According to Cook County Court Docket no: 94356906 he was arrested on October 13, 1994, at 10:00 p.m. in a Chicago Police Department Vice-Raid, prostitution sting operation, for attempting to obtain “Oral Copulation” for the sum of $20.00. The problem was, he solicited it from a female CPD officer according to the arrest record. He was arrested, booked, and his vehicle was allegedly impounded.

Argiris most recently told the Daily Herald that the police didn’t arrest him, and that it was all a misunderstanding – LOL – if that was the case why was he fined and arrested? His attorney even told the Herald it was a “Quasi-criminal” complaint which was civil and not an arrest. CPD and Court records show otherwise.
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Country Club Hills Fire Department – “Thousands of Web searches for pornography” – Hard drives wiped.

Cook Co. (ECWd) – 

We first reported on Country Club Hills Fire Department January 23, 2017, regarding possible pornography on fire department computers and the fact the public body was sanctioned for violating court orders.

Now the story only gets worse.  According to transcripts and pleadings filed in court, firefighters at Country Club Hills are in fact viewing pornography, however, the viewing may be the least of their problems.

According to the Forensic expert that imaged the hard drives under court order, a criminal investigation may be in order.   We say criminal because it appears from the court records, someone has attempted to destroy the evidence by wiping the hard drives.  We can only hope the courts turn this matter over to the authorities for a criminal investigation to identify who is responsible for attempting to destroy evidence.

“I haven’t written a report, your Honor. I gave her a preliminary verbal report. I said there’s thousands of Web searches for pornography. It’s all over the board. And I also let her know that it appears that they’ve wiped the hard drives, reloaded them, and I gave her three dates in which that was completely done, and that’s a complete wipe, but the problem was, once the computers were hooked back up, the server pushed down profiles that had information of the previous Web history and the searching of pornography.”

“the evidence that Defendants started wiping the computer hard drives just 13 days after this Court ordered the imaging on August 31, 2016″

As if that’s not bad enough, now the legal counsel has insinuated that the Plaintiff is attempting to taint the jury pool by providing records to the media and cites our first article. For the record, we have never received anything from the Plaintiff or their attorney, but even if we had, how does that change the fact that “employees were looking at pornography on the work computers, on work time, and on taxpayer dime”?

The Defendant, in this case, is seeking a gag order on the Plaintiff and their counsel from speaking with media.  As pointed out in Response to Defendant found below, “such an order, or any variation thereof, would constitute a prior restraint in violation of the First Amendment and would be unconstitutional.” 

How interesting to see the public body seeking to keep things out of the press.  Maybe they should have thought about that prior to engaging in conduct that landed them in this mess in the first place. Reading through the court records it is becoming very clear that Country Club Hills may be facing a very large financial hit from not just the conduct of their public employees, but from the attempt to destroy evidence and cover up their actions.  Such steps sure paint the picture that they have something to hide.

When you find Officers within the Fire Department engaged in such activities, it points to the type of operation they are running, and it’s not good.  Not good because when a Lt. on a Fire Department does things, it sets the example for the younger firefighters.  What example do we find they are setting?

“Lt. Dangoy admitted that he saw others watch porn at the fire station, as well as watched porn himself on a computer in his office.”

“Mr. McAuliff was asked if he had any knowledge of employees participating in the behavior of watching Porn while at the Fire House? Mr. McAuliff stated “Yes”.

“[c]urrent Lieutenants have admitted that they are aware of male employees watching pornography in the fire stations. One Lieutenant admitted he saw nothing wrong with it. That same Lieutenant also testified that he himself watched pornography at the fire station, even since he has been a Lieutenant.”

Not convinced there is a problem?

“Mr. Pycz was asked to describe Porn in his own words that would describe the behaviors of Porn.  He responded by saying he would define Porn as “Penetration between a Male & Female”. He was asked if he had witnessed any Porn being viewed in the Fire House, he responded by saying, “According to my definition, I have never seen Porn in the Fire House “

Really?  Porn as Lt. Pycz defines it is Penetration between a Male & Female?  Safe to assume Mr. Pycz learned such a defense tactic from a former President of the United States?

Interesting how an internal investigation finds Pycz stating he has never seen porn in the fire house yet a deposition turns up that he has in fact witnessed firefighters watching porn.

“Fire Department Lieutenants Derek Dangoy and Carl Pycz (a named defendant) both admitted in their depositions that they had witnessed CCH firefighters watching porn on televisions and computers at the fire station.”

Sadly, this is yet another case where the public trust has been broken.  The taxpayers of Country Club Hills deserve better.  We will continue to bring updates on this case, especially after they chose to attempt to gag information pertaining to the operations of a public body.

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Wheeling Mayor Dean Argiris Uses City Vehicle For Private Business Purposes –

WHEELING, IL. (ECWd) –

Dean Argiris, the Mayor of Wheeling, Illinois has been asked during public meetings to explain his use of the city vehicle.

He responded that he can use it for whatever purpose he feels like using it for, including private business purposes.

The vehicle in question was a 2013 Police Interceptor SUV that should have been in use by the police department.

In the below video, he claims he can use the city vehicle for whatever reason he wants, including personal business and has no restrictions on its use. Kind of makes me wonder if he has ever read the Illinois Constitution, Article VIII, Section 1 (a) which states that public funds, property, and credit shall only be used for public purpose. The Illinois Supreme Court has already determined that this section of the constitution can be used to file criminal charges for official misconduct.

(Click here to view video)

It does not matter if the item is in the budget or not, using the city police interceptor vehicle for personal business use is a violation of law. It is called official misconduct. There is absolutely no public purpose for Mayor Agriris to use the city vehicle for his private mortgage broker business and for his side job working at the funeral home.

Using this vehicle is also considered “compensation” and the city claims it is not compensation – we will have to see what the IRS thinks, because this is going to them for a decision.

The city manager, city trustees, and city attorneys  are well aware of how he uses this vehicle and have condoned it either thru knowing participation or thru their silence. They cannot give the OK for violations of law, even thru an ordinance, so no matter what any future ordinance or policy might say, it can never legally grant personal and private business use of a city vehicle.

This bankrupt Mayor, who allegedly doesn’t have a vehicle anymore except for his wife’s and daughter’s vehicles, has been given full-time unrestricted use of this city vehicle, to include fuel, maintenance, and insurance (wonder if the city insurance company knows about this arrangement?) for his personal use and for him to go to his other jobs and use it to put money in his own pocket.

An interested party should file criminal complaints against Mayor Argiris and every employee, elected official, and city attorney that has let him get by with this. It sure has the hallmarks of income tax evasion, official misconduct (constitution violation), misappropriation of public property, and use of public property for personal gain.

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Wheeling’s Mayor Argiris Used City Credit for Personal Use and Appears to have Lied About Repayment –

WHEELING, IL. (ECWd) –

Check dtd 12-22-2016

The Mayor of Wheeling, Illinois,  Dean Argiris, has used the city credit card for personal and private business purposes. As if that wasn’t bad enough, when questioned during public comment in the January 16, 2017 meeting, he told the public that he had already reimbursed the city for his most recent personal purchase of $462.00 at Tuscany’s on October 22, 2016.

Sure enough, when a copy of the check was requested thru FOIA, it was dated December 22, 2016 – a full 60 days after incurring the debt.

That’s where is gets a little tricky…

The back of the check showed it was deposited on January 18, 2018 – which made us wonder why the city would hold onto the check for so long prior to depositing it – especially when the law requires timely deposits.

receipt dtd 1-17-2017

So I asked for a copy of all his reimbursements, and what I received showed he actually gave the check to the city clerk on January 17, 2017 – not on December 22, 2016 as the check was dated (unless the clerk is willingly violating state law – which we don’t believe is happening).

You can see the back of the check, here, and it shows it was deposited on January 18, 2017 – so unless the clerk held the check in violation of law, then Mayor Argiris lied to the public by claiming he had already reimbursed the city for his Tuscany’s dinner.

This isn’t the only illegal purchases made using the public credit card – he has also used it in his private employment capacity as evidenced by a reimbursement just last November by a company named “AIM Insurance Agency, Inc.” There were three checks from that company for reimbursements on behalf of Mayor Dean Argiris – two in 2014 and one in Nov 2016.

The city of Wheeling is financing his personal use and his business deals with the public credit card, when their policy on purchase card use clearly states personal purchases are unauthorized (see page 4). Why isn’t the city council concerned about this blatant violation of Article VIII, Section 1(a) of the Illinois Constitution? Do they not realize these acts can be used as a predicate for felony Official Misconduct? – and now they have become enablers of this bankrupt Mayor?

This is only one of many articles to come on Mayor Dean Argiris and the irresponsible city council of Wheeling, Illinois. They are all complicit in this activity and we will highlight each and every one of their recent activities in the coming weeks.

Enjoy!

https://youtu.be/FPVG8kcqoeA

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Country Club Hills Sanctioned by Court -Possible Pornography on Fire Department Computers

Cook County (ECWd) –

“PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR SANCTIONS FOR VIOLATIONS OF THE COURT’S ORDER REGARDING INSPECTION OF COMPUTERS FOR PORNOGRAPHIC MATERIAL”

According to court records filed against Country Club Hills, a court order was issued on August 31, 2016, for a forensic examination of Country Club Hills computers relating to the fire department watching pornographic material in the fire station.

While the Fire Department personnel may be busy sliding down the pole or comparing nozzle sizes and hose lays on the computer, it appears, with the help of legal counsel, they are racking up a hefty legal expense for the taxpayers.  Which fire do they have more of an interest in suppressing; possible exposure of pornographic habits of their employees or the financial burdens to the taxpayer for the obstruction of such exposure?

Once again it appears we have public officials and their legal counsel costing the taxpayers money when it is not necessary. Is this another case of billable hours over justice to the taxpayer?

