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Steve Balich Conservative Activist




I wanted to break my weekly update into two parts.  This part is about the “ethical standard of conduct” ordinance. The following update will be about the rest of the meeting which will be much shorter but equally enlightening and entertaining.
 
All of the italics are my editorial comments that were not said at the board meeting as I felt that responding to baseless accusations was a waste of my time in that forum.
 
I asked every Trustee if they were made aware of the ordinance before it was placed on the agenda on December 14th for the December 17th meeting.  None of them were.  I then stated that it was my understanding that someone had been working on this since September and Joe Lamargo stated that not within the Village Manager’s office. I read the email where the Village Attorney said they started working on it from the Village Manager’s Office in September.  Trustee Ruzich said she started on this a month ago then later said about 2 months ago.  She also stated that this was always intended for discussion.  To put it nicely, that is a stretch.  We put discussion items on the agenda frequently and they say DISCUSSION.  This was an ordinance that was motioned for a vote with literally no advance discussion-submitted on a Friday for a vote on Monday. 
 
I also asked how much this cost to draft and neither the Village Manager or the Attorney knew the answer.
 
According to Trustee Carroll, “we have seen in the last year and a half behavior that has transcended all norms of ethical behavior in the past”, and that our current ordinance does not address the “ethical behavior we have seen”.
 
He stated that after I was elected, before I took office, I requested from staff a vendor list that I used to request donations from all of our vendors.  That I used the vendor list to solicit donations.  The vendor list is public information, so that’s not an ethics violation.  I just looked back at my mailing list from that event, and I used my list, plus the recent donors to the former Mayor as people tend to want to support the current mayor.  I did not use the vendor list for this mailing. I did look at it to see who I knew. What is the ethics violation here?
 
He then stated that one of the vendors was Comcast who donated to me.  They did and it was disclosed as required by law ($1000, on 7/7/2017 – well after my fundraiser).  He then takes the leap that I then tried to get the board to take action on behalf of Comcast that would have cost the Village hundreds if not millions of dollars.  I did not try to get the board to take action but instead put an agenda item in November FOR DISCUSSION NOT FOR VOTE, our franchise agreement with Comcast which expired in 2003, which understandably Comcast would like to get signed.  The board discussed and decided to continue with no agreement in place.  Again, what is the ethics violation here?
 
He then stated that I received another donation from Horton Insurance (also disclosed 10/27/17 for $1,000).  Then he stated that I tried to get them a no bid contract. In fact, I am the person that suggested to go out for bid and the previous Finance Chair agreed – I did this, as much as I like Horton and have been their customer for 15 years. I also told Glenn Horton as much and told him that I have done the same with my business from time to time. He said that he understood and it’s a normal part of doing business.
 
He also stated that my consulting business does business with Horton.  Yes, we do.  Also, I have been buying insurance from them with each of my 3 business entities since they opened.  Trustee Carroll knows this because I disclosed this and I abstain from Horton votes.  Trustee Carroll is attacking a well-known 3rd generation Orland Park business that was here before he was and damaging their reputation.  This is unacceptable.  Horton insurance has been the Village’s insurance company since well before I ever arrived and does a good job for us.  Additionally, they supported the previous Mayor with donations as well.  They also support Orland Park at every turn, whenever we ask.  To use an outstanding Orland Park company to try to score political points is unacceptable.  That’s the kind of action that damages a Village.  On behalf of the Village, I apologize to Glenn Horton and Horton insurance for our Trustee’s actions.
 
Finally, he stated that conduct, like engaging in political activity under the color of my office by circulating petitions at a Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting event as the Mayor of Orland Park is somehow unethical. Everything I do, I am the Mayor of Orland Park.  This activity is prohibited at Village of Orland Park facilities not at Orland Park Chamber events (of which I am a Chamber member).  By the way I did get 4 signatures at a Chamber event, all from people I know well.
 
Trustee Carroll stated that this is the type of activity that requires this ordinance. Disclosing what is required, abstaining from votes, etc. is exactly what we should expect and exactly what I did.   I also recused myself from the Electoral Board and I quit doing business with the Village of Orland Park (my 2nd biggest customer).   Trustee Carroll wants to use this ordinance to punish these acts which were perfectly ethical under one of the new “catch-all” standards like Perception.  GET USED TO THIS AS FOR THE NEXT 3 MONTHS HE WILL BE THE ATTACK DOG SINCE HE IS NOT RUNNING FOR OFFICE AND HAS NOTHING TO LOSE BY ATTACKING FOR MY SLATE’S OPPONENTS.
 
