Morton Grove Melodrama Part 15- Looking back and questioning forward

In February 2013 the daughters of Jack O’Brien, one of the Action Party founders, spoke out on who they feel would be their dad’s choice in the Feb. 26 election in a letter to a local news outlet. Here’s what they said:

As daughters of Jack O’Brien, who, with former Mayors Dan Scanlon and Dick Flickinger, founded the Action Party, we are quite dismayed by the turn of events within our Party which has led to the necessity of holding a primary.

It’s distressing that Trustee DiMaria:

  • did not have the majority vote for the party’s endorsement of his candidacy for Mayor;
  • did, when being interviewed, agree to support the slate put forth by the Screening Committee;
  • Is being supported by certain individuals who do not share the Action Party’s values, and in fact, have publicly denigrated the integrity of Mayor Scanlon and Jack O’Brien;
  • is now subjecting our village to the financial burden of a primary.

The Action Party has always prided itself on its inclusiveness. We have sought out the best and brightest of our opposition and invited them to get to know the Action Party better. Some accept, some do not.

In 2001, our dad, Mayor Scanlon, and other prominent Action Party members reached out to Dan Staackmann to determine his interest in joining the Action Party. Dan was elected as a Village Trustee in 2003, and ran for Village President in 2005…in a campaign marked by nastiness from our opponents—the same individuals who are now supporting Mr. DiMaria.  Dan Staackmann was reelected to the position of Village Trustee in 2007 and, in 2009, ran for the office of Village President and was successful.

During very tough economic times, Dan Staackmann has stabilized the Village’s finances and balanced the budget. This is no small accomplishment! He has provided solid leadership, brought in businesses, improved infrastructure, streamlined operations, maintained services at a superior level, and has done it all with an outstanding Village staff and personnel…and with only a 3% property tax increase in the past four years.

Dan Staackmann is passionate about Morton Grove and has spent about half of his life in public service to our town. We feel Dan Staackmann would be Jack O’Brien’s choice for mayor, because Dan Staackmann is a man of integrity who gets the job done.

We urge you to cast your vote in the February 26th primary election for Dan Staackmann.

Sincerely,

Lori O’Brien Gattorna and Terri O’Brien Cousar

Now, 4 years later, the situation in the village has not improved with Mr. DiMaria as village president. The promised transparency has not been forthcoming, but the current administration has scheduled a “Neighborhood Outreach Meeting” for Thursday, March 16th at the American Legion Civic Center.

This would be a great opportunity to ask Mr. DiMaria 10 questions “On the record”:

  1. You have stated that the new water deal will save residents about $900,000 over 40 years. How much can we expect our water bills to drop every month?
  2. You promised openness and transparency in your administration. Why weren’t there any village outreach meetings before this water deal was done informing us of the various options and costs?
  3. In order to bring water in from Evanston we will need to build waterlines. How much is this going to cost taxpayers?
  4. On February 12, 2015 Trustee Grear, speaking about the second lowering of the village bond rating stated: “It’s not earth shattering”. Isn’t it true that having a lower bond rating increases our cost of issuing bonds? Isn’t this earth shattering?
  5. The owners of Moretti’s,  contributors to the village president’s political party have cut a deal with the village. The deal cut by the village underwrites over 40% of the cost of building the pizzaria.  Why has this administration given a “sweetheart deal” to this political contributor?
  6.  TIF funds from the Lehigh/Ferris TIF were redirected to the Heartland property, (luxury apartments on Waukegan road),  whose owners were contributors to the village president’s political party. Why didn’t the administration use these funds to work a redevelopment deal with the owners of the Prairie View shopping center?
  7. For four years  the village was in negotiations with the owners of Prairie View shopping center to modernize and upgrade the property. The owners have reached out to the Village numerous times. In 2016, they reached out twice. In June 2016, they requested TIF assistance not to exceed $9 million. The Village ignored this request. In December 2016, wanting to start construction in the Fall of 2017,  they offered to lower their request to $7.5 million. The Village has still not responded and the project remains stalled.Village officials are now saying that the owners of the shopping center have broken off negotiations, yet it is the village stalling the dealIf there was TIF money and other incentives available for Moretti’s and Heartland, why couldn’t funds be found to close a deal with the owners of Prairie View?
  8. Four years ago you ran on the promise of increasing the tax base. You hired an economic development person to facilitate that, yet today, there are just as many, if not more vacant storefronts on Dempster and our EAV has gone down which increases the tax burden on every homeowner. How can you justify this failure to improve the business climate and tax base?
  9. There is a village ethics ordinance that prohibits village officers from accepting political contributions from vendors and consultants, yet the village president’s political party has received thousands of dollars in donations from businesses, like Groot that have lucrative contracts with the village. Why isn’t the ethics ordinance enforced?
  10. There is a state law prohibiting incumbent officials from voting themselves an increase in money during their term of office, yet this administration did exactly that a few months after taking office. How is this not a violation of the law?

