Morton Grove Melodrama part 16- I got friends in low places

                                BREAKING NEWS!

Morton Grove News has discovered that the current village administration has had a proposed ordinance declaring Morton Grove as a “SANCTUARY VILLAGE”, (the working title is a “welcoming ordinance”),  in their possession for at least 7 weeks. The residents who proposed this measure on January 27, were assured that the village would look into this proposal and take action, yet no response has been forthcoming. So, the question to Mr. DiMaria is:

“Are you FOR this proposal, or are you AGAINST it?”

Over the past 10 days or so, the opposing parties in the village April 4th election have been having a “He said, she said” joust over the village pension debt and village pension contributions.

Village president DiMaria and his mates repeatedly report how they have increased contributions to the pension obligations the past four years. The Action Party states “we contribute more towards our pension obligations than the minimum payment required by law.”

The “Independent Candidate” group point out that they must increase contributions, because every year the pension liability will continue to grow due to yearly increases in payroll and fluctuations in investment returns and that the amount they have contributed each year has not kept pace with the increasing liability.

We might want to remember a bit of fairly recent village history. In 2005, the Caucus Party, which at that time controlled village government, made a statement that the village did not have to pay the suggested yearly pension amount and tried to pass a budget drastically reducing pension obligation payments.It was this same Caucus Party that backed DiMaria for Mayor, and is now running the Action Party. It could be questioned if this is the reason for not dealing with the growing pension debt.

But there is another troubling issue that has not been addressed by either the Action Party or the “Independent Candidates”, an issue that goes directly to the heart of fiscal responsibility, white collar patronage and cronyism.

When village president DiMaria and his “rubber stamp” village board decided to replace the village manager, they did it in a way reminicent of the old Daley political machine. Without regard to the Supreme court decision in Elrod v Burns that decided that political patronage hiring was illegal, ( 427 US 347), without public notice, without a search for the most qualified candidate, without public debate or proper authorization, they chose and handed the six-figure position to the current village administrator. What is interesting, is that the current administrator happens to be a former village of Morton Grove fire chief who receives a pension paid for by the taxpayers amounting to about 80% of his former salary as fire chief.

Nice work, if you can get it. A six-figure village pension supplemented by a six-figure village salary, (which could qualify for yet another village pension in the future since this individual had served as village administrator before heading off to greener pastures in Skokie).

But wait, as they say in the late-night infomercials, there’s more. The Morton Grove fire chief that followed the current village administrator as fire chief before the current village manager was given the job was named as the “acting village manager”. After a bit of musical chairs, the second fire chief “retired”. It was at that point that village president DiMaria and his “rubber stamp” village board created a non-existent position of assistant to the village administrator. Again, without regard to the Supreme court decision in Elrod v Burns that decided that political patronage hiring was illegal, ( 427 US 347), without public notice, without a search for the most qualified candidate, without public debate or proper authorization, they chose and handed the new five-figure position to the recently retired fire chief. So, now we have the two highest administrative positions in the village held by previous village fire chiefs whose combined pensions alone come to over $200,000 per year… and whose combined salaries and fringe benefits equal or exceed that amount.

Large bills fanned out and held in hand

There is also a bit of strangeness when it comes to the village attorney, (who, coincidentally happens to be the village ethics officer). The position is shown in the village budget as a part time position, but if you look at the village budget documents, you will see that it qualifies for a pension… which normally would not be available to a part-time employee.

It’s good to have friends in high places. It’s a shame that, apparently the tax payers of Morton Grove have no such friend.

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Morton Grove Melodrama Part 10 – Mo money!

pay-to-play

 

 

 

 

 

 

In last weeks story we were going through how village president DiMaria self-styled himself as the face of the village and plastered his name on everything but a check to help pay for his political ambitions. Mr. DiMaria seems to have a bad case of alligator arms when it comes to picking up the check.

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Last week’s story also recounted how Mr. DiMaria, Mr. Grear and the rest of the the Action Party took political contributions from those doing business with the village in violation of the ethics ordinance that they had all voted to accept and had pledged to honor.

We could easily see what the Action Party was getting out of the deal, but it could be rightfully questioned why the various businesses would ante up. Based on what we know, most likely they look at these political contributions as an investment with a great return.

Let us take, for example, the contributions from Heartland, (the parent of 8700 Waukegan LLC).