“Defendants and Defendants’ counsel has continued to evade the court’s order granting the forensic imaging, including most recently canceling the inspection the same morning and only after the eDiscovery expert appeared at the fire station.”

This morning the Cook County Judge Brigid M. McGrath granted the motion for sanctions against Country Club Hills to include the inspection and imagery of the computers will proceed on January 26th, 2017.

What is most disturbing in this case is the fact it is one again the taxpayers that have to pay for what appears to be a clear disregard for a court order.   In fact, according to the record: “This is Plaintiff’s fourth motion to compel and at least third motion for sanctions because of Defendants’ and their counsel’s continued refusal and failure to comply with the courts orders in this case.”

Why must the taxpayer be on the hook for public employees and their legal bills when they pull stunts like this?

 

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Lobstergate Update: Karie Friling’s Poolside Bar Receipts Not Produced By Village of Orland Park

Orland Park, IL. (ECWd) –

For anyone interested in uncovering government corruption and observing public officials who show utter contempt for the public on a rolling basis, the Village of Orland Park is like a Chicagoland version of Peyton Place: there’s always someone up to something, someone trying to get away with something she shouldn’t, and someone doing mysterious things by a pool (thinking she’d never be caught because she assumes no one is watching what she does). Everything endemically wrong with Illinois as a whole is illustrated in the ongoing soap opera of bad government that is Orland Park.

Last week we broke the Lobstergate scandal, where Orland Park’s Director of Development Services, Karie Friling, was caught running up a $91.77 dinner tab in Las Vegas by stuffing her face with lobster tail, steak, and shrimp cocktail before making the public pay for all her butter-soaked gluttony. Yum!

At the time of this stomach-turning discovery, questions were raised about two mysterious bar charges on Friling’s hotel bill, which the public also had to pay for. No explanation was given for what it was that resulted in these bar charges and if it was food or if it was alcohol that was ordered from these bars on two separate days.

According to documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, Friling stayed at the extravagant Venetian Hotel (one of the most expensive hotels in the city, despite the Village’s travel policies clearly requiring public employees to look for affordable and reasonable accommodations when on the road). On 5/21/16, she charged $39.61 at the Venetian’s “Pool Service Bar”…and did something similar on 5/23/16 when she charged $26.79 to her room at the “Venetian Pool Center Bar.” Whatever she was doing, it appears to have been so much fun the first time that she had to do it again two days later. Yippee!

 

A Google image search for the Venetian’s poolside bars revealed them to be lavishly decorated places where hedonists in skimpy swimwear lounge by the pools enjoying libations and celebrating the good life. This does not look like the sort of place where Orland Park homeowners’ property tax dollars should be spent. In 2015, the Better Government Association (BGA) ranked Karie Friling as the 4th highest-paid public official in Orland Park; with her high salary (not even counting her platinum benefits package), she could clearly afford to take herself on a vacation to the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas anytime she wanted without the public ever needing to pay for her to go there on the taxpayers’ dime.

Curiously, the Village of Orland Park elected not to produce any receipts explaining what Karie Friling ordered on 5/21/16 and 5/23/16 that amounted to $39.61 and $26.79 respectively.  Those charges appeared on the hotel room bill, but there were no paper receipts breaking down what Friling purchased at the two different hotel bars. At least with her lobster & steak dinner, Friling produced a receipt showing that she had devoured lobster, steak, and shrimp to the tune of $91.77. But with her poolside bar charges, the public is apparently not allowed to know what Friling consumed because the Village elected not to produce any receipts.

A follow-up FOIA to the Village this week specifically asking for documents sufficient to show what exactly Karie Friling ordered at the poolside bars at the Venetian Hotel produced no documents. How is that possible when hotel servers present checks to guests by the pool even if they are signing the charges to the room? Why didn’t Friling keep those paper receipts and turn them in when she returned from Vegas like she is mandated to do? Or, if she did turn them in then why isn’t the Village of Orland Park FOIA compliance officer, Alexandra Snodsmith, producing those receipts when the public asks to see them?

It’s almost as if the public officials in Orland Park specifically don’t want the public to know what Karie Friling ordered on those two occasions when she twice charged something to her room from the hotel’s bars. That could make a reasonable person suspicious that perhaps Friling spent taxpayer money on something she should not have signed to her room (that was being paid for by taxpayers). The Village of Orland Park was asked to comment on this matter and to clarify what Friling did and what she ate or drank on those days, but they elected not to respond to the multiple requests for comment.

This is a pattern that Orland Park repeats again and again: when busted on something, they circle the wagons, close ranks, and stonewall. They seem to assume that if they ignore the public and never explain themselves that the public will lose interest in what they are doing and forget about it. Then they can lay low for a while…and return to the profligate spending at some point in the future when they think no one is paying attention.

It is now the year 2017. The Venetian Hotel has the capability to re-print the receipts for Karie Friling’s bar charges on 5/21/16 and 5/23/16. The Illinois Freedom of Information Act appears to require a public body to obtain documents from a third party (such as the Venetian Hotel) if the public body asserts that it does not have its own copies of those documents (but the public has asked for them and the public body knows that the documents sought are in the possession of a third party, such as a hotel). In the matter at hand, since the Village of Orland Park was specifically asked to produce Karie Friling’s questionable bar receipts then the Village has a duty to dial up the Venetian Hotel and ask for those receipts to be emailed to the Village so that the FOIA request can be fulfilled. By not producing those bar receipts when asked, it can be argued that the Village of Orland Park is once again in violation of the Illinois FOIA statute.

The public has a right to know if a Village of Orland Park public employee is buying alcohol by a pool and making the public pay for it. If she isn’t doing anything wrong, then why not just produce her receipts?

The Village’s policies and procedures manual prohibit purchasing alcohol with taxpayer funds. The very same manual also limits dinner purchases by public employees to no more than $25/day. That begs the question: why was Karie Friling allowed to eat $91.77 worth of shrimp cocktail, steak, and lobster if the Village only allows for $25/day worth of dinner spending? Why is she allowed to make charges to her room from hotel bars?

If Karie Friling is exceeding the spending limit and if she really did purchase alcohol, the Village’s written policies clearly indicate this would all fall under “non-allowable expenses” and Karie Friling should have paid for her lobster dinner as well as her poolside charges out of her own pocket, not from the public’s coffers. We need those bar receipts to see what’s going on.

The Village of Orland Park was asked again on 1/19/17 to explain why no receipts for Karie Friling’s spending were produced, why she was approved to eat steak & lobster, and what exactly she bought poolside in Las Vegas but no response was received from the Mayor, the public relations department, or the Village’s FOIA officer.

Just another day in Peyton Place/Orland Park.


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ILETSB – Failures Exposed; Who will be held accountable?

Illinois (ECWd) –

We exposed the failure of key appointed board members of the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board (ILETSB) in this article and encourage you to read it if you have not.

The ILETSB agency has certain responsibilities to our Law Enforcement Academies of which we first started looking into back in 2014 with the failures at the Suburban Law Enforcement Acadamy at the College of DuPage (COD). Our findings and exposure led to numerous criminal investigations at COD.

ILETSB has certain responsibilities and we believe one must understand their obligations in order to get a better picture of how bad their negligence really is.

Let’s start from the top, as in the Executive Director of the ILETSB, who answers to the Board established by statute.

Title 20 chapter V- 1720.30a of the Illinois Administrative Code states;

“Each local school or course certified by the Board shall operate, for the duration of the school or course, under a full-time Director approved by the Executive Director of the Board.”

So there is no confusion, every school (Police Acadamy) or course is certified by the Board.  Those certified schools must then have a full time Director and that Director is approved by the Executive Director of the ILETSB.

August 24th of 2016, I asked for the following from ILETSB under the Freedom of Information Act;

“A copy of the Executive Director of the Board’s approval of the full-time Director of the school and/or courses certified by the board to operate at the College of DuPage.  As a reference, this is a requirement outlined in Administrative Code Tittle 20: 1720.30 item (a).”

They violated FOIA by not responding in the time frame required and after a phone conversation with the ILTESB attorney, citing the need for clarification as to what I was asking for, I revised my FOI request and issued a revision September 13, 2016.

“Requesting a copy of the Executive Director of the Board’s approval of the full-time Director of any police academy in the state to include College of DuPage.”

A phone call with the ILETSB legal counsel, John Keigher, confirmed that to his knowledge the ILTESB has never, yes never, approved a single Police Acadamy Director in the State of Illinois.  The response to my FOIA, shown below, reports that they were unable to find any records responsive to my request.

Yes! The State of Illinois was unable to produce a single record that shows the Directors of our Police Training Institutes have ever been approved by the Executive Director of the Illinois Law Enforcement Training & Standards Board.

My question and one I pray for everyone in this state demand an answer to is as follows;

How is it that a State Agency, that includes Board Members such as our Illinois Attorney General, Director of State Police, Director of Department of Corrections, Cook County Sheriff, Chicago Police Commissioner, of whom have been missing in action, have never ensured their Executive Director complies with his statutory duty of approving the Directors in charge of police academies in the State of Illinois?

Considering the State has clearly failed to perform their duties as it relates to approving Directors of Police Academies, how on earth can the Department of Justice cast such dispersions on the Chicago Police Department as a whole? Why isn’t the Department of Justice pointing out all the failings at the state level?  Those failures point to key reasons there are so many problems as they are supposed to approve the curriculum for those doing the training.  DOJ pointed to outdated training material.  That is an ILETSB failure, not Chicago PD in my opinion.

Stay tuned for more ILETSB failures exposed that have ties to every County Sheriff in this state.

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ILETSB: The most cruel and callous agency in the State of Illinois –

Illinois (EWCd)

In January of 2014, ECW uncovered documents from Governor Pat Quinn’s Neighborhood Initiative Program.  One such document warned Chicago Youth to comply with City of Chicago curfew laws or risk being shot and killed by members of the Chicago Police Department (CPD).  LINK Directly to the Document Here.  This document provided to ECW was so shocking in its substantive message to Chicago children, that it was automatically presumed to contain demonstrably false/fake news.   As a result, NO ONE IN ILLINOIS LISTENED.