I agree with what Trustee Fenton that “15 pages of legalism may suit all the legal beagles up here… the average person isn’t going to understand half of this and if you were out and about and somebody said could I offer you a piece of bread or something, is somebody standing behind me going to come in and say that Trustee Fenton accepted a piece of bread and now she’s going to that establishment … We don’t want 50 million claims because $1,500 is nothing for an attorney.”
 
To Summarize
Who benefits from this ordinance?  Just so we are clear, the Village Manager hires the Village Attorney who writes an ordinance at significant cost that gives him more power and just by coincidence will lead to more fees for the Village Attorney.  Trustee Ruzich who put this forward because as an attorney she will not be subject to the disclosure requirements in this document, but those that run against her will.  
The process by which this ended up in front of us is even more appalling.  Done in secret with the Village attorney, Trustee Ruzich and the Village Manager.  
What was the cost to the taxpayers?
Most importantly however, this is an incredibly dangerous piece of legislation that has a few goals:To silence political speech and political opponents under the guise of ethics. To require disclosures that discourage anyone except those protected by client privilege (attorneys and doctors) and government employees from runningTo expand the power of the Village Manager and reduce the power of elected officials – thereby reducing the power of the citizens of Orland ParkTo punish political opponents and tie them up in litigation 
I fought to defend the Constitution of the United States and to protect free speech, including speech that I don’t agree with.  The answer to speech you don’t like is not:Safe spacesIndependent CounselsOrdinances that curtail speech under the guise of ethicsThe answer to speech you don’t like is more speech!
I am more than happy to have a discussion on ethics and filling any gaps we may have in the current laws and our current ethics ordinance.  This discussion should start with a couple of questions:Is there a demonstrated ethics problem that we are trying to solve?What is that problem?It should also be governed by a couple of overarching conceptsChanges should be ConstitutionalChanges should be the minimum needed to solve the problem so that we don’t over reachAdditionally, these discussions should be held in open, public meetings where the public gets input.



Part two of the update from Monday’s Board meeting features Trustee Carroll spending his time attacking me.  Clearly that is his job for his remaining time on the board. 
 
I pulled two items off of the consent agenda.  The first was an $805,000 proposal from CTS for HVAC upgrades.  They are our energy service provider, so it was not bid.  I expressed my concern about a proposal of this size being no-bid, particularly with this bidder who has had a difficult time providing information that I asked for in the past.  Our staff indicated that it came in under their expectations.  I accepted that answer and voted to approve.   
 
The second was a main pumping station equipment replacement for $1.6 million.  I took it off consent because we received only one bid which is quite concerning.  I have to compliment staff for doing a lot to try to get more bids, but they weren’t successful.  I asked questions regarding this and pointed that we should do more to make sure that we get multiple bids in the future because one bid for something of this size is not enough.  Trustee Carroll decided to scold me for taking this off of consent because the answers to a lot of my questions were in the packet and said that “I should take the time to prepare”.  I did prepare, but it is my job as Mayor on behalf of the taxpayers to take things off the consent agenda from time to time and ask questions for the public record.  Other Trustees joined in to ask about getting more competitive bids.  Trustee Carroll did not, and clearly does not care about having competitive bids.  Seems like he just doesn’t think I should be able to ask a question.  Additionally, a project of this size should be briefed to the Mayor’s office and it was not.  In fact, I usually only hear about development projects.   I voted to approve this as well, because if we don’t do it now, we would need to wait until next year due to the lead time for the parts.  That would be untenable at the main pumping station.   
 
We then talked about leasing.  There were several concerns raised by board members and myself about the analysis.  We had to make a decision on 10 police cars so we decided to purchase those as we always have in the past and to revisit leasing.
 
