I hope that everyone enjoyed the 4th of July Holiday weekend.  This would be a good time to remember that 56 men signed the Declaration of Independence and immediately put their lives at risk by doing so.  They did this so the rest of us could be free.

The Village had a couple of great events.  First it was Orland Park night at Guaranteed Rate Field on July 2nd.  Unfortunately, the skies opened up and the game was rained out just before the first pitch.  The good news it is rescheduled for September 27th and anyone who bought tickets for the 2nd can use them on 9/27.  The Liberty Fun Run/Walk honoring Veterans was on July 3rd.  We had over 400 participants.  It was hot, but everyone had a great time.

On July 4th, we had a free concert at Centennial Park followed by our annual fireworks show.  We estimate that over 3,000 people attended, not including those at Centennial Park West.  The weather was perfect and the music and fireworks were outstanding!

The Village of Orland Park has many positive things going on that you should be proud of.

  • Our local road program is underway where 11 subdivisions and Wheeler Drive will be resurfaced, 2 other subdivision are in the middle of a multi-year project.
  • The Village Hall parking lot was just resurfaced and other work around the building is being performed as well.
  • Several businesses are looking to relocate here.  There will be several announcements in the coming months.
  • There is new brick on most of Von Maur.  Swing by the mall and take a look.  Demolition on the upper level of Sears will begin soon.
  • 159th Street is planned to open to four lanes soon.
  • The Market on the Park will go on through the end of the month on Thursdays at Crescent Park
  • Concert in the Park on July 21st at Crescent Park from 5 to 7:30.
  • Taste of Orland will be here the first weekend of August with many of your old favorites
  • Our first of many concerts at Centennial Park West on August 24th at 4:30. Tickets are on sale now to see Loverboy and Jefferson Starship!

Earlier in the week we had a board meeting.  It was relatively uneventful again with a short agenda.  I honored Kismet (151st & West Ave) as the business of the month.

During board comments, Trustee Dodge brought up the legalization of cannabis and asked Chief McCarthy about it.  I added to the discussion based on the briefings that I have had.  It doesn’t go into effect until January 1 and we are currently investigating the impact on Orland Park (it was just signed last week).  There are several things in the bill that are very troublesome, and municipalities will be forced to deal with a lot of problems that we have no control over.  I spoke about a few of those things on the board floor.  There will be more to come in the future after our attorneys have had a chance to review the bill.

Otherwise it was routine business except for releasing the minutes of the executive session pertaining to the clandestine investigation.  Before closed session, Trustees Dodge and Fenton voiced their concerns over releasing the minutes, but ultimately sided with our push for full transparency. After all, transparency it what I promised the voters.

Trustee Dodge said, “This is not typically the way we do things but OK let’s do it.  I guess my comments broadly are this.  I plan on voting for releasing these minutes because as it has been said in various sundry places, let’s go to full transparency.  The thing I want to make sure of is that, since the minutes of the meeting are pretty straight forward, I am determine to make that these comments, my comments now are part of the record.  There has been a couple of conversations on this one.  I have gone back and I have listened to the audio tapes of both meetings.  A lot of things were said, a number of things were said in executive session that I want to make sure are properly contextualized for all of history, and I am quoting, certainly from the executive session minutes that are about to be released, “certainly all 3 of you said that you knew nothing about the investigation”.  Into and of itself, that is not factually true.  You asked a specific question, I gave you specific answers, and it was not about the investigation when I listened to the tape when it first came up.  On another page, it basically says if he didn’t get your votes, “well we didn’t vote on this one”.  Because when it came up an employee of the village brought an issue to the attention of the Village Manager, he asked me my opinion, I said get the lawyers involved and if I am not mistaken, Joe went to Klein Thorpe, Klein Thorpe referred it out, is that correct or no?”

Our attorney said, “That is not correct.”

Jim Dodge, “OK.  I stand corrected on that one.  Joe went and got a lawyer and started looking at it and that’s the last I knew of it until the bills came before the Village.  My point for saying all of this is to make sure that it’s on the record that I don’t necessarily want to see these comments, that I think are taken out of context in the executive session minutes and you know, there we have it.  It’s an important issue, it’s a hot issue, I just wanted to make sure that my comments were re-contextualized before I vote yes to release these minutes. Thank you.”

