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April 15, 2024

Village of Orland Park Public Employees Squander $2,000+ on Private Party for Themselves

By KDuJan

On January 19, 2018

Village Manager Joe LaMargo, dancing at a previous year’s Village of Orland Park public employee “holiday party.”


The Village of Orland Park is something of a modern-day Peyton Place for watchdogs and observers of bad behavior by public employees: there is always something afoot, especially when it comes to wasting public funds on food and merriment for public employees. This time, the Village has been caught shelling out more than $2,000 for a catered private party for its Village employees…not long after the Village claimed it had to cancel special events such as the local farmers’ market, movies in the park, and Chili Cook-off because the Village is experiencing diminished commercial revenue and faces a budget shortfall. So special events that the public enjoyed have been canceled due to lack of funds…but there was still money to burn for Village employees to throw themselves a $2,000+ party in December.

This presents a good opportunity for residents of all communities to question the value or sense of public bodies continuing to throw themselves “holiday parties,” particularly when units of local government complain about tight budgets and insist they need to eliminate events or programs that the public enjoys. If cuts to the budget are needed, the very first thing to go should be private parties for public employees. Before a single farmers’ market or movie in the park is canceled, all parties that are thrown exclusively for public employees should be eliminated. After all, the public’s money is being used to foot the bill so that money should only be going to events that the public can actually enjoy.

Many decades ago, well-intentioned public officials began the tradition of holding Christmas parties for public employees, back in the days when these events could actually be called “Christmas parties.” This followed the example of private companies, which also held office Christmas parties for their own employees. These were annual events where people would gather and eat together (and drink) and celebrate Christmas cheer with their work colleagues as a parallel to the Christmas celebrations these people would have with their own families. Due to the epidemic of Political Correctness, most public entities have long-since stopped calling these events “Christmas parties” and now call them generic “holiday parties” (so as not to potentially offend the small minority of people who would be upset by the word “Christmas”). They eliminated the “Christmas” from these events but refused to give up the “free” food and time away from their desks that these parties involve.

This would be like hosting an annual Super Bowl party at your house for many years where you invite all your friends and neighbors over for beer and food and football-themed good times…but then decided at some point to ban anything football-related and instead call it a “January or February party.” What’s the point of even doing the party any more if you ban the thing that started your party’s tradition in the first place?

Shouldn’t we as a society question whether it makes sense to continue the “free” food and wasted work hours for public employees if these events are decidedly no longer “Christmas parties”? Only a grinch would decry a Christmas party…but a generic “holiday party” is another matter altogether. Most public employees get double the holiday pay of private workers. In Orland Park, for instance, public employees are given Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day off work as paid holidays; this is in addition to Village employees also receiving numerous other federal, state, and local holidays off (with pay!) throughout the year when private workers are not afforded all of those same paid days off.

Shouldn’t all of those extra days of paid “holidays” suffice and preclude the need to spend $2,000 in taxpayer funds on a “holiday party” (for the public employees who already received FOUR PAID DAYS OFF in December/January)?

Invoices and receipts show that the Village of Orland Park ordered more than 30 pounds of Italian beef and 6 large trays of something called “chicken nuccio” with brushetta, salad, potatoes, and heaps of sugary sweet desserts to gorge public employees on Friday, December 8th. All of these public employees remained on the clock during the “holiday party,” collecting their generous salaries (with platinum-plated benefits) while they were stuffing their faces with the “free” food (that the public paid for). Taxpayers were not invited to this gluttonous event but were stuck with the stomach-turning bill.

Meanwhile, special events that families cherished attending in Orland Park were canceled because the Village claims it has run out of money and can no longer afford to host those farmers markets and movies in the park and other open-to-the-public happenings. Yet there seems to forever be enough money to pay for public employees to be on the clock and strapping on a $2,000+ feedbag. Why is that okay?

This kind of thing is probably happening in every locality around Illinois and it will continue to happen as long as the public stays incurious and remains complacent about it. FOIA your local government’s “holiday party” spending and see how much taxpayer money was wasted in December where you live. When will enough be enough?

2017 Orland Park Holiday Party Invoices

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  • Dora Joe
    Posted at 15:51h, 19 January

    Your logic is very persuasive, but I was wondering if there is a hard and fast “rule” or law that prohibits the use of public money for parties like this? In my community, unless you can say they actually broke a law, they don’t listen much.

    • Mitch
      Posted at 20:08h, 19 January

      He’s just mad he wasn’t invited.

      • Joan Sims
        Posted at 11:42h, 20 January

        He sounds like a real party pooper and Bah humbug. . The company I used to work for canceled our annual party this year and it was heartbraking. Wben you work hard all year it is a nice reward and morale builder. A happy worker is a productive worker. Anyone in management knows that.
        Id rather spend the money thsn have disgruntled crabby employees. If the ciost bothers everybody than do a potluck next time but dont cancel a much needed perk to hard working people. Lighten up people. Life is short. Spread some jjoy.