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For a relatively small sum in contributions to the Action Party coffers, this developer will receive Six hundred thirty six thousand dollars in TIF money, (money that was originally earmarked to revitalize the Prairie View shopping center),                          00000000prairieview003

 

to underwrite the project which adds high-end rental apartments to an already saturated market. Looks like a smart investment on the developer’s part where their profit on the deal is apparently front-loaded with TIF money. According to Action Party president and village trustee, Billy Grear, in an article in the Pioneer Press on March 19, 2015; “It’s going to bring a new type of person into the village…”. We’re not quite sure what that means unless Mr. Grear is referring to folks gullible enough to think that this type of white-collar patronage is a good idea. It’s also interesting to consider who would want to spend  $1,500 per month and up rent to live on one of the most heavily used major roads in the near north suburbs.

Let’s now take a look at the Dempster street property that is designated to be the new Moretti’s restaurant. This deal started out when the Action Party elected officials purchased the plot that used to house Maxwell’s and The Studio, two fairly popular Morton Grove eateries.

There were grandiose plans for a multi-use structure, but the original buyer was foreclosed on by the bank.

Through assistance by the village, the property was resold to Ted Mavrakis, a political contributor to mayor DiMaria for the purpose of building a Tilted Kilt restaurant.

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Those plans fell through, and the village repurchased the parcel giving the mayor’s buddy a quick $500,000 profit while he retained ownership of approximately 30% of the site.

Subsequently, the Village (Action Party) Board makes a deal for the Village taxpayers to finance a Moretti’s Italian Restaurant and Gambling Café with a fifteen year, zero interest mortgage, (Moretti’s is a political donor to the Action Party).

 
Moretti’s will pay off the fifteen year mortgage by simply being in business for fifteen years. After fifteen years in business, without paying a dime of principle or interest, Moretti’s gets the property for free!
There was, however, a problem that raised it’s ugly head. This land too, was found to be contaminated and required EPA clean up.
When Moretti’s found out that the property was contaminated and would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean up,they renegotiated the whole deal. The Action Party Board of Trustees & Mayor upped the taxpayer’s gift to Moretti’s to pay for the contamination problem to be cleaned up  for the benefit of their political donor.
approved-rubber-stamp
Morton Grovers are now stuck with an additional $300, 000 or more for clean up and with the other sweeteners, the total may cost the taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars more.

In a Morton Grove Champion article dated February 4th, 2017 it says; “…village officials agreed to sell the property for $1.525 million and loan Ala Carte Entertainment $636,000 to cover eligible tax-increment-financing expenses, Village Administrator Ralph Czerwinski said in a report to the board.If the Moretti’s location stays open for 20 years, Morton Grove officials also will forgive the loan to cover TIF-eligible business development expenses, Czerwinski said. The mortgage the village agreed to with Moretti’s also would be forgiven if the business stays open for 15 years, he said.”

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So, lets do some simple math. $500,000 profit to Action Party contributor Ted Mavrokis when the village repurchased to property; a minimum of $300,000 to remediate the environmental problems at the property; a mortgage of $1.525 million on the property which will be forgiven if the restaurant remains open for 15 years and a loan of $636,000 which will be forgiven if the restaurant stays open for 20 years… that comes out to a total of $2,961,000 dollars returned on their political contribution investment with the Action Party.

Village president DiMaria has always bragged about his experience in “high finance”, whether it was when he traded on the Chicago Merchantile Exchange in the past or now in his current career as a mortgage broker. He certainly has provided an astronomical return on investment for those who made political contributions to him and his Action Party… for Morton Grove taxpayers…  not-so-much.

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Morton Grove Melodrama Part 3 – In Vegas a high roller is known as a whale.

Well, dear readers, when we left our story last week we wondered why Chaser’s, a bar from Niles was making political contributions to the Morton Grove Action Party. We also wondered why the Village never tried to buy the old Maxwell/Studio property when it first went up at foreclosure sale but waited to buy it from Ted Mavarkis, another political donor, after he bought it in foreclosure. It gave him a hefty profit of hundreds of thousands of dollars and he got to keep one third of the original site, thus making any redevelopment limited, at best. And, finally there was the question of why was the deal structured so that Moretti’s, yet another political donor, could walk away with a prime piece of Dempster street real estate at net zero cost?   

As we join our story this week we continue to question what looks suspiciously like “Chicago Political Machine style” pay to play.

A few years ago, a Morton Grove village trustee, Larry Gomberg, introduced an ethics ordinance for the village. The current mayor, a trustee at the time, voted in favor of that ordinance and it passed and became part of the village code and is in force today.

