On Monday we had another board meeting.  First, we welcomed and honored our Special Recreation Lady Owls for taking first place in the state tournament as well as 11 young men who made Eagle Scout.

We passed several items including our fall recreation program and a car wash by the BMW Dealer on 159th.  We also talked about the concert series a bit more as there were some changes.  Since Monday there have been a few other changes as well.  As of today, it looks like we will have a slight change in lineup to Loverboy and Jefferson Starship on August 24th.  We’re looking forward to having the contracts signed so that we can start selling tickets.

The big news of the night was that we passed resolutions that made elected officials ineligible to collect pensions.  The resolutions state that the positions do not require the minimum hours required to be eligible for pensions.  Those hours are 600 hours per year for Trustees Fenton and Dodge and 1,000 per year for everyone else.  I can tell you in my time here, there is no way that the Trustees average 12 or 20 hours per week, or the clerk 20 hours per week.  For the Trustees and Clerk these resolutions go into effect on July 1, 2019.  For me, it goes into effect at the end of my term May 3, 2021.  The reason for this difference is that the mayor’s position is full time until the end of the term as has been discussed ad nauseum.  Therefore, we can’t certify that it is less than 1,000 hours until the term is over.  As you remember, I placed an ordinance on the board floor to lower the pay back to $40,000 and make the position part time at the end of the term.   The date is a moot point since I opted out of the pension system anyway.

The votes on this were as follows:

  • 7-0 for the Clerk and the Trustees at 1,000 hours.
  • 6-0 for the Trustees at 600 hours; Kathy Fenton abstained
  • 5-2 for the Mayor with Jim Dodge and Kathy Fenton voting no.

They said they voted no because they wanted it to go into effect immediately.  Then Trustee Dodge went on several diatribes.  I am going to summarize rather than rehash the whole thing (you can listen to the audio on the Village Website starting at 54 minutes into the audio).  He insinuated that this is all being set up so that a future board can change this and I can buy back all my time and my military time.  He also went on and on about when the pay was back down to $40,000 that the ordinance was rescinded in total so the position is no longer full time.

First, I won’t accept Trustee Dodge predicting in the future that I will be immoral.  Those may be his morals and values, but they certainly aren’t mine.

Let me explain one of the major issues with pensions that rather than using your average wage from your working life, the pension is based on the highest 4 years of earning in your last 10.
This is how local officials have been gaming the system for years.  They work a few hours a week and they get a full year of pension credit.  Then after accumulating 25 or 30 years, they try to find themselves a full-time position that pays them a six-figure salary.  Sometimes they raise the pay for their own position, or lobby the new Mayor to become Village Manager, or run for a statewide office or sometimes they use their connections to get an appointment to a high paying position in a government agency like the Illinois tollway for example.  We have witnessed all of these things in Orland Park in the last two years.

As an Elected Official they could have opted out of the pension system, but they didn’t because the pension years were accumulating.  Bill Healy, Cindy Katsenes, Mike Milani all opted out of the pension system.  The Clerk and other Trustees did not.  They could have but they didn’t.  Trustee Fenton has a teacher pension and this pension.  Trustee Calandriello stated that “I will never take a public pension either,” but he never opted out and was also in a pension system for the State’s Attorney’s office.

It’s easy to evangelize about pensions and not take any action while you are accumulating those years.  It is hypocritical to moralize to the public after accumulating decades of service time in a system you say is wrong.

However, if you think that pensions for elected officials are wrong you can control yourself and opt out of the pensions as many state legislators have done recently.  Finally, when you have enough like-minded people on the board willing to opt out of their pensions and not abuse the system you can take the additional step to make sure that NO elected officials get the pension.  While it certainly doesn’t fix the pension crisis in Illinois, it is what THIS BOARD at THIS TIME can control and do its part.  Doing so saves the Village several thousand dollars a year and most importantly is the RIGHT thing to do.

Second, this whole full-time, part-time thing has been discussed way more than necessary.  The voters have voted on it twice.  Here’s what I promised when I ran:

  • I would opt out of the pension – DONE
  • I would earn the salary by working full time for the entire term – DONE and STILL DOING
  • I would work to reduce the pay to $40,000 for the next term – DONE

I sold my business to focus on the Mayor’s position full-time.  Additionally, I have put myself in the uncomfortable position of needing to find a job at the end of the term.  It was and is the right thing to do and I will continue to keep my promises.

Trustee Dodge on the other hand can’t remember what his position is on full-time versus part-time.

  • First, he voted for the pay raise and full time position in October 2016.
    • From the Orland Parker, “Trustee Dodge explained that the pay increase is intended for Mayor Dan McLaughlin, “because he has the skill set we need to achieve these goals.”
    • From the Regional, “I think it is a great idea. Just expanding the mayoral position instead of hiring two new people. There will be no learning curve and Mayor McLaughlin is putting in full-time hours anyway. I have no problem forwarding this to the full board to see what everyone thinks,” said Trustee James Dodge.
  • In April 2018, one year into my term, he and the other trustees refused to motion an ordinance to reduce my pay.
    • Here is what the Southtown wrote at that time, Trustee James Dodge speaking after Monday’s Village Board meeting credited the mayor with putting “a lot of work” into seeing the Sears redevelopment project receiving village approval, and that “I know Keith has been out” soliciting businesses to locate in Orland Park. “He’s (Pekau) in the early stages of getting Orland marketed better,” Dodge said.
  • On March 4th, 2019, I introduced an ordinance reducing my pay to $40,000 which passed unanimously.
    • At the board meeting Trustee Dodge stated, “I understand that compensation doesn’t change according to state law.”

I understand that Trustee Dodge is positioning for Mayor but please pick a lane.

Additionally, during this conversation Trustee Calandriello also said that “we’re all equals here”.  It is true that we are all equals per the Constitution and that we all have one vote.  However, the Mayor and Trustee positions are not equal. The law draws distinct differences in these positions.  The Mayor has a lot of responsibilities that Trustees do not, including but not limited to, appointment powers, running meetings, emergency powers and the Mayor is the legal head of the government.  The last two years was spent trying to reduce the Mayor’s position to a low standing which was unfortunate.  You don’t have to like me, but Trustees should respect the position because I won’t always be sitting in that chair.

The acrimony here is somewhat understandable because their pensions were just stopped going forward.  However, it was not a surprise because it is one of the things that the People Over Politics slate ran on.  Most importantly, it was the right thing to do.

Personally, I would prefer not to have long updates like this and for the updates to my completely positive.  However, I will not let political attacks go unanswered.  I am hopeful that this behavior will stop.  I dealt with it for the last two years.  Constant attacks, being blamed for robocalls that it is clear that I had nothing to do with.  Now in the first month we see the same board attacks (just from a different person), a bevy of new robocalls that are disgusting and vile, a barrage of FOIAs, threatened lawsuits, and other garbage that staff is dealing with in the last 3 weeks.

It is high time for people to accept that the people have spoken not once but twice.  There is a new board and it is important that we work together for the people of Orland Park.  If people want to campaign, do it on your own time and my suggestion would be to wait until 2021.

In spite of the vitriol of the last 2 years, a lot was accomplished as I have pointed out many times.  Imagine what we can get done if the energy spent on trying to attack me was redirected into trying to improve the way the village does business and to improve the new ideas that are brought forward.

I am optimistic that will happen, but it probably will take some time.

Everyone please have a safe Memorial Day weekend and remember that our Memorial Day ceremony is at 1PM and will be live streamed.

Additionally, my event, Pizza with Pekau is on March 29th from 6-9 at Fox’s Pub.

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