While Illinois officials turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to the alarming document that Chicago youth frequently get shot and killed by CPD officers for merely breaking curfew laws (as well as myriad other reports of unlawful conduct by CPD officers), the USDOJ and the FBI took the citizen warnings and criticism of police misconduct to heart but only after questionable shootings became public. USDOJ initiated a comprehensive investigation into unlawful and unconstitutional patterns and practices within the Chicago Police Department.

Friday the 13th, 2017, the US Department of Justice released a scathing report that should alarm every Illinois resident and taxpayer.   The report was on the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and can be viewed here. Although the Chicago Police Department was the primary target of USDOJ’s stinging criticism,  the State of Illinois shares much of the blame, and in particular the pathetic work of the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board (ILETSB), the official state agency that is charged with certifying and  monitoring all law enforcement training academies in the State of Illinois, including CPD’s training facility.

The USDOJ Report noted that CPD uses a 35-year-old videotape (see page 98), to train new recruits on the use of lethal/deadly force.   According to the USDOJ, this videotape contained outdated standards and conditions for when police officers can justifiably use lethal force.  The USDOJ report noted that key aspects of the 35-year-old CPD training tape are unlawful and were overruled by the US Supreme Court.  Sadly, the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board was asleep at the switch; they failed to stop the CPD from using this outdated video that taught unconstitutional methods on the use of lethal and deadly force. Sadly, Illinois citizens were then shot and killed by CPD police officers because the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board failed to do its job.  In this regard, this state board failed to protect the public and the citizens of Chicago.

The USDOJ further observed that only 1 out of 6 CPD police recruits could properly articulate the correct legal standard for when lethal/deadly force can be used.  Shockingly, this means that 5 out of 6  (or 83.3%) of CPD cadets got that life and death question wrong.  Think about that statistic–83.3% of CPD cadets don’t know that law when it comes to the use of lethal force.  That is a chilling and truly scary statistic.

USDOJ investigators also found current CPD law enforcement cadets were asleep in class when the topic of the proper use of lethal force was addressed in the classroom.

You would think that an out of date training tape covering the topic of lethal force, or a CPD cadet failure rate of 83.3% on a question involving life and death of Illinois citizens, might cause the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board to take every means possible to yank the accreditation of the CPD training facility.  But sadly, that has not happened.

Senior Leadership of the ILETSB were put on this important state board for one reason: to serve and protect the Illinois public.     Inexcusably, this State Board violated that sacred public trust and I contend they have violated the law.  They failed to take their jobs seriously. They allowed CPD’s training facility to remain accredited.  As a watchdog, they sat on their hands and let the USDOJ do the job they were incapable or too cowardly to do.  So yes, this state board’s character, integrity, and conduct deserve harsh and unrelenting public criticism.

As clear evidence of their failings, one only needs to look at the statutory appointments to that board and review the minutes to find that more often than not, those appointed members, with one exception, don’t even attend the meetings but instead send their proxy to do their job for them, an action we contend is not permitted by law.  A concern which I raised with their board counsel back in the early fall of 2016.  No one listened. (Click here for the compiled attendance record of the statutorily appointed members)

Lisa Madigan, the Illinois Attorney General, is one of those members and of the minutes available, we have been unable to find a single meeting that she has attended, which is not much different than her avoiding her obligations on the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority board which we wrote about in July of 2014, and no one listened.

However, the failures don’t stop with the top cop Lisa Madigan’s failure to perform her duties as appointed by statute.  Since January of 2014 and up through the last set of approved minutes of September 2016, the following statutorily appointed members have NEVER attended one of the quarterly board meetings according to the minutes recording the attendance. (Click here for all the approved minutes since 2014)

Attorney General, Superintendent of Chicago Police Department, Director of the Department of Corrections, and the Cook County Sheriff have never attended a single meeting according to the records.

The minutes reflect 4 of the 7 statutory appointees have failed to attend a single meeting.  Micheal Schlosser, Director of the Police Training Institute in Champaign, who has only missed 2 meetings out of the eleven held since 2014 outshines the attendance of those listed above and the other two statutory appointments, the Director of the State Police and Cook County Circuit Clerk, whom both managed to attend a whopping three meetings each during this same time frame.

Many people died on the streets of Chicago because the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board failed in its core mission of overseeing the training of our police. Those people died while certain people, appointed by statute to do a job, failed to attend meetings and perform their duties as an appointed board member. People died while others members of this board failed to provide proper oversite.

Accordingly, we request that all senior leadership of the Illinois Law Enforcement  Training and Standards Board resign from public office immediately, including the statutorily appointed members of this State Board, including:   The Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department; the  Illinois Attorney General;  the Cook County Sheriff; the Cook County Clerk of the Court; the Director of the Illinois State Police; the Director of the Police Training Institute; the Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections.

How ironic and tragic, that many of these statutory appointees to the ILETSB live and work in the City of Chicago.  This is their home too.  But sadly, they let their own family, friends, and neighbors down and now share in the blame for that scathing and damning USDOJ Report on the CPD (because much of that stink and blame originates from the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board).

Even more ironic, the US Department of Justice made no mention of the ILETSB and the attendance record of the very members appointed to those positions.  Does this point to yet another government agency that is incapable of properly investigating and evaluating where a bigger problem lies, those responsible for the training of our law enforcement personnel?  Are the ILETSB failures linked to law enforcement issues statewide?

As if we should be surprised, the ILETSB just happened to have adopted new guidelines in October of 2016.  How interesting to find the issues they have adopted have parallel ties to the US DOJ report findings.  Is this an indication that they knew this was coming?

We have been compiling information on the ILETSB since we broke the story of the College of DuPage two years ago regarding their improper awarding of credits to the Suburban Law Enforcement Academy (SLEA).  Now with the DOJ report released, we will continue to roll out our findings that may well expose even larger problems as it relates to training of our police and oversite of those academies as well as a total disregard for certain people to follow the law.

In closing, we contend such disregard for attendance and participation of meetings by members of the ILETSB is cruel and callous to the citizens of this state.

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

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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Orland Park Public Library Board Still Hates the Public –

Orland Park, Illinois (ECWd) –

The Orland Park Public Library Board is at it again, hating the public as much as ever. We’ve been reporting on the bad behavior of one trustee in particular, Diane Jennings, for over 3 years now and it’s not surprising to see her still behaving reprehensibly during public meetings. It may be a new year, but she’s still up to her old tricks. Jennings’ latest antics were posted to YouTube: 

Several local residents came before the Board on December 19th to deliver a petition signed by 248 people asking the trustees to please do something about computers in the library where creeps are allowed to access pornography. This has been an ongoing problem at the OPPL for many years, with incident reports showing that staffers looked the other way and allowed people to abuse public resources by engaging in sexual activity in the computer lab. The OPPL Board has steadfastly refused to clean up their library and make it safe for children and families, despite community members still coming to board meetings month after month asking for the pornography in the library to end. 

The Orland Park Public Library is the subject of the book SHUT UP!: The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment, by Megan Fox and Kevin DuJan. It’s an interesting read because it documents the insanity of public officials refusing to admit they are wrong and instead choosing to lash out and attack the public. 

At the latest OPPL meeting, Diane Jennings ripped into a concerned mom who wondered why porn couldn’t be blocked from the computers. Her unprofessionalism is deplorable. When the public takes the time to come before a Board with a petition, the Board has a duty to hear what the public is saying. Neither Jennings nor fellow trustee Joanna Liotine Leafblad showed any respect to the petitioners. Instead, they were hostile, with Leafblad going on at one point about creeps “enjoying porn” in the Library. As if she was talking about “enjoying hot chocolate on a cold day” or “enjoying a good book by a fire.” It’s never okay for anyone to be enjoying pornography in a public building that taxpayers pay for. Both Jennings and Leafblad should know this. They should also both show more respect for the public and not continue to embarrass themselves the way that they do. 

One of the only responses given to the public was that the board made its decision “two years ago” – like there is never a possibility of a new vote and new decision after one is made. Also, the board shouted about the costs of filters, forgetting that they, two years ago, refused to take filtering software even when it was given to them for free.
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Book Banned by Orland Park Public Library Is Accepted By Orland Park History Museum –

ORLAND PARK, IL. (ECWd) –

The Orland Park History Museum, which opened this past April in the former red-brick Village Hall building in Orland Park, has accepted into its archive collection a book that was banned by the Orland Park Public Library (OPPL), despite book-banning being against the Library’s stated intellectual freedom policies (and the OPPL bragging that it is the 2014 winner of the “Robert B. Downs Award for Intellectual Freedom” from the University of Illinois Champagne-Urbana). 

The book in question is SHUT UP!: The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment by investigative reporters Megan Fox and Kevin DuJan; SHUT UP! meticulously documents their investigation into years’ of wrongdoing and law-breaking at the OPPL, including library staff looking the other way and deliberately not calling the police when an Orland Park resident admitted that he was viewing child pornography on the OPPL’s computers in a public building full of children. Fox & DuJan used FOIA requests to uncover the Library’s own internal documents that proved not only did OPPL staffers regularly decide not to alert authorities when sex crimes occurred in the Library, but that in at least one case the OPPL board of trustees took themselves out for a $500 steak dinner to apparently celebrate getting away with no one at the time finding out about the child pornography being accessed at the Orland Park Public Library.