One section of that ordinance states:
D.  Prohibition Of Political Contributions:
1.   Any person or business entity whose contract(s), and pending bids for contract(s) with the village of Morton Grove in aggregate annually total more than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000.00) shall be prohibited from making any contributions to: a) a political organization established to promote a candidacy of an elected village official, or a declared candidate for an elected village office, b) an elected official, or c) a declared candidate for an elected village office in excess of one hundred fifty dollars ($150.00) per year per official, declared candidate, or political organization. This prohibition shall be effective for the duration of the term of office of the elected official, or for two (2) years after the date of the election for a declared candidate for an elected village office, whichever is longer.

In addition, all village officials must sign a copy of the code of ethics, ( section 1-8-12 adopted 10-26-2009, effective 1-1-2010), which states, in part:

“F.  ADHERENCE TO ALL LAWS: I shall comply with all state, and local regulations, including without limitations the Village of Morton Grove’s Code of Ethics, the State of Illinois Open Meetings Act, the State of Illinois Gift Ban Act, the State of Illinois State Officials and Employees Ethics Act.”

Now, just for fun, let’s look at the following list of contributors that the Action Party accepted donations from that by their acceptance are in violation of Village Ethics Code.

Year 2014:
1. Groot Industries, Inc (source of payments: Morton Grove Village warrants) (proof of donation: Action Party D-2 Quarterly Report 10/1/14 to12/31/14). Groot billed Morton Grove $658,298.59 in 2014.
 
2. G & L Construction, Inc   (source of payments: Morton Grove Village warrants) (proof of donation: 2014 Action Party Sponsor Board. Guy & Lu Batista are owners of G & L Construction, Inc. The minimum donation for sponsor board was $200.00) (This donation was not reported on any Action Party D-2 reports).  G&L Construction billed Morton Grove $158,140.53 in 2014.

3. Terry Liston (Village Attorney).  (source: Village payroll records) (Proof of Donation: 2014 Action Party Sponsor Board, minimum donation was $200.00) (donation was not reported on any Action Party D-2). Ms. Liston’s salary was over $100.000.00 in 2014.

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Looking over the sponsors of the political golf outing it is easy to see why some businesses and individuals would want to contribute. It is called access. Sometimes it is called “pay to play” and it happens at all levels of government.

We saw this recently with the Federal election where a major Clinton Foundation donor was placed on a sensitive government intelligence advisory board even though he had no obvious experience in the field, a decision that appeared to baffle the department’s professional staff.

A prolific fundraiser for Democratic candidates and contributor to the Clinton Foundation, who later traveled with Bill Clinton on a trip to Africa, Rajiv K. Fernando’s only known qualification for a seat on the International Security Advisory Board (ISAB) was his know-how as a Chicago securities trader, who specialized in electronic investing.
(SOURCE: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/clinton-donor-sensitive-intelligence-board/story?id=39710624 ).

The son of Sri Lankans who moved to the United States, he was raised in Oak Brook. Fernando, who turned 45 this past summer, is a graduate of Hinsdale Central High School and Beloit College in Wisconsin.

After learning the ropes at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Fernando, a Bucktown resident, founded Chopper Trading, whose high-speed trading is conducted in domestic and international financial markets.

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Fernando was a major fund-raiser — a bundler — for President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election bid, funneling $500,000 to his campaign. He also hosted fund-raisers in his Chicago home for Vice President Joe Biden in September 2011 and for Clinton in July 2015 and he made sizable contributions to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s political funds for his 2011 and 2015 elections.

You might rightfully ask; “What does all this have to do with Morton Grove?”

If you look at the Action Party Golf Outing sponsor board for 2014, you will find Chopper Trading’s logo in the upper left hand corner. This is the trading firm that was owned by Raj Fernando, (however, once again, the contribution does not show up on any of the Action Party D-2 reports).

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So, the question that now comes to mind is what is there in Morton Grove that would be of such interest to a heavy-duty political contributor and donation aggregator like Rajiv K. Fernando? What kind of access or consideration or favor could there be in a small Chicago suburb that would interest a high-power individual who rubs elbows with the upper eschallon of the Clinton Foundation?

Until shown otherwise, our theory is that there must be something in town that’s a reward for yet another big political donor. It is a fair assumption that Mr. Fernando is looking for something more than a large sausage and mushroom Moretti’s pizza with extra cheese. Garbage-Pizza

And so, dear reader, tune in next week when we will explore if our mayor has announced any more amazing projects, if Babbling Billy, disappointed that Moretti’s hasn’t opened yet has resorted to eating library paste,  000000kid-eating-paste

and if their trusty counselor, Ophelia Ordinance finally researches the definition of ethics… and we ask the question why was the new consultant in the water deal involved in litigation over child pornography?