Finally, we came to board comments. First it was Trustee Gira’s, who also is not running for re-election, time to attack – I guess we all know the playbook.  She “corrected” the record and stated that the when the TIF was complete we would have a profit of $6.8M.  This was supposedly to correct my statement, during the ethics ordinance discussion, that we lost approximately $7 Million on 9750 which is accurate, and that the comment that if future property taxes were included through the life of the TIF we make approximately $7 million, which is also accurate.  My point was who is going to judge what is misleading and what is accurate?  Obviously, she either has trouble with the English language or with math.  Or maybe, she is just upset that I pointed out that from a real estate owner perspective we lost $7 million (who factors in future property taxes when calculating the success of a real estate project? – only the government). 
 
She then when on to state that everyone knew that the ethics ordinance was not going to be voted on at the board meeting.  Well I didn’t, but we all know I don’t matter to this board.   If it was supposed to be a discussion item, it would have been labeled DISCUSSION.   She also stated, that “Do we need an ethics statement?  Absolutely. If you have a business in town, and you are a consultant, and you are consulting with a business that does business with the Village, be serious, of course we need to have that disclosed.  And who gets to judge, the public gets to judge, that simple.” 
 
Where do I start?
 
So clearly this ordinance is aimed at business owners in town who are consultants.  The truth will set you free!  I am a business owner and a consultant, this is not new.  Also, I have disclosed that one of my clients does work for the Village.  I abstain from votes that are related to them.  So, again I ask, where are the gaps in our ethics ordinance?   I agree that the people should judge.  They do so at the ballot box.  This ordinance will make an independent counsel the judge.  One thing is good.  At least Trustee Gira knows when she should retire, because it is hard for me to understand why she is so indignant.
 
Then Trustee Carroll had another chance to attack.  “I want to harp on the fact that we had another series of illegal robo-calls … this has been going on for a year and a half now … the one consistent truth we have seen through these 10 or 12 robo-calls has been that these calls attack staff, and I don’t know what political neophyte (directing that comment at me) would attack staff … so why a politician or political candidate would attack our staff (directing at me again) … they attack staff or 6 people … 6 trustees.  The one consistent truth is that not one of these robo-calls has attacked the Mayor.  Well it doesn’t take too many brain cells to rub together to figure out who directly is behind these robo calls … but Mr. Mayor it’s clearly time if you have an idea who is doing this … if someone who is close to you, I am not saying it is you, it’s high time that you renounce these calls and tell that you think are making them that they need to stop … you’ve got to stop”.
 
I told Trustee Carroll, on the board floor, that accusing me and then saying that you’re not accusing me doesn’t work.  Clearly he is accusing me – falsely.   First off, he is factually incorrect – I know that is a shock!  I was the target of two of the robocalls as they targeted those who voted for video gaming and they targeted an unnamed elected official who plays golf at Crystal Tree (me).  Also, I have renounced these several times and will continue to do so.  The one person I know that does robo-calls for a living is in fact investigating on my behalf to figure out who is doing them.  
 
I will proudly wear the title political neophyte, as I am not a career politician.  However, you would have to be a political idiot to make these calls.  I am a lot of things but clearly, I am not a political idiot.  I think a 54.5 to 45.5 (6,954 to 5,825) vote margin in the last election proves that.
 
What do we know, is that every time a robo-call was made, I was subsequently accused on the board floor.  The first two times, it was Charles McShane (who is running for the library board and had petitions circulated by former Mayor McLaughlin).  The next time it was the former Mayor himself.  Subsequently it has been Trustee Carroll (3 or 4 other times).  I think it is 6 or 7 calls now, not 10 or 12.  Given the political machine influence, I could just as easily, and more believably say that these calls are being made by my opponents so that they can blame me and fire up their base.  When you have no facts to attack on, what do you do – make something up – Chicago politics 101.  However, I have no proof of this and have not made this accusation because that would be unfair. 

Regarding the robo-calls, I agree with Trustee Carroll that they are illegal and need to stop.  They are unhelpful, hurtful, unacceptable and largely untrue (including all of the personal attacks on the Village Manager and Assistant Village Manager)!  I personally have enlisted the help of the private sector to investigate these calls and have asked our Police Chief to see if there is anything we can do to investigate them.  If you did receive a call and saved the phone number that it came from, please send the number to me as it will help the private investigation.
 
Expect to see more of this type of garbage during this election cycle.  It’s typical of machine politics.  Clearly, it is an important upcoming election.

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