SHUT UP! also documents every abuse of power aimed at Fox & DuJan by Orland Park officials from Police Chief Timothy J. McCarthy to Village Manager Paul Grimes and Library Director Mary Weimar, Trustee Diane Jennings, and others who appear to have sought to silence and frighten away these reporters so that the truth about what had been going on for years in that library would never be known. As reported on this site, Fox & DuJan prevailed in several lawsuits against both the OPPL and the Village of Orland Park, winning over $67,000 in settlements for violations of their rights under the Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings Act. Fox & DuJan also prevailed in a SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) lawsuit filed against them by former OPPL spokesman Bridget Bittman. SHUT UP! is one of the only books available that not only documents a SLAPP from beginning to end but also provides instructions for members of the public wishing to use FOIA requests to investigate spending irregularities and other problems at a public body, or how to assert rights of Free Speech to petition public bodies for change and redress of grievances under the Open Meetings Act. 

Since SHUT UP! is one of the few books ever written about Orland Park, it has clear local interest to the people of Orland Park outside the valuable information it provides about political activism and defense against a meritless SLAPP lawsuit. The book is favorably reviewed on Amazon.com, WorldCat, and GoodReads, where reviewers note that Fox & DuJan managed to convey a lot of detailed information about public participation in government with humorous anecdotes about the bizarre cast of characters they encountered in the staff and trustees of the OPPL and the public officials such as Chief McCarthy who form the villains of SHUT UP!.

Letters to the editor in The Orland Park Prairie printed in August 2016 from OPPL cardholders who requested that the Library carry SHUT UP! (but the OPPL refused to add the book to its shelves) document viewpoint discrimination and book-banning, since the OPPL adamantly refused to even accept donated copies of the book. Even the American Library Association, whose Office for Intellectual Freedom was eviscerated by Fox & DuJan in their opus, is listed in WorldCat as having a copy of SHUT UP! in the ALA’s own library in downtown Chicago. There appears to be no credible or substantive reason why the OPPL does not accept a copy of this book into its collection when it meets every single listed requirement for acquisition by the OPPL, other than that staff and trustees of the Orland Park Public Library just do not want the public reading about the terrible things that Fox & DuJan uncovered, discovered, and documented about what is arguably the worst-run public library in Illinois. 

When OPPL staff members blatantly refuse to carry a book that has been requested by cardholders even when offers have been made to donate the book to the library at no cost — and the staffers appear to be engaging in viewpoint discrimination, where they personally do not want people in the community reading a book in which they appear as characters and their own actions are documented unfavorably — then this is clearly book-banning. And it is ironic as well as hypocritical, because every year at the end of September the American Library Association hosts an event called “Banned Books Week,” where the ALA claims that a parent not wanting sexually explicit material like Playboy to be given to a child is “book-banning.” If that’s the case, then we wonder what the ALA calls it when the staff and trustees of a public body such as the Orland Park Public Library willfully and deliberately ban a book like SHUT UP! from its shelves because they do not want people to read an investigators’ account of the bad things that happened in that particular library in recent years. 

When government employees purposely choose to keep something from the public, despite the public making written requests for that book to be carried in their local public library, that is censorship. The fact that the OPPL has been offered the book for free removes any excuse that the OPPL cannot afford to buy the book. No purchase by them is necessary. They have requests for the book from cardholders. The book is about the village and has great local interest. Refusing to put this book on the shelf because staffers don’t like it or don’t like the authors is book-banning censorship, plain and simple. 

While the OPPL itself has engaged in despicable book-banning here that flagrantly slaps the face of intellectual freedom, it is heartening that there are still sane people in Orland Park who recognize the importance of SHUT UP! as a first-hand, primary source account of well-documented controversies and events in the village. Whether you are a fan of Fox & DuJan or not — and while we can appreciate that it might make the OPPL staff and trustees uncomfortable to have a book critical of them present in their library, as some have noted — banning one book sets a course on a slippery slope where OPPL staff then decide what book to ban next, because one staffer or another doesn’t agree with the content of the book or doesn’t like its authors. The Orland Park History Museum is including SHUT UP! in its archives so that scholars and researchers who are unable to obtain the book at the OPPL can have access to this primary source when learning about Orland Park’s recent history. And let’s all remember who the OPPL belongs to: it is not the possession of the staffers or trustees. That library belongs to the taxpaying public and if the public wants the freedom to read a book that is critical of the Library, then it is a violation of intellectual freedom for the Library to ban that book.

If public employees and officials in Orland Park don’t want to be embarrassed by an accounting of their own bad behavior, the solution is to not ban books that are written about them. Going forward, they should think twice about engaging in conduct and behavior that encourages critical books to be written about them. If Chief McCarthy and the other Village officials and the staff and trustees in that Library did not carry on the way that they did for over two years trying to silence and censor their critics, then Fox & DuJan would have had nothing to write about…instead of being able to publish a 666-page riveting account that is highly unflattering to the powers that be which run Orland Park. 

People who cannot afford to purchase their own copy of SHUT UP! (which, due to its length and scope, is expensive) now have the opportunity to read the book at the Orland Park History Museum for free. It was a travesty that prior to the History Museum adding this primary source account to its archives that the public was able to access it in downtown Chicago, the state capital in Springfield, and the American Library Association’s offices (among other far-flung places that carry this book)…but not in Orland Park itself, the village that the book is actually about. 

The Orland Park History Museum is open on Thursdays from 9am-1pm; Saturdays from 9am-1pm; and is open the second Sunday of every month from 12pm-3pm. It is located at Old Village Hall at 14415 Beacon Avenue in Orland Park. 
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Cook County Record Reports On Our Appeal Of CPA Denial –

Cook County, IL. (ECWd) –

‘Watchdogs’ appeal DuPage judge’s OK of lawsuit over reporting of alleged ‘pay to play’ for COD contract

Jonathan Bilyk Aug. 31, 2016, 4:14pm


Journalists who help chronicle and expose corruption in Illinois governments have asked a state appeals court to step in, after a DuPage County judge refused to dismiss a $16 million defamation lawsuit brought by a woman who claims the men known as the Edgar County Watchdogs wrongly accused her of committing a crime when they wrote she engaged in “pay to play” and used an improper exemption to secure a no-bid contract from the College of DuPage – awarded the same day she joined the college’s fundraising foundation board.

Kirk Allen and his non-profit news organization, Edgar County Watchdogs Inc., have filed a petition with the Illinois Second District Appellate Court in Elgin, asking justices to toss the decision of DuPage County Circuit Judge Robert G. Kleeman, who denied their motion to dismiss the legal action brought against the Watchdogs by plaintiffs Carla Burkhart and her company, Herricane Graphics Inc., of west suburban West Chicago.

Continue reading at the Cook County Record (click here).

 




Orland Park Public Library Bans Book About Orland Park Public Library –

ORLAND PARK, IL. (ECWd) –

Viewpoint discrimination and censorship are on full display at the Orland Park Public Library (OPPL), as staff ban a new book that was written about recent scandals and wrongdoing at the Orland Park Public Library. The OPPL has steadfastly refused to carry the book SHUT UP! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment, despite written requests from Orland Park taxpayers that the Library order the book for its collection so citizens can read the true story of what public officials in Orland Park did to silence critics and cover-up sex crimes that occurred in the library through the years. 

The OPPL has even refused to accept an autographed, first-edition copy of the book for its collection that someone wanted to donate to the Library. That means the OPPL has chosen to ban this book from its collection, despite requests from patrons that the book be carried and the Library being offered a free copy of the book for the community to read. There can be no clearer act of censorship and viewpoint discrimination than a public body refusing to allow a written criticism of the public body to occupy space on the shelves of that same public body. 

It should be noted that every fall the OPPL participates in “Banned Books Week,” where the Library makes a big production of accusing parents of “banning” or “censoring” books whenever a parent complains about a sexually-charged book like the Kama Sutra being given to small children against the parents’ wishes. The Library’s Director, Mary Weimar, once posed in a bizarre costume dressed as a prisoner during Banned Books Week, holding up a copy of Harry Potter and claiming that it had been “banned” somewhere (because a parent in some small town someplace allegedly questioned if Harry Potter was appropriate for her small child). Clearly, Harry Potter wasn’t really “banned” at the OPPL since Weimar was holding a copy of it in the Library’s lobby. The book SHUT UP! really is banned, however, because Weimar and OPPL staff will not allow SHUT UP! to be included in the OPPL’s collection. 

The OPPL is a member of the American Library Association (ALA), which is a lobbying group funded in large part by George Soros that seeks to transform communities by transforming libraries. The ALA deems it to be “age discrimination” to refuse to give a kindergartener Playboy magazine or a middle-schooler Fifty Shades of Grey if they ask for it. The ALA gives librarians a list of books with racy themes, explicit sex scenes, drug use, abortions, and other adult material that the ALA wants promoted to young children, all in the name of “intellectual freedom.” Libraries like the OPPL follow the ALA’s instructions and feature these books prominently in the children’s and young adult sections. If a parent complains about this material, the parent is called a “book banner” and then during “Banned Books Week” the ALA encourages librarians to mock that parent and to give the “banned book” in question to as many children as possible. 

Let’s look at the obvious hypocrisy of the OPPL participating in “Banned Books Week” while simultaneously banning a book from its shelves that is critical of the OPPL and that documents law-breaking and bad behavior by OPPL staff members and trustees. This is clear viewpoint discrimination, which is another thing that the ALA is supposedly against (except when the viewpoint they want discriminated against is one that is critical of the ALA). By refusing to carry the book SHUT UP!, the OPPL is discriminating against a viewpoint that is critical of the OPPL. Since taxpaying members of the Orland Park community have asked the Library to carry this book and the Library has refused to carry it, the Library is banning the book so that Orland Park residents cannot read the book and learn about bad things that have happened in the Library through the years, including the reprehensible behavior of trustees such as Diane Jennings and library employees such as Director Mary Weimar and the former Library spokesman, Bridget Bittman. We covered the antics and offensive behavior of all of these people extensively on this site through the years if you are unfamiliar with their names. 

