Well, dear readers, when we left our story last week we wondered why Morton Grove officials, (all members of the Action Party) completely ignored the village ethics ordinance. We also wondered why a high powered political operative like Raj Fernando would be interested enough in little Morton Grove to donate to the Action Party. And, finally there was the question of why there have been so many “pay-to-play” deals made by a mayor who claims to be open and transparent?
As we join our story this week we remember the old saying that you are known by the company you keep and, that in the end, actions speak louder than words.The DiMaria administration has been long on promises and short on performance.
When this administration came to power there was a surplus in the treasury. Since then, the administration has spent money, (your money), like a drunken sailor and the surplus is no longer.
In a news article, according to the Morton Grove Champion , Morton Grove Village President Dan DiMaria said the 2017 budget will maintain the same level of services without additional fees or increased property taxes.
The village board voted on next year’s budget at their December 12 meeting. The budget expands spending on pension funds, economic development and capital projects.
DiMaria said the village was able to limit expenses by closely monitoring costs and by having village workers take on multiple responsibilities. The budget includes new police radios and a new dump truck for the water and streets department.
Sounds good, but is it just smoke & mirrors? If the fiscal management of this administration has been so exemplary, why have the major companies that monitor government financial affairs lowered Morton Grove’s bond rating twice during this administration?
DiMaria crowed about saving money by having village workers take on multiple responsibilities. If that is the case, why was former fire chief Friel given the position of Assistant Village Manager at a salary way north of $100,000.00 per year?
Why is the village paying the village attorney over $100,000.00 per year for what is a part-time job? Where is all of this tax money supposed to come from?
Just like your family budget, a municipality has two ways to get control of it’s finances. It can either cut expenditures or it can increase income. There is no apparent cutting in the new budget and DiMaria has stated that there will be no increase in taxes or fees. We have seen this type of legerdemain in the past when administrations failed to account for a major sales tax source, (ABT), leaving town and kept kicking the financial can down the road until a hefty tax increase was the only answer.
The Team of DiMaria, Grear and Liston and their cohorts promised a revitalization of our village. We were going to see a new city center focused around the Metra station with shops, eating establishments and boutiques. What do we have? A still vacant lot.
We were in desperate need of a new police station because the old one was obsolete, inadequate and a danger to the surrounding neighborhood. What do we have? An empty and unused industrial building on Lehigh and the same old obsolete, inadequate and dangerous police station.
We were going to form a consortium to source our water from somewhere else besides Chicago because of the outrageous water rate increases. What do we have? No new source, no consortium and still rising water bills… but there is something more to this that we will address later.
Now, one way to increase revenues is to bring more businesses into town, and this was one of the main promises of the DiMaria administration. So, what kind of results have the Action Party mavens produced?
Well, we haven’t seen any new sales tax generators come into town… no new furniture store, no “Big Box” store and no big sales tax generator. But what we DO have is gambling… lots and lots of gambling.
When the team of DiMaria, Grear and Liston took over there were just two video poker licenses in town; one at the Moose and one at the American Legion.
Now, we are in the top three video poker locations in the state, with one holder of two licenses, Betty’s Bistro, (one on Dempster and one on Golf) that promote themselves, (and incidentally Morton Grove), as “a New Kind of Fun” .
Along with the gambling bar “All INN” and other license holders, gambling establishments have increased in Morton Grove 350% since this administration took over. Just a few years ago, our village won national awards as one of the best places to raise children. Now, with our mini-casinos, not so much. And what is the village “take” from this, you ask? On average about as much as would pay about 2/3 of the salary of a village administrator, or assistant village administrator or part-time village attorney.
According to a news report, Morton Grove has agreed to hire an attorney to negotiate a water contract with the city of Evanston on behalf of the village and neighboring Niles.
Morton Grove trustees voted unanimously at its Nov. 28 village board meeting to hire the Chicago-based Klein Thorpe and Jenkins Ltd. as special counsel to assist both villages in drafting a contract that would be in effect for up to 60 years, allowing Evanston to supply water to both towns.
Klein, Thorp & Jenkins is an interesting law firm. On November 10, 2016, a law suit, (case #1:2016cv10499), was filed in the Illinois Northern District Court against Klein, Thorp & Jenkins and a number of their clients, including Western Springs, IL. The nature of the suit: Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, (commonly referred to as the RICO act).
KTJ has had some other “interesting” legal adventures.
Since October of 2013, the law firm of Klein, Thorpe, & Jenkins has invoiced close to $100,000 in legal fees advising the Orland Park Public Library in its fight to maintain the Library as an access point for child pornography.
KTJ is a firm that brands itself as an expert in the Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act in Illinois, even publishing a book called The Sunshine Laws on these topics. Yet the three KTJ attorneys who most often seem to be directly aiding and abetting the violations of the Open Meetings Act and FOIA appear to be E. Kenneth Friker, Dennis G. Walsh, and James Fessler (with several underlings and attorneys performing supporting roles under these three main legal eagles).
Why is this happening? The simple answer seems to be: money. What a racket!
Thomas Melody, one of the principles of KJT was sued by residents of Tinley Park & removed as village attorney, (case # 2016-CH-03974) The Village of Tinley Park admitted that the tampering done to its Legacy Code zoning ordinance was illegal and void.
And it begs the question : is Klein, Thorpe, & Jenkins the only law firm in our state engaged in this money making scheme that profits off Open Meeting Act and other violations or is this kind of thing happening wherever public bodies flagrantly and unapologetically violate the law?
Perhaps a better question then is; why is our village spending so many tax dollars, (our dollars), on legal fees to these consultants?
Until shown otherwise, our theory is that there must be something wrong with either our village officials mental capacity or their sense of ethics. It is a fair assumption that there is more than old pizza cheese that stinks about these deals..
And so, dear reader, tune in next week when we will explore if our mayor has announced any more amazing projects, if Babbling Billy, is licking stamps to save money on outgoing mail…
and we ask the question who exactly is paying for the work being done at the old Maxwell’s site?