        • jmkraft
          Posted at 11:48h, 20 January

          There is a difference between public employment paid with tax dollars, and private employment. I doubt the writer would have written this piece if it was a private employer, or even a public employer with no tax dollars being used.

    • Kirk Allen
      Posted at 09:58h, 20 January

      The constitution outlines public funds shall be used ONLY for public purpose. Hard to claim there is a public purpose in this party that the public was not invited to!

      • Dora Joe
        Posted at 11:55h, 30 January

        Kirk Allen, that explanation makes good sense. Thank you.

  • Thomas Wiczek
    Posted at 19:25h, 19 January

    How many employees were at event? Divide that number into the bill. Let’s see the cost. At least event utilized a local small business. Did these thousandaires really burden us? Nice to see we appreciate their hard work for the year. As a resident, voter, & all mighty tax payer this did not put me in the poor house. I use Orland Park services & lived here over 20 years. If you are that burdened by this you need to reassess your spending habits. I wouldn’t want this author as my boss. Ebenezer.

  • Thomas Wiczek
    Posted at 19:48h, 19 January

    $15-$16 a person. 300 headcount divided into bill.

  • Mitch
    Posted at 20:07h, 19 January

    How wonderful that public employees celebrated Christmas!

  • Thomas Wiczek
    Posted at 09:21h, 20 January

    Now now. It is a Holiday Party. More professional, diplomatic, & inclusive. No one knows if the person in front of you celebrates the holiday. Etiquette & proper protocol is courtesy & essential. Manners make good citizens & communities.

    No one judges my holiday party. Why should I judge theirs. For the record I spent more on my folks than they did. Remember folks. The Golden rule. It’s in all good books of all cultures.

  • Scott Fridrych
    Posted at 09:27h, 20 January

    Kevin duJan, this column is ridiculous. The employees of the village should not be allowed to have a holiday party? I’m a resident of Orland Park and I couldn’t be happier that my tax dollars were spent on a holiday celebration to our village employees after a year of hard work. If you’ve ever managed a workforce, you’d understand that it is beneficial to have your employees be able unwind and spend some quality “non-working” time with one another. This helps boost morale and build comradirie that eventually leads to a more efficient and better commicating staff. I’m sorry that the village has had to cancel certain events, but I find it very hard to believe that it’s due to a $2000 holiday party. I’m assuming our municipality has budgets associated with each of these events, including the Christmas Party. If the event can’t support itself then that event should be evaluated to see how it could be run more cost effectively. You don’t cannibalize positive events for your employees because other events can’t survive. I’d assume that if your furnace broke down or you had some other unexpected expense, you wouldn’t cancel your child’s birthday party to fund the repairs, would you?

    Thank you village of Orland Park employees. We live in a great municipality that has many great events and opportunities that most towns do not. Keep up the great work. I hope that you had a great holiday party and thank you for supporting local business.

    Scott Fridrych

    • Kirk Allen
      Posted at 09:57h, 20 January

      Scott, how do you get around the fact that party has no public purpose? Public funds are to be used for public purpose and a Holiday Party, where the public is not allowed to participate, serves no public purpose. Clearly, you have put your personal feelings in front of statutory restrictions. Can you produce a single law or case law that supports your position?

      • Scott Fridrych
        Posted at 12:05h, 20 January

        The public purpose is to show appreciation and recognize the hard work of our village employees. Appreciated and happy employees produce far better results than unhappy, unappreciated ones. Better performance from your village staff sounds like it would benefit the public purpose.

        • Kirk Allen
          Posted at 12:12h, 20 January

          That is not a “PUBLIC” purpose. When it only benefits a select group of employees and excludes the public, that is the problem. I don’t question that making them happy makes them more productive, in most cases. I question the fact the law does not permit this type of spending.

    • Thomas Wiczek
      Posted at 10:35h, 20 January

      Amen brother.

  • Thomas Wiczek
    Posted at 10:34h, 20 January

    Sooooooo….. Looking at a population of our town per census facts. 58,862 divided by $2,000.00 that equals 4 cents if I round up to escalate things in typical fashion.

    4 cents is our tax payer burden.

    I have a solution for all concerned citizens. Go open your vacuum cleaner, feel under your car seat, check your washing machine/ dryer, or go through your couch I think I found you more money than you contributed to this party. Celebrate!!!!!!!! You survived without these lost funds. What’s the difference.

    Employee relations are a necessity. It’s the cornerstone of good run businesses & organizations. Shaming their moment is unbecoming.

    Thank you your appreciated employees of Orland Park.