A search on the Worldcat site, which is used by librarians to locate books, shows that SHUT UP! is carried on the shelves of the Harold Washington Chicago Public Library, the Bellwood Public Library, the Tinley Park Public Library, the Richton Park Public Library, the Downer’s Grove Public Library, and the State Library in Springfield, Illinois. SHUT UP! has received positive reviews on both Worldcat and GoodReads, which are two sources librarians use for reviews of books. It appears that the book is either checked out or on hold at every library that owns it, with a waiting list to read SHUT UP!. There is clearly statewide interest in the book. Other libraries carry it on their shelves and have included it in their First Amendment sections alongside other books about censorship, free speech, and government attempts to silence the public. Members of the public are asking libraries to carry the book so they can read it. 

SHUT UP! is an invaluable resource for people wanting to learn more about making FOIA requests and asserting their rights to speak at public meetings under the Open Meetings Act. It also documents a SLAPP (strategic litigation against public participation) lawsuit that Bittman filed against the authors and teaches readers what they can do to survive and defeat such a SLAPP. There are very few other books that have ever been written on that subject and no other books we can find that have ever been written that are critical of the American Library Association or crimes being covered up in public libraries. 

Back in 2015, the OPPL accepted something called the “Downs Award for Intellectual Freedom” in a big ceremony at the ALA’s conference in Chicago. This was an award that the OPPL won for continuing to allow men to view pornography on computers in the Library, even though such activity is against the law due to lewd behavior and disorderly conduct statutes in Orland Park. The OPPL proudly called itself a champion of intellectual freedom because it decided to continue allowing sexual activity to occur in its adult computer lab, despite children and teenagers walking past this open area all day long. The OPPL deemed it necessary for “intellectual freedom” to allow men to view pornography on public computers, sexually arouse themselves in public, and engage in other inappropriate activities in full view of all passersby. 

But, here in 2016 the OPPL has been caught being intellectually dishonest by engaging in the viewpoint discrimination of censoring and banning a book that is highly critical of the OPPL’s dangerous and reckless decisions. When a government body refuses to carry on its shelves a book that is critical of that government body, that is censorship. Taxpaying residents of Orland Park have requested this book and the OPPL has refused to carry the book on its shelves, despite other libraries in the area (including the largest library in the world, which is the Harold Washington Public Library in Chicago) having SHUT UP! in their collections. 

Clearly, the people running the OPPL do not want anyone in Orland Park to read this book and start asking questions about the terrible things that have happened in this library through the years. Perhaps you should ask your own local library to add SHUT UP! to its collection. The OPPL has made SHUT UP! into a banned book by the ALA’s own definitions, so what better way to celebrate “Banned Books Week” this year than to read the very book that the Orland Park Public Library and its intellectually dishonest staff want banned. 
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Gov. Rauner signs Local Government Travel Expense Control Act –

SPRINGFIELD, IL. (ECWd) –

Today, Governor Rauner signed the Local Government Travel Expense Control Act (read it here) which is meant to scale back on the lavish expenses incurred by public officials under the guise of “official business”.

The LGTECA requires school districts, community college districts, and all non-home rule units of local government to provide by resolution or ordinance, the regulation of all travel, meal, and lodging expenses of officers and employees.

It also requires setting a minimum standard for documentation of expenses, and the maximum allowable reimbursement for travel, meal, and lodging. It places all travel documents as public records subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

The Act also prohibits all approvals or payments for travel, meal, and lodging made on and after 180 days of the effective date of the Act unless a resolution or ordinance has been adopted.

Prohibits entertainment expenses.

We applaud the formation of the Local Government Travel Expense Control Act as a common sense measure that had unanimous approval in both the House and Senate.

Rep. David McSweeney was the Chief Sponsor in the House and Sen. Thomas Cullerton Chief Senate Sponsor.

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Buckeye Community Hope Foundation Amends SLAPP Lawsuit Against Tinley Park –

TINLEY PARK, IL. (ECWd) –

On 6/15/16, the Buckeye Community Hope Foundation (an Ohio-based developer that profits from exploiting tax-credit schemes in other states, such as Illinois) filed an amended complaint against the Village of Tinley Park. This new complaint replaces a poorly-written and meritless lawsuit that Buckeye filed against the Village in April 2016, which the Village countered with a persuasive and well-argued motion to dismiss. In June 2016, Buckeye informed the court it was withdrawing its original complaint and would be replacing it with an amended complaint by 6/15/16. 

As you can see in the document filed yesterday, Buckeye’s new complaint heavily employs the race-card and what clearly amounts to bullying and intimidation aimed against the people of Tinley Park, particularly those participating in criticism and petitioning of their government. 

Buckeye seems to be engaging in what amounts to a SLAPP with this lawsuit (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation). If you read Buckeye’s 67-page amended complaint, you will see that the bulk of it targets citizens of Tinley Park for speaking out against the developer’s project at board meetings and on social media, picketing the Village in public protest, and exercising their protected First Amendment rights to petition and lobby their government for change and redress of grievances. Buckeye names Constitutionally protected Free Speech in opposition to its tax-credit scheme as the basis for filing its lawsuit. It can be argued that — since the true purpose of the lawsuit is clearly to punish members of the community for participating in the political process — this lawsuit is at heart a new twist on SLAPPs. 

While Buckeye didn’t name any community activists as defendants in the lawsuit (as is typical in SLAPPs), Buckeye targeted two community activists by name in the body of its amended complaint in what reads like a purposeful smear campaign against them that is likely designed to discourage these individuals (Michael Fitzgerald and Ken Shaw of the Citizens of Tinley Park political action group) from further participation in local politics. It is a heavy-handed and brutally scary event to have your name dropped into the middle of a lawsuit, where your Constitutionally protected First Amendment activity is cited as a cause of the lawsuit and the implication made that you did something wrong by exercising your Free Speech rights. To smear individuals in Buckeye’s amended complaint as alleged racists for engaging in opposition to a shady tax-credit scheme cooked up by an out-of-state profiteering developer is a heinous abuse of our judicial system and should not be tolerated in America. 

What Buckeye has done here should not be allowed to stand because this new twist on SLAPPs seems carefully constructed to achieve everything a SLAPP normally achieves (silencing targets such as Fitzgerald and Shaw) without allowing those targets to successfully defend against the SLAPP with the Citizen Participation Act (CPA). A situation now exists where Buckeye has arguably attacked Fitzgerald and Shaw as individuals but has left them with no means of defending themselves, as they were not named as actual defendants in the lawsuit. They were just aggressively smeared by name in a creative way that makes the despicable accusations of racism lobbed against them as part of the record but does not afford them any mechanism of battling back (as they would be able to, including countersuing Buckeye, if they were actual defendants). 

Please imagine the ramifications of this if what Buckeye has done here to Fitzgerald and Shaw becomes commonplace. In that dystopian future, whenever a developer like Buckeye engages in a tax credit or other scheme that generates controversy and members of the public exercise their First Amendment rights to protest the development, entities like Buckeye will attempt to silence such Free Speech by name-dropping the protestors into litigation but not outright naming them as defendants so they could invoke the CPA and defend themselves. 

The chilling effect of a SLAPP is achieved, since being name-dropped into litigation is as scary as being named a defendant and has the net effect of making the average person too scared and unwilling to have any further involvement in politics. The key difference is that if you are not actually named as a defendant, then you have no recourse and no ability to defend yourself and the entity like Buckeye that is attacking you just gets away with smearing you like that. Fitzgerald and Shaw must feel powerless and frustrated that their good names are sullied and our system appears to offer them no remedy or ability to clear their names as they would be afforded if Buckeye had SLAPPed them as named defendants. 

In the rambling 67-pages of its amended complaint, Buckeye still mounts no valid argument for a legitimate lawsuit against anyone, let alone the Village, because Buckeye’s tax credit scheme has never been denied. Previous courts have ruled that a developer has no legal basis to sue a municipality if its project has not been denied as the controversy is not ripe until such a denial is actually made. A developer cannot prevail based on a theory of hypothetical or potential denial or because it feels a municipality is not moving fast enough to approve a controversial development project. On top of all this, Buckeye’s proposed development does not possess the street level commercial space required under Tinley Park’s Legacy Code zoning ordinance and Buckeye has seemed unwilling to redesign the project to include such street-level commercial space as required due to the fact that Buckeye’s tax-credit funding scheme would collapse if it complied with the commercial requirement in the zoning code. 

The Village made these and other arguments in its motion to dismiss last month and it must have been effective, as Buckeye then decided to file this new amended complaint. However, Buckeye did not address any of the weaknesses or defects of its original complaint when the court gave it the opportunity to do so. This is telling because there appears to be no way for Buckeye to actually cure any of those defects. 

Instead, Buckeye used the amended complaint to add Ken Shaw to the mix where previously it made Michael Fitzgerald the primary target of its SLAPP efforts. The fact that Buckeye went to the trouble of amending a complaint to add the name of another community objector to the mix in what reads like an intimidation effort underscores the SLAPP intent of what Buckeye is doing. 

SLAPPs are not designed to succeed in court or make it beyond a motion to dismiss or into discovery. As seen with the SLAPP filed by former Orland Park Public Library spokesman Bridget Bittman at the encouragement of trustees like Diane Jennings at the Library, the SLAPP’s counts were dismissed by the judge or withdrawn by Bittman before she would have to face discovery (at which time her meritless accusations would have been exposed for the lies that they were). SLAPPers (what experts on SLAPPs call the plaintiffs who file SLAPPs) as a rule do not expect to win these lawsuits but instead file them to punish and intimidate people who engage in political protest or criticism of public bodies. Bittman is the granddaughter of the woman who used to own the Chicago White Sox and had access to funds provided to her by members of the American Library Association (ALA) to finance her SLAPP, as the ALA members expressed a belief that the chilling effect of Bittman’s SLAPP against community activists in Orland Park would benefit ALA members nationwide if it could discourage people from voicing opposition to the ALA in other areas too. 