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Pie in the sky, (Pizza or otherwise)

4 and 20 blackbridsSing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye, four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.

 

 

 

 

 

Illinois has a long-held tradition of political pay to play. It has been said that our governors serve two terms… one in the State house and one in the Big house. And it’s not just our governors… but other politicians in lesser offices have continued this hallowed Illinois tradition of exchanging campaign cash for political favors.

Morton Grove seems to have it’s very own version of the Illinois pay-to-play dance. pay-to-play

A very, very cozy relationship exists between Mayor Dan DiMaria; Trustee Grear &  Ted,  the owner of Giordano’s Pizza.

TeDiMariaCommittee List Printable_Page_1d generously donated to DiMaria’s campaign, (see attached file, DiMaria Committee List Printable) when DiMaria was running for mayor.

Shortly after DiMaria became Mayor, the deal to build a new Pequods pizza restaurant near the train station was canceled by the village.
I guess Dan didn’t want his buddy Ted to have too much competition in the Pizza business.

The friendship and deals go back further. It was Dan DiMaria who prompted Ted to buy the property On Dempster Street next to the train tracks  to build a Tilted  Kilt restaurant. DiMaria pushed hard to bring in a swinging place with girls dressed to please the men .

But like most of the big deals Dan DiMaria talks about, it’s just talk. So he bailed out his buddy by having the village foot the bill for his pipe dream.

When you pay 1.5 million dollars for half the property located in a prime TIF district that the seller just bought for 1.2 Million dollars, ( giving him a $300.000 payday…) and him still holding a portion of the property it gives you a lot of clout.   Dan DiMaria had his inaugural party at Teds restaurant Giordano’s and the Village picked up the tab for over $500.00!

Weren’t you invited?  Pizza-Pie-In-The-Sky-300x244

Apparently, this also gives the Action Party the right to pollute the corner of Austin & Dempster and Giordano’s restaurant  with political signs.

geordono's action party signs 001  geordono's action party signs 004  So , in Morton Grove  everywhere you look,  you will see Action Party signs where somebody is beholden to Dan DiMaria or Bill Grear and breaking the village ethics code and  sign code.

geordono's action party signs 003  geordono's action party signs 002

They have signs everywhere.

 

Sign Pollution big time in front of  empty lots, abandoned houses, most construction sites.  Action signs Mango-SouthPark 007

Will they be up until April 7th?  That would mean almost three full months of politics!

 

 

 

 

It is apparent that nobody in the administration has a concern over it, but there is an ethics ordinance in Morton Grove

1-8-13: Code of Ethical Conduct…
B. Independent Judgment: My official Action shall be independent, impartial, and fair and shall be based on merit and substance of each case. I will use my office for the public good and not for my political or personal gain.

1-8-12: Code of Ethics;
Prohibited Political Activity;
1. Preparing for, organizing, or participating in any political meeting, political rally, political demonstration, or other political event
(Just a quick reminder, both Trustee Grear and Village Attorney Liston are officials of the Action Party)

Prohibitive Source:
.1. I seeking official action by an official or by an employee, or by the official or another employee directing that employee;

Having political signs is a violation  because   Giordano’s has a liquor license and has to be inspected by the village health dept.
Ted profited by selling land to the village while giving Mayor Dan DiMaria and the Action Party donations.

D. Prohibition of Political Contributions;
1. Any person or business entity whose contact(s), with the Village of Morton Grove is in aggregate annually more than twenty thousand dollars shall be prohibited any contributions.
A $1.5 million dollar contract to buy land with a $300,000 profit should be prohibited, (or at the very least investigated).

Enjoy the signs Morton Grove  You Paid For Them.  Putrid_Pizza_Artwork

Power corrupts, absolute power is kinda neat!

Action arrogance

Monday found most Morton Grove residents digging out from  Super Bowl Sundays  snow storm that dropped over 14 inches of snow  on Morton Grove.

Village snow crews worked throughout the night to clear streets so residents could get to work.

Village snow crews were out plowing early Sunday morning and keep plowing until the early Monday morning grueling as it was.

The men who work for the village are experienced at plowing 24 hours nonstop, that is why Morton Grove is recognized for having great snow removal .

You would think that by 11:00 am Monday after plowing all night the village would let the guys have a break.

They had one more job to do. The Mayor, who parks on the street in front of his house,  needed his parking spot cleared. 

So the village sent over a plow and  several spots were plow out for the Mayor and his family. 

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Did the Village send a plow over to clear in front of your  House?

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Power is great when you know how to use it!