Kathy Fenton stated, “I would have to concur with Trustee Dodge that I will be reluctantly voting yes.  I am all for transparency.  I don’t feel that we should, um, I mean I personally feel that this is just a way to ruin somebody’s reputation, but that’s neither here nor there. But also, the same question was posed to me whether or not I knew about and what at the time the question was referring to the report which I did not know about the report because I did not see the report, nor did I know.  If the question would have been stated, did you know there was going to be an investigation, my answer would have been yes and I still said that I did know that there was something going on as the Chairman of Public Works, I did know that 2 issues were brought forth.  So, for the record, because when it is read in the minutes it comes across as something totally different because of the way the questions were phrased at the meeting at the time.  So, for the record, I just want to make sure that what I just stated is what really happened.”

Trustee Milani added the following, after reviewing everything to date. “The investigation really just needs to be put to rest because not only does it make the people involved look bad, it makes the board, our staff and Orland Park as a whole look bad.  I feel that all of the questions regarding the investigation have already been answered and I agree with that.  I also feel that the public has the right to know what discussions had taken place behind closed doors.  I am not going to go into too many details here, but after reviewing all this material, it was clear that this investigation was a $40,000 witch hunt funded by the taxpayers, and was conveniently tied to an ethics ordinance that keyed in specifically on the topics that were being investigated.  How convenient?  This investigation could have cost the taxpayers over $100,000 based on the information given and we would have never known this investigation was existing if the previous Village Manager didn’t resign.  Not only that it seems that many more people were aware of it or involved in this investigation when you dig deeper into the information that is already publicly available.  So, you know, there is nothing that keeps us from doing this in our policies, so we have the right to do this.  That’s why I feel that all the information regarding this investigation needs to be made public, so that our residents can have all of the information that was available.  That is why I wish to make this portion of the meeting minutes public, because I think as Trustee Fenton has said up here once before, ‘what do we have to hide’.”

I added a couple of comments as well to clarify that this complaint was not brought by an employee, it was brought by the head of the union based on a discussion from 2012. I then read from the following page from the supplemental investigation conducted by our Deputy Chief.  You can determine for yourself, after reading the highlighted portion, whether this clandestine investigation was good judgment or a political hatchet job.

Then I added.  “So that’s what happened.  It was not a complaint made by the employee, it was a complaint made by the union rep and the Village Manager decide to go forward with this.  I understand you feel that it is trying to ruin someone’s reputation.  Well, I guess from my perspective, it was somebody trying to ruin my reputation.  That’s why this needs to all be out in the public.  I want it to be over with, but I want it all out there.  Everybody can see what is out there.  At the end of the day, these are verbatim minutes of our discussion after the report was issued.  That’s what’s here.  Now the public has everything.  They have the reports, they have the follow-on reports, they have all of the emails that were grabbed as part of this investigation, it’s all there.  The public doesn’t have to rely on the press, they don’t have to rely particularly on one member of the so-called press that has skewed the reports.  Many of them have covered it pretty much straight down the middle.  It’s really easy in this case.  You can go read it for yourself.  The easiest way to make the decisions is to make it all transparent, sun light is the best disinfectant.  Go out and read it for yourself.”

I should also add that Trustee Healy moved for these minutes to be verbatim so nothing could be taken out of context or washed over.  They are the word for word minutes after everyone was given a copy of the report.  Additionally, Trustee Milani moved to release just this portion of the Executive Session Minutes for full transparency on this issue.

Those were the comments from the board meeting.  You can listen to them here (they start at about the 26 minute mark).  Additionally, the verbatim executive session minutes and all of the reports can be found here.  I encourage you to read them, they are not that long.  When you compare these to the articles that have been written, you will then be able to form your own judgment on who is accurately reporting the contents.  You will find that most of the reporters covered this fairly but one did not.  I am sure that this writeup will also be misquoted (and lifting partial quotes to change the meaning is misquoting).

The truth is now public for all to see, and hopefully this puts to bed this whole political witch hunt. We’ve wasted too much of the taxpayers’ money on political agendas. There are many amazing things happening in Orland Park, and I am excited to think about all the amazing things we can accomplish if we return our focus solely to serving the people we were elected to serve.

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