The Buckeye Community Hope Foundation has a business model dependent on tax-credit schemes in states like Illinois, where it can make immense profits by exploiting loopholes and gaming the system by slapping together controversial housing projects and calling anyone who opposes them a racist (using the well-worn and cliche Alinsky Methods tactic of accusing all public opposition to anything a housing developer does of secretly being racism). In our society, false accusations of “racism” are the ultimate weapon to use against an opponent and have a profound chilling effect on community opposition to a developer. Buckeye’s continued tax-credit schemes depend on communities being intimidated and frightened of opposing Buckeye in any way. For these schemes to continue, people need to be afraid of being sued if they speak out or — like Michael Fitzgerald and Ken Shaw — being despicably name-dropped into bogus SLAPP suits that are designed to make examples of them to chill the speech and discourage participation by future community activists who may have opposed Buckeye’s bullying elsewhere in the future (but who will now be frightened of doing so, because they do not want to end up like Fitzgerald and Shaw). 

It is stomach-turning what the Buckeye Community Hope Foundation is doing with this amended complaint and disheartening that such a SLAPPer is able to abuse our court system as a political weapon to silence opposition. We hope that Michael Fitzgerald and Ken Shaw know that the American people do not believe the allegations being made against them and that every observer of SLAPP abuse can see clearly what Buckeye is doing and is offended by it. 

When good men like Fitzgerald and Shaw are targeted for personal destruction by a scheming developer like Buckeye for exercising their Constitutionally protected rights and other good men and women stay quiet and do not speak out against what is happening, then we all suffer. 

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Attorney General Inquiry into Bellwood Public Library Board –

BELLWOOD, IL. (ECWd) –

The Attorney General’s Office of the Public Access Counselor (PAC) has now opened in inquiry into the actions of the Bellwood Public Library Board of Trustees from April through June 2016. 

Violations of the Open Meetings Act are Class-C criminal misdemeanors under the statute. 

Assistant Attorney General Neal Olson sent a letter to Bellwood Public Library Board President Mary Clements on 6/16/16 asking that she explain the Board’s recent actions, covering a host of alleged OMA violations from closed meetings being held improperly and without proper cause for a closed meeting, members of the Board meeting in secret to discuss Library business when such discussion belonged in an open public meeting, and the bizarre situation on 6/8/16 where Trustee Dorothy Clark-Smith was not allowed to participate in a board meeting by telephone. 

The Bellwood Public Library Board is under intense public scrutiny and criticism due to what are alleged to be continued violations of the OMA regarding excessive use of “closed sessions” to hide Board business from the public. 

Trustees such as Regina Greene, Mary Clements, J.B. Carr and others are also being called out by members of the Bellwood community for what is perceived to be outrageous and abusive misspending on trips to American Library Association conferences that grossly exceeds the average spending on such conferences by trustees of public libraries similar in size and financial resources to Bellwood. 

greene-payment

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Records show that Ms. Greene, in particular, takes checks for $1,000+ in advance of trips, which sometimes last 7 days. It is unusual if not unheard of for public library board members to legitimately need to travel for a full week and receive payment in advance at a rate of $150/day in per diem for such travel. 

During recent board meetings, members of the public have confronted Ms. Greene and the other spendthrift board members and have asked such lavish spending to end and for the Board to start producing receipts to justify their spending. To this point, Ms. Greene and her fellow Bellwood trustees have apparently refused to comply with the public’s demands for accountability, transparency, and responsibility.

 

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Regina Greene and Bellwood Public Library Board’s Outrageous Spending –

Bellwood, IL

In March, a Bellwood Public Library patron named Wanda Gipson confronted Regina Greene and the rest of the Bellwood Public Library Board on their shameful and outrageous spending. 

As reported the other day, the Bellwood Public Library Board is now under intense scrutiny and criticism for lavishly wasting taxpayer money on themselves while also seemingly being under the influence of a strange and mysterious man from Maywood, Illinois (who appears to be pulling Greene’s and other board members’ strings like a puppeteer to swing lucrative “consulting” jobs to people that the Mystery Man wants to receive these no-bid contracts). 

Gipson delivered a stinging and passionate rebuke of the Board’s wasteful spending (below), which included the following shocking information:

* Greene and other Bellwood Board Members selfishly squander library funds on trips for themselves when the library struggles to make even $200 off a Friends of the Library book sale. Money is badly needed for programs to enrich the community and to provide for the children of Bellwood, but Greene and other Board members waste money on hotel stays for themselves even when attending events in the Chicago area that they could drive back and forth to and save money. The Board seems to see the library as an ATM for taking mini vacations at any opportunity they can get away with. 

* The Bellwood community wants board members that are financially responsible and frugal, not spendthrifts out for their own good time. 

* For years, the Board has refused to update its by-laws despite multiple attempts and the hiring of expensive attorneys for that purpose. Where are the by-laws updates? The library’s insurance status is also in question, with the public wondering if the library’s insurance is up to date. The Bellwood Board members appear to not ever answer the public’s questions in these matters. 

* The Board seems to have dropped the ball on approving its own budget, according to Gipson. The basic competence of Board members was called into question with revelation after revelation of the Board members not doing what they are supposed to be doing. 

* The Mystery Man from Maywood who appears to pull the Board’s strings appears to be a man named Charles “Chuck” Baxter, who pushed into office something called “a new majority library board trustees.” Gipson questioned if this “new majority” was a Political Action Committee of some kind and wondered why Baxter, who doesn’t even live in Bellwood, was seemingly calling the shots with this “new majority.” It sure sounds like Baxter somehow got a bunch of loyalists ensconced on this board who subsequently do what he tells them to do. But who is Chuck Baxter and why does he hold such power over Regina Greene and the others in the “new majority”? Why is Chuck Baxter also allegedly pulling strings on the D-88 school board in Bellwood too? What’s this man’s end game and why is he allowed to be doing this? 

* According to the sum of Gipson’s figures, Bellwood Board Members budgeted close to $33,000 for conference travel for the year 2016. This is wildly excessive for a library the size of Bellwood. For comparison’s sake, other area libraries similar to Bellwood only spend between $5,000 and $9,000 for conference attendance and travel, less than one-sixth what the Bellwood Board is wasting. 

* Regina Greene and other Bellwood Board Members demand pre-paid checks for as much as $150.00 per day when they travel on their mini-vacations couched as “conferences.” No other area library board receives checks in advance of a trip like this. While not illegal, it is certainly unorthodox and unusual and a practice that would never be tolerated in the private sector. At other libraries, board members keep detailed receipts and then submit them for careful review and then reimbursement. Bellwood Board Members have been accused of taking the $150.00 per day “meal allowance” but not actually staying for the full duration of a conference (and never returning any unused money). Some Bellwood Board Members apparently also add extra days onto a conference trip, staying five days for a three day conference by arriving a day early and staying a day later and making the library pay for their airfare, hotel, and $150.00 per day in gluttonously excessive meal per diems. Why are the board members doing this? 

* A majority of Bellwood Board members have been going off on these extravagant conference trips when only one (or at most two) member(s) should be going. There is no public benefit to sending the majority of board members out of town on an all-expenses paid vacation. Regina Greene and the other Bellwood Board members do not appear to learn anything at the conferences and do not come back and give presentations about any learnings. The conferences appear to be a way for these people to just take “free” vacations together and make the taxpayers pay. The Illinois Local Library Act does not allow library board members to be compensated for serving on a library board. It can be argued that board members taking excessive trips that do not benefit the public may be considered a “prize” and “perk” for being on the board, which can be viewed as a form of compensation barred by the Act. At some point, lavish travel stops being a business expense and starts being compensation and reward for holding a board seat. 

Conferences put on by the American Library Association are particularly notorious wastes of public money, as the ALA is really not an organization with public libraries’ best interests or community needs in mind. At most, an ALA conference will have one or maybe two events for public library trustees; the rest of the conference is geared towards networking events for librarians with master’s degrees across the academic, private, corporate, legal, and other library fields. There is another organization called the Public Library Association (PLA) that is strictly focused on public libraries, but that organization doesn’t throw events in lavish or expensive cities like San Francisco, Orlando, New York City, and other favorite ALA spare-no-expense destinations. It can be argued that no public library should be sending anyone to ALA events and should instead be sending people to PLA events, as the public gets more benefit out of PLA events. 

If the public isn’t getting any benefit from sending Regina Greene and her cohorts on these mini-vacations disguised as conferences, then why are the Bellwood Public Library’s finances being drained to stuff their faces with $150.00 per day in pricy meals and put them up in fancy hotels? For comparison, $150.00 per week is the government’s benchmark for a family of four’s grocery spending and it’s about what an average American on food stamp assistance is allotted for the whole month. The Bellwood Public Library trustees are making off with $150.00 per day, supposedly for food…and they are demanding checks up front and do not produce receipts to prove they spent that money on food. It is hard to believe that anyone could truly spend $150.00 on food per day short of eating every meal in the fanciest restaurant they could find. 

Bellwood is a struggling community. Its residents depend on their library, especially in the summer, to give the children of Bellwood something positive and productive to do and a safe place where they can learn, play, and foster community. Every dollar spent feeding Regina Greene and sending her and Chuck Baxter’s “new majority” of board members off on trips that would give Robin Leach pause is a dollar that is not available to fund programs for the children of Bellwood. 

Everyone loves a “free” meal and a “free” vacation, but should the Bellwood Public Library Board be going to town like this all the time? 

 
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Tinley Park Shocked by Village’s Dirty Tricks with Upcoming Meeting on 6/16/16 –

Tinley Park, IL – (ECWd) –

The people of Tinley Park were shocked and betrayed Friday night when a late-hour agenda-drop informed them that the Village’s Plan Commission was holding a meeting at the Odyssey Country Club on 6/16/16 to once again attempt to tamper with the Village’s existing Legacy Code zoning ordinance to remove the “street level commercial required” language that has been the subject of controversy since January. We’ve covered this story extensively, with the latest development being the Village acknowledging on May 17th that that Legacy Code was never properly changed by employees who had attempted to tamper with it in the past and that the “street level commercial required” mandate was always in effect (as a result of all attempted illegal tampering being void). 