    • Kirk Allen
      Posted at 10:55h, 20 January

      Your example proves my point. It’s not about how much was spent. It was about the fact the law does not allow it to be spent. Are you now going to take the position that crimes are only a crime if it’s over a certain dollar figure?

      • Scott Fridrych
        Posted at 12:00h, 20 January

        What law are you talking about? We need a law to have a Christmas Party. Do we need a law for every intangible that is afforded to different areas of government? I’m struggling to find in the constitution where the taxpayers are required to pay for Camp David, yet we allow our president to vacation there on the nation’s dime. As I stated prior, I’m sure this party was budgeted for and not paid for out of a petty cash box. Therefore the budget is reviewed and approved by the village board in a meeting which the village residents can attend and voice their opinions. When you reply, please add the document or legislation where I can find the law against the Village of Orland Park employees having a Christmas Party.

        • Kirk Allen
          Posted at 12:10h, 20 January

          We are a Dillons Rule state. They only have the POWER GIVEN. If the law is silent, they cant do it. A party to make them feel good is not a public purpose. It may make them happy but that is not the standard that is to be applied. Dont confuse Federal laws with State, although I agree the citizens should not be paying for public officials vacations. You say you are sure about the budget so I assume you have that in your hands or are you assuming? Approval of illegal spending does not make it legal.

  • Kathleen Williams
    Posted at 11:18h, 20 January

    Kevin duJan,
    You’ve got 2 essays here that you sloppily combined into a confused gripe. What’s your point? Are you concerned about the misappropriation of taxpayers’ money, or are you mad because not everybody celebrates Christmas and there’s a separation of church and state in the United States?
    You might want to separate your complaints so each can be judged on its own merits.

    • Kirk Allen
      Posted at 11:34h, 20 January

      There is no such thing as a Separation of Church and State in our US laws or our Constitution. Time to go back to school!

  • Rena
    Posted at 15:37h, 20 January

    Well, I agree $2,000 is a bit much for any office party $1,000 should’ve been the cut off. However, to cut down the fuss from the disgruntled public the employees should all bring something by either preparing it or purchasing (for the guys who don’t cook) it and have one or two persons bring the drinks. Trust me it works out better that way. To the public know this -it takes more than $2,000 to have those movies in the park or those farmers’ markets. Also, one last thing those employees enjoying themselves on your dime as you say are the public as well. So they are spending not just your money but theirs as well. Becsuse they are the public once they step outside that building. Well, maybe this year they all can go out to a nice restaurant and everyone can contribute. Just a thought.

  • Sherry Chicago
    Posted at 18:00h, 20 January

    Let the Koch Bros. pay for the party. They’re very rich. $2K is nothing to them.

  • Gerry
    Posted at 09:21h, 21 January

    They want a party, then let them pay for it out of their own checks. I don’t have the government coming to my door offering to pay for my Christmas party, why should I pay for their “holiday” party.

  • Kevin duJan
    Posted at 21:07h, 21 January

    In private companies, the CEO or owner of the company often pays for parties for employees or foots the bill and takes everyone out to dinner in December. That is the choice of the CEO and other company owners and it’s a nice thing to do…that they pay for with their own money. Why can’t the Mayor of Orland Park or the Village Manager and Police Chief and other VERY HIGHLY PAID public officials foot the bill for Orland Park’s “holiday party”? Why does the public need to pay for this? Why can’t the Village Trustees each chip in $500 a piece to foot the bill? If they want to have a party just for the public employees, then why can’t the Village leaders chip in personally and pay for it?

    Or why can’t they have a potluck and everyone bring something?

    Or why can’t they have the party be open to the public and allow needy families and veterans and the elderly to attend?

    If they are spending the public’s money, then the public should be able to attend. If they want to have a private party just for themselves then they need to pay for it themselves, bring their own food like a potluck, or have the Mayor and Village Manager and Police Chief and others use some of their salaries to chip in and pay for this.

  • Eric
    Posted at 10:47h, 22 January

    The lack of critical thinking in these comments is shocking. The law is the law; they can’t spend any money for private benefits.

    The argument that it was only $2000 doesn’t even make sense. Would it make you mad if it was $58,000 or a dollar per resident?

  • Pete
    Posted at 08:58h, 25 January

    Property Taxes in Orland Park are obscenely high. As high as $30,000 in Silo Ridge. Families are losing their homes due to overtaxation and some of you are defending spending your money so public employees can stuff their faces at a “Holiday” party? WTF is wrong with you? If they’ve got money to burn they need to LOWER PROPERTY TAXES. None of this partying benefits the public at all. Whoever is defending this probably works for OP village. It’s laughable to read the defense of such indefensible behavior. Responsible govt. conserves and saves. Tossing away $2000 on canapés and meatballs is stupidity, waste and graft. Anyone who thinks this is okay should have their right to vote revoked.