The Monday night board meeting was an exciting moment for the Village of Orland Park, as well as the three new Trustees and their families, as they were sworn in to the Board of Trustees. Cindy Nelson Katsenes became the first female Mayor Pro-Tem in Orland Park History. Additionally, several items were on the agenda – I will hit the highlights which were many.
Two new members of the planning commission were appointed by a vote of 4 (Pekau, Milani, Healy and Katsenes) to 3 (Dodge, Fenton, Calandriello) for each new member. Trustee Dodge said he was voting against one of them due to the nomination timing and the other because he was unhappy about the nomination process. State law covers the process. The Mayor appoints, the board approves. It’s that simple. Planning commission members terms are for one year. The two members being replaced had terms that expired before I became Mayor. However, the previous board believed that my predecessor’s appointments were for life and would not allow me to make any replacements (only fill vacancies). I tried unsuccessfully to replace both of these members two years ago. Rather than continuing to fight, I patiently waited to make the replacements which we did on Monday night.
The next major issue was for road improvements. We expanded the contract for this year’s road program by $3.8 million that we will fund with a line of credit at 2% interest. Though I am generally against more debt this is one of the cases where it makes sense. This is a good use of debt as it saves us money in the long run. We were slated to get asphalt overlays on 1.5 subdivisions on top of some complete road reconstruction. This additional spending will allow 9.5 additional subdivisions to be completed this year and advance our road program by at least 2 years. As background, we have 248 different areas ranging from less than 6,000 sq ft to greater than 1.4 million sq ft. Twenty of these areas were completed in the last 3 years and three large areas are on multi-year plans. Additionally, if we can get to roads when a standard overlay will repair them, rather than completely reconstruct them, it is much cheaper and extends their life for 15 to 20 years.
The vote on this was 6 to 1 with Trustee Dodge being the only no vote. Trustee Dodge stated that he was against the process four times and that it was a no-bid contract twice. I will explain both beginning with the contention that this was no-bid. This was not a no-bid contract, it was an expansion of an existing contract at the same unit pricing that was also approved Monday night unanimously. It was also approved unanimously at a previous committee meeting by Trustees Dodge, Fenton and Ruzich. Additionally, the funding source was recommended by our Finance Director as the least expensive option (we borrow at a low rate, 2%). Trustee Dodge made several references to the committee process and that we were bypassing this. This is simply not true.
First, any item can be placed on agenda by the Mayor, any Trustee or the Village Manager for committee of the whole. Alternatively, items also go through committees (that meet once a month) and anyone can place items on those as well. After that it goes to the whole board. This doesn’t make things move faster, but it does make meetings go a little quicker as unanimous votes at committee can go to the consent agenda. If we would have gone through this process for the road program expansion, the time line would have been:
- June – Public Works and Finance Committees on June 3rd and June 17th.
- July – Approval to go out for RFP on July 1. Public notification and review of RFP
- August – if all goes well, Public Works Committee on August 5th and to the Board of Trustees for approval on August 19th.
By the time the contractor would be able to do work it would be September, with time to only do a fraction of what we approved Monday. Additionally, our Public Works Director clearly stated that he felt we had good unit pricing, better than we would get in the summer as prices for road construction tends to go up as the season progresses. Also, he stated that we would not be able to get nearly as much work done. This is why the process was handled in the way that it was – we had good pricing, an existing contract we could expand, access to low rate financing and this was the way we could get the most work done. Clearly the rest of the board members felt the same way as the vote was 6 to 1.
Next, Seritage had a change to the Sears redevelopment (AMC is still coming). The vote was 6 to 1 with Kathy Fenton voting against it because she didn’t like the process.
The next big vote was for concerts. WE APPROVED A CONCERT FOR AUGUST 24th. We approved the contract offer for Survivor and Loverboy. As an aside, this also bypassed the normal processes, but the vote was unanimous so apparently nobody cared about process on this one. I want to thank Trustee Dodge for voting on this consistently over the past 18 months since I first introduced it. Also, thank you to Trustees Fenton and Calandriello for changing their minds after voting no every other time it was introduced. It’s been a long slog, but get ready for a great night (and hope for good weather!)
I also named Trustee Katsenes the mayor pro tem. This is important in the event that I am unable to attend a meeting or am temporarily incapacitated (or worse). She would then fill the Mayor’s role. The first vote on this was to change the appointment of this position from December to May. This is common sense since our new Board is sworn in the month of May. It passed with a vote of 6 to 1. Trustee Dodge again voted against this because of the process. Next, she was nominated and approved with a vote of 7 to 0.