TinleyPlanComm-6-16-2016

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The purpose of the Legacy Code is to grow Tinley Park’s commercial tax revenue by requiring street level commercial space in all housing projects built in the city’s downtown Legacy District. This is meant to ensure that all new buildings have shops, restaurants, and other commercial endeavors on the ground floor and then apartments or condos above that. Tinley Park has a surfeit of residential development and a glut of empty condos and apartments plaguing the area but the village is in desperate need of commercial space to take some of the tax burdens off homeowners. The Legacy Code was written and enacted with community support as a means of strategically ensuring that downtown Tinley Park is grown with commercial businesses at street level and then people living in condos and apartments above that, so that no one can just dump a new inventory of apartments or condos into a market that is already oversaturated with apartments and condos (but is sorely lacking grocery stores, restaurants, cafes, and shops to attract tourists to downtown Tinley). 

The Village interim Planning Director, Paula Wallrich, appears to have written the agenda for the 6/16/16 Plan Commission meeting that is being held at Odyssey Country Club. Wallrich became the interim Planning Director when Amy Connolly, the Village’s disgraced former Planning Director, resigned and left for Racine, Wisconsin in early May. Connolly, along with former Village Attorney Thomas Melody, were named as defendants in a lawsuit filed by citizens of Tinley Park which alleged that Connolly and Melody improperly tampered with the Legacy Code to create an opening for an out of state developer from Ohio (the Buckeye Community Hope Foundation) to build a project without street level commercial space as the Legacy Code requires. Citizens of Tinley Park hoped this matter was all resolved once the Village admitted last month that the tampering done by Connolly and Melody was void, but here Wallrich has resurrected this issue and is seemingly trying once again to tamper with the Legacy Code and create a new opening for entities like Buckeye to exploit. 

Why are Village employees so hell-bent on eviscerating the Legacy Code by removing the “street level commercial required” language when that appears to be the only thing that will guarantee that Tinley Park grows its commercial tax base downtown? If commercial space is not required, then it appears that downtown Tinley will just be stuffed full of more apartments and condos in a village that is drowning in apartments and condos. 

Wallrich, like her predecessor Connolly, appears to have an agenda that is not consistent with the wants and needs of the people of Tinley Park. 

At the most recent Village Board Meeting on 6/7/16, Trustees Brian Maher and TJ Grady were incredibly rude to the public, acting as a tag-team and berating citizens who came to address the board. Maher and Grady are routinely up-front and transparent about their contempt for the public and how much they hate the fact that citizens now attend the board meetings and grill the trustees on what they are doing to the town. Grady has even been caught calling a member of the public a foul slur during the middle of a meeting. It’s clear Maher and Grady wants things to go back to how they used to be when the trustees could do as they pleased without the public paying attention to what they were up to. 

Many suspect that Tinley Park’s Village trustees, particularly those like Maher and Grady who ran on the “Team Tinley” political slate with Mayor David Seaman in past elections, want to sell out the best interests of the town to enrich developers who do not want to provide what downtown Tinley Park really needs (but instead just want to make a quick buck off tax credit schemes to slap together ugly apartments or condos that there is no market demand for). It is a good question why trustees like Maher and Grady are so consistently hostile towards the public…and why Village employees like Wallrich are so obsessed with stripping the “street level commercial required” wording out of the Legacy Code. 

Tinley Park is at a real crossroads. The “Team Tinley” trustees and Mayor Seaman regularly show a hostile contempt for the wants and needs of village taxpayers. They appear to see the citizens of Tinley Park as serfs, with Maher/Grady/Seaman as the masters and overlords who want to push aside the people and strip away the protections that prevent out of state developers from looting the village and destroying any chance for Tinley Park to grow its commercial tax base. 

The people are demanding tax relief but the Village Board and Village Planning Department employees are completely deaf to the people’s concerns. It feels like a revolution is brewing, as Maher and Grady, in particular, keep stoking a powder keg every time they behave badly at board meetings, thumb their noses at the public, and insult the citizens who came before them to address and petition their elected officials and exercise their First Amendment rights. 

Current Planning Commission Board Members are:

Chairperson
Edward Matushek III — new

Members
Mark Moylan — original member (did not resign in bloodbath back in February)
Tim Stanton — original member (did not resign in bloodbath back in February)
Peter Kroner — new
Ken Shaw — new
Anthony Kanowski — new
Kevin Bergthold — new
Lori Kappel — new


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Bellwood Public Library Board Under Scrutiny for Closed Session Abuse –

Bellwood, Illinois – (ECWd) –

The Bellwood Public Library Board held a bizarre meeting on 6/8/16 where the three board members in attendance — Regina Greene, J.B. Carr, and Mary Clements — refused to allow a fourth board member, Dorothy Clark-Smith, to telephone into the meeting. Under the Open Meetings Act (OMA), when a majority of a quorum of board members are present and speaking about board business, that is a public meeting. The OMA also provides for board members to telephone into a meeting and thus be in attendance telephonically if the missing board member is sick, is working, or has some other valid reason for not being in attendance, provided that the majority of the public body allows the member to attend by other means. In this case, they refused that option.

Regina Greene pushed to not allow Smith (who often opposes Greene) to be allowed to attend by phone. An Open Meetings Act Request for Review has been filed with the Attorney General’s Office of the Public Access Counselor for Smith not being allowed to attend by phone. 

The Bellwood Public Library Board is an interesting case because the library itself is beloved and needed by the community and the staff at Bellwood take pride in treating the public well and providing valuable resources to them. Recently, however, Bellwood board members such as Regina Greene seem to have fallen under the influence of a mysterious older man who sits in the back of the room during the meetings and makes hand gestures at Greene, seemingly controlling her like she is his puppet. 

At the 6/8/16 meeting, this Mystery Man (whom some have identified as a politically-connected man from Maywood who also interferes with the Bellwood School Board and seems to have control over board members there too) at one point made hand signals for Regina Greene and the two other board members to get up and meet him outside. Greene, Carr, and Clements did as the Mystery Man instructed and witnesses reported the three of them meeting with the Mystery Man on the sidewalk by the parking lot in the back of the library. 

The four of them just got up, walked out of the meeting, and went outside to talk so that the public could not hear them. This, too, is the subject of a Request for Review because a majority of a quorum of board members meeting in secret — with a Mystery Man who controls them — so that the public cannot hear is a violation of the OMA. Greene, Carr, and Clements never returned to the board room and the meeting never resumed. They completely blew off the public once the Mystery Man summoned them to a secret meeting outside with him and they didn’t bother to ever come back. It was the most bizarre public meeting anyone in attendance had ever seen. 

Past agendas for Bellwood Public Library Board meetings show what appears to be an abuse of closed sessions during public meetings. At a special meeting held on 6/1/16, minutes show that the Bellwood Library Board went into closed session at 6:06pm and returned from closed session at 6:56pm. When the board returned from closed session, it immediately voted on hiring the Stuttley Group LLC as the board’s new attorney without having any deliberation in open session. 

It appears that the board held all the deliberation for hiring this firm in closed session, without the public being able to see or hear what was going on and no other bids being taken other than just hiring this Stuttley Group. Compare this to how the Village of Tinley Park handled hiring new village attorneys back in March and April of this year, when deliberation and debate about which firms to hire was held during open session and the public was allowed to weigh-in on the prudence of hiring a very expensive firm. After the public objected, that expensive firm withdrew from consideration. The Bellwood Library Board angered the community by doing all of its deliberations about the Stuttley Group’s hiring in a closed session. 

At the 5/11/16 Bellwood Public Library Board meeting, the Board was confronted on the shady handling of a bathroom remodeling project where it appeared that a consultant pushed forward by the Mystery Man who appears to control the Board was hired, also without any public deliberation or explanation for why an expensive consultant is needed to oversee a bathroom project. The community pushed back and demanded that the Board seek competitive bids from reputable companies for the construction projects. The Mystery Man signaled and pulled his strings and Regina Greene and the other Board members under his control appeared to do his bidding and insisted upon the “consultant” that the Mystery Man wants to be paid large sums for “consulting.”

The people of Bellwood are scared that this Mystery Man is engaging in a scheme involving kickbacks of some kind to plunder the Bellwood Public Library, using the board members he controls to achieve this. The Bellwood Public Library seems to have around $500,000 in cash reserves that it appears that the Mystery Man from Maywood may want to get his hands on bit by bit through “consulting” fees and no-bid contracts. The plotting and scheming to do this appear to be happening during the closed sessions that take place during the Bellwood Public Library Board meetings month after month, some of which last for over an hour. The public is not allowed to see or hear what is happening, but the Mystery Man is always lurking and may even be communicating with Regina Greene and other board members during those closed sessions. 
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Two Abrupt Resignations of Key Staff at Orland Park Public Library –

Orland Park, IL. (ECWd) –

Two key employees of the Orland Park Public Library have resigned abruptly with little explanation, less than a month after spending they engaged in for a trip to San Francisco was publicly questioned. Both employees also feature prominently in a new book released last month that details years’ of wasteful spending at this troubled public library in the southwest Chicago suburbs. 

Robin Wagner, the Library’s former Assistant Director, submitted a letter of resignation dated April 14th (for a final work day of June 1st). Jason Rock, the Library’s former Virtual Services Manager, appears to have notified Library Director Mary Weimar he was leaving on May 10th, with his resignation day being May 12th. 

On May 9th, the Safe Libraries website ran an article questioning the wisdom of sending Wagner and Rock all the way out to San Francisco for a conference that cost taxpayers $4,000+ (not including the payroll expense of having two high-ranking staffers traveling for three days). At the time, Safe Libraries criticized the spending and asked if Library staff could have found similar training online as webinars or in the Chicago area…or if the Library could have saved money by sending one, instead of both, of these staffers to San Francisco on the public’s dime.  

The book SHUT UP! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment by Megan Fox and Kevin DuJan has several chapters devoted to spending abuse at the Orland Park Public Library, including board members and other Library officials forcing taxpayers to pay for what essentially seem to be “free” vacations, as the Library representatives who take these lavish trips never seem to return to the Library with any proof they learned anything or any presentations they give to show that the conference spending was worthwhile in any way. 

Since public tax dollars should only be spent in ways that benefit the public, it is valid to question whether employees need to travel on airplanes and stay in hotels and be fed with tax money if they are not returning to the public facility with learnings and presentations to other employees that make all that public spending benefit the public. Libraries routinely claim they need more money and want to raise tax levies, but if they are spending tax dollars on “free” trips for employees and not books and other library resources for the public, then people should question whether tax levy increases for public libraries are wise. 

Wagner and Rock were both also criticized in SHUT UP! for their involvement in other controversial matters, including Wagner acting as FOIA compliance officer in matters that resulted in litigation that the Library lost and Rock making social media postings that caused concern about how he viewed his role as a manager at the Library. 

Since Wagner and Rock took the $4,000+ trip to San Francisco in March 2016 and they both soon after decided to leave the Orland Park Public Library, the public should question whether spending so much money on employee conference travel is prudent. If Wagner and Rock were thinking of leaving the OPPL in May, it seems they should have in all fairness to the public canceled the March San Francisco trip or allowed other employees who planned on continuing to work at the OPPL beyond May to go in their places. 

If there was already an argument that public money was not well spent on sending this pair to San Francisco for three days, then the fact that neither of them work at the OPPL any longer just two months after their expensive trip calls into question the wisdom of approving such lavish travel plans in the first place. Whatever they learned in San Francisco — if anything — was not only not passed on to any other employees but now neither of the two conference attendees are still on staff at the OPPL. 

That’s more than $4,000 spent without any public benefit to show for it. Can the public afford to keep funding travel expenses like this for employees who appear to use such trips as last hurrahs before quitting their jobs? 
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Tinley Park’s Motion to Dismiss Lawsuit by Developer Buckeye Community Hope Foundation

Tinley Park, IL. (ECWd) –

On 5/31/16, the Village of Tinley Park, through its attorneys at Kozacky Wentzel McGrath, filed a robust motion to dismiss all counts of what we argue is a SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) lawsuit filed against the Village and several individual Board members by the Buckeye Community Hope Foundation (an Ohio-based developer whose business model is gobbling up lucrative tax credits by way of low-income housing projects). We have been covering this controversy since it broke in February 2016

From the Motion:

This motion to dismiss appears devastating, as it claims Buckeye’s lawsuit to be poorly pled and without basis in law. It feels like a SLAPP (strategic litigation against public participation) because much of the 53-pages of the lawsuit Buckeye filed is focused on smearing the character of the residents of Tinley Park and discouraging participation by the public in criticism of their government. Buckeye aggressively played the race card and tried to bully Tinley Park with this lawsuit, when in fact the root of the controversy involves the simple fact that the tax-credit scheme Buckeye hoped to profit from did not meet the “street level commercial required” specification for the plot of land at 183rd & Oak Park Avenue (known locally as “Stuckly’s Corner”) where Buckeye has insisted on building housing that did not possess street level commercial space as required by the Legacy Code zoning ordinance. 

Last month, the Village of Tinley Park admitted that its zoning code for the “Legacy District” (comprising Stuckly’s Corner and the rest of the Oak Park Avenue corridor in downtown Tinley) has always required commercial development at street level. In late 2015, controversy was created when Village employees tampered with the zoning code improperly to remove the commercial requirement from the zoning. The Village has recognized that this tampering was void and that the zoning code has never provided for anything but street level commercial development being required on Oak Park Avenue. A lawsuit filed against the Village by citizens of Tinley Park alleged that Village employees tampered with the code to help Buckeye squeak their tax-credit scheme through, but that lawsuit was dismissed as judicially moot on 5/19/16 when the Village admitted that the zoning code was never legally changed by the employees and that the governing code for the Oak Park Avenue corridor has always been “street level commercial required.” Thus, Buckeye has never submitted a proposal to the Planning Department in Tinley Park that adhered to the legal zoning code. 

A key point in the motion to dismiss is the fact that the Village never denied Buckeye’s project, as the proposal was sent back to the Planning Department for review once the controversy surrounding the zoning code tampering was brought to light in February. The Plan Commission was well within its legal rights to do that, as there were questions about the compliance of the project with the zoning code. Currently, Sheriff Tom Dart’s office is investigating that code tampering to determine if any Village employees engaged in criminal wrongdoing in furtherance of Buckeye’s interests with the tampering scheme. Because the Village never denied Buckeye’s proposal, the recently filed motion to dismiss Buckeye’s lawsuit against the Village concludes that Buckeye’s case is not “ripe” and cannot be heard in federal court. 

For Buckeye to be able to successfully sue the Village, it would first have to have a ripe injury to plead in federal court. Case law establishes that a developer cannot sue a municipality over a development project that has not actually been denied; federal law does not provide for suing over a hypothetical denial while a project is still being considered. In Buckeye’s case, no final determination was made on the project and thus this matter is not ripe under the law. 

Buckeye also attempted to bully the Village buy suing it under the federal Fair Housing Act, but Buckeye did not meet the requirements of establishing that any discrimination was engaged in related to a handicap or disability (which are requirements of being able to sue under the FHA). Buckeye’s poorly-written pleading never once alleged the sort of discrimination that the FHA would preclude or provide remedy for. 

Another wild and unsupported claim Buckeye made was suing for “breach of contract” and “tortious interference” related to Buckeye’s attempted purchase of the land at Stuckly’s Corner. That land is owned by a man named Greg Iser, who has a contract pending with Buckeye for sale of the land that Buckeye appears to have made contingent on approval of the tax-credit scheme it wants to engage in at the site. But, Buckeye’s pleading never attempts to explain how the Village interfered with any such land sale and Buckeye never provided any substantive evidence to meet the requirements of bringing such complaints against the Village. The Village was never party to any real estate transactions and has no liability in any dealings between Buckeye and Iser. 

Buckeye named the Village Board and Plan Commission as defendants when those two entities are not even legally allowed to be named as defendants, as they are neither individuals nor corporations and are sub-units of the Village itself. This is more evidence of how poorly-written Buckeye’s pleading was. 

Two Village trustees were also sued as individuals for being moderators of a Facebook page that Buckeye doesn’t like. The law does not allow moderators of a social media page to be sued for anything third parties post or share on the page, according to the Communication Decency Act. A person can only be sued for what he or she individually publishes him or herself and cannot be responsible for anything third parties post. This part of the lawsuit had a strong SLAPP vibe to it because Buckeye appears to be trying to silence further criticism of its development (or similar developments) by intimidating the public into not speaking out and exercising their First Amendment rights (for fear of some entity like Buckeye later suing them over it). 

Buckeye should be ashamed of itself for targeting specific individuals in the community for smearing and intimidation by name-dropping them in the lawsuit, for the apparent purpose of frightening them and chilling their protected activities in protesting the Village’s actions in this controversy and petitioning elected officials for change and redress of grievances. Buckeye used the lawsuit to take punches at people on the ground in Tinley Park it doesn’t like, which is an immature abuse of our court system to retaliate against leaders of a protest movement. 

To gain attention for its lawsuit and solicit favorable media coverage, Buckeye seems to have ham-handedly played the worn-out race card by suing the Village under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This was a disgusting and repulsive action taken by Buckeye that should be condemned loudly in all corners of the public square. It is repugnant for a developer such as Buckeye to claim that any opposition to its tax-credit scheme is racist and to attempt to smear the good people of Tinley Park as racists for protesting against an illegal zoning code change and other tampering done by Village employees that seemed to grease the wheels for a sketchy out of state developer. Any decent person must call Buckeye out for what it is: a shameless (and shameful) race-baiter, as race had nothing to do with this controversy. Sadly, there are still disreputable people in our world who believe that falsely accusing others of racism is the ticket to getting whatever they want in life. This must not stand. False accusations of racism should never be allowed to be used as weapons by a bully such as Buckeye. 

As a matter of law, Buckeye is barred from making such racial accusations because as a corporation Buckeye has no race (and thus can’t allege violations of the 1964 Civil Rights Act). Prudential limitation applies, meaning that Buckeye cannot sue over alleged discrimination against third parties, particularly when Buckeye never identified any third parties who were being discriminated against in this controversy involving the illegal tampering with a zoning code. Again, since Buckeye’s project was never actually denied, Buckeye is able to show no injury to anyone, let alone third parties. And prudential limitation means that Buckeye cannot successfully sue the Village on the basis of hypothetical injury to third parties. 

Buckeye filed a flashy, lengthy, 53-page public relations stunt which appeared less intended as a successful lawsuit and instead designed as a punch to the face of the people of Tinley Park. Like all SLAPPs, the Lawsuit didn’t seem intended to succeed or survive a motion to dismiss but instead looks like a retaliatory punch meant to punish the citizens of Tinley Park for engaging in the political process and opposing Buckeye’s tax-credit scheme and the tampering done to the zoning code by Village officials (who are both no longer working for the Village as a direct result of their roles in that tampering). Buckeye’s suit contained vile smears against the character of a loving and welcoming community that, prior to the zoning code controversy, was best known for its generosity and citizenship in taking in refugees from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. As we all recall, Tinley Park led the way by opening its hearts, organizing convoys of relief supplies, and housing evacuees of Katrina. For Buckeye to now call this generous and caring community “racist” for the purposes of PR strategy and bullying to save its tax-credit scheme is insulting and disgusting. 

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