Next up was the new ethics ordinance. We voted 4 (Pekau, Milani, Healy & Katsenes) to 3 (Dodge, Fenton and Calandriello) to repeal this. Prior to the meeting I received 17 letters of resignation from commissioners (you can read them on the village website under the media pack) for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to:
- Invasion of privacy
- Government over reach
- Requirement to give proprietary business information that competitors could use
- The demand for private financial information that is subject to the Freedom of Information Act
- The ordinance was unconstitutional
Trustee Dodge offered an amendment to insert the words “elected officials” to eliminate the problems with commissioners. This amendment failed on a 4 (Pekau, Milani, Healy & Katsenes) to 3 (Dodge, Fenton and Calandriello). I want to thank Trustee Dodge for making clear what this ordinance was always about. It was meant to be used for political attacks on elected officials as it would require:
- A Trustee who is a business owner to disclose all Orland Park customers and all customers that work for somebody who does business with the Village. This would be used to destroy Trustee Healy’s (accounting) and Katsenes’ (real estate) businesses. If I still owned GroundsKeeper Services it would be used to attack mine as well.
- All of their Orland Park clients would be listed. These people would be subject to political attack. This has already happened. I disclosed one client because of a conflict of interest and that client was attacked numerous times in the most recent election cycle.
- All disclosures would be made available to the public. What competitor wouldn’t want that?
- All real estate holdings within 1.5 miles of the strategic planning boundaries of the Village would need to be disclosed. Magically, the property I own (and that my former business operated out of) is 1.4 miles from this boundary. Coincidence?
Additionally, every complaint made by anyone, for any reason REQUIRED the Village to hire an independent counsel to investigate. This would be used not only to feed lawyers massive amounts of business, but to financially encumber any political opponent.
Rescinding this ordinance does not mean that we don’t have an ethics ordinance. In fact, the ethics ordinance already in place is the model ordinance that was drafted by the Illinois Municipal League for all municipalities to use if they so choose. The current ethics laws in Illinois and Cook County still apply and if any of us fails to disclose a legal conflict of interest it is a CLASS 4 FELONY. These are undisputed facts. The rest is just political shenanigans.
With that said, I strongly believe in ethics and I recommended that we form an ad hoc committee of 5 people (including former Trustees Ruzich & Schussler) led by Trustee Healy to review our ordinance and provide recommendations to the board. This passed unanimously. I look forward to their recommendations.
We also voted to accept Joe Lamargo’s severance package on a 6 to 1 vote with Trustee Calandriello voting against it, which is interesting since he voted to give him the severance package in the first place. This package reflected what the previous board originally approved 6 to 1 when he was hired as well as the additional severance benefits given to him when his contract was extended on a 6 to 1 vote. I was the lone no vote on both of those occasions. As you recall, my reason for voting no on the contract extension was the fact that Mr. Lamargo had not had a performance review and was only 9 months into a 3-year contract.
Lastly, we voted 6 to 1 to appoint Tom Dubelbeis as the Interim Village Manager while we conduct a national search for a permanent Village Manager. Dan Calandriello was the loan no vote. He tried to vote present, but that is not allowed, so he chose to vote no. He stated that he was concerned about pension spiking.
In summary I would like to point out that there were 22 votes taken:
- 4 votes were 4-3 and were around only 2 issues (planning commission and ethics)
- 5 votes were 6 to 1
- 13 votes were unanimous
I encourage all of the Trustees to vote their conscience and do what they think is in the best interest of the people of Orland Park. For the 4 years prior to my running for office only Ed Schussler dared to disagree, and he paid the price for it.
I would also like to point out that we don’t vote on process. We vote on the issues in front of us. Processes can and sometime should be adjusted from time to time, but once in place we abide by them or we get nothing done. In my humble opinion, protest votes on process are a way to make an excuse for your vote (and to try to take both sides of an issue). Elected leaders should lead and not make excuses. If you don’t agree with something be honest about it and vote against it
Trust me, there are many, many times over the last two years that I didn’t like the process, but I always cast my vote based on what I thought of the issue at question.
Congratulations to the new Trustees! A lot was accomplished on night one!
I look forward to seeing you all at my upcoming event, Pizza with Mayor Pekau on May 29th at Fox’s from 6 to 9PM.