The time has come for accountability, transparency and honesty instead of empty talk.

 

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Morton Grove Melodrama Part 14 – The Power of Incumbency

One of the advantages of being the incumbent party and controlling all the municipal functions of the village is being able to “game the system” to your advantage.

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For example, a recent Morton Grove Champion article , recounts how a challenge to the current Action Party candidates was refused a hearing by the village clerk, who is also one of the candidates running on the Action Party ticket in the upcoming election.

Albers’ objections were filed Dec. 23, making the papers late, according to Board of Elections attorney Menzel.
“Those candidate petitions are presumed to be valid and the candidates move on — even if there were flaws in the petitions — because the time window for the challenges passed,” he said.

Albers maintained that the Action Party nomination papers were accepted a half hour before the clerk’s office opened and questioned whether statements of economic interest were filed with the clerk during the filing period.
Not filing statements of economic impact during a filing period could be “fatal,” he acknowledged, but there is no way to investigate further because of the lack of timeliness.

“The only way to challenge candidates’ petitions and qualifications to get onto the ballot is through the objection process and it has a hard and fast deadline,” he said. “I’m not going to speculate what happened here, but there isn’t a format to challenge because they were too late with their objections.”

So, in essence, there could have been hanky-panky but there will not be a hearing, there will not be transparency and the voters will have one less chance to fairly judge how this current administration is dealing with following election laws ethically.

When you are in charge and control everything you can pretty much do as you please apparently. For example, a few weeks ago there was a village newsletter that more resembled an Action Party campaign piece mailed to residents. It follows, almost word-for-word, the political web site of the candidates running on the party ticket for the April 4th election.

Just this week residents received a post card announcing a “Town Hall” meeting for Thursday, March 16th. It’s funny that this administration which promised transparency decides to have what could rightfully be characterized as an Action Party campaign rally paid for at taxpayer’s expense within three weeks of the election. Illegal? Maybe or maybe not but unethical and politically sleazy? Absolutely!

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Many might think that political patronage was long dead. After all, the Supreme court in Elrod v Burns decided that political patronage hiring was illegal, ( 427 US 347) and reaffirmed the decision in Branti v Finkle, ( 445 US 507). What the court left standing, however, was what is commonly referred to as “white collar patronage”.
In recent cases the US court of appeals held that the first amendment protection under Elrod does not extend to government contractors. This preserves on of the most highly valued elements of the patronage system the distribution of government contracts and awarding of government money and commission positions as a means of rewarding political supporters and donors.

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For example, the TIF money that was earmarked for the revitalization of Prairie View Shopping Center has, instead, been used to underwrite Heartland ( the development company behind the luxury apartments at 8700 Waukegan Rd, political donors to the Action Party. Money from the Lehigh-Ferris TIF  went to underwrite Moretti’s pizza restaurant, (another political donor to the Action Party).

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Three of the candidates running for the Park District are officers of the Action Party and appointed members of village commissions. It is interesting to see coordination in the placement of their campaign signage,  so apparently there is now a plan in place for the Action Party to have all elected and appointed offices under their control.

Some would say that the folks running the Action Party are gaming the system, but you don’t have to game the system when you can make up the rules as you go along and decide which rules, (like the village ethics ordinance), you choose to ignore.

As the actor Mel Brooks says in his film “History of the World-Part 1”; “It’s good to be the king!

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Morton Grove Melodrama Part 11 – Somethings Shaking in Morton Grove

Over the past week there have been a couple of things that should make Morton Grover’s shake their heads in wonderment.

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Last week, a mailing was sent out to Morton Grove businesses in a hand-addressed envelope that showed the return address of Village President DiMaria. Inside the envelope was a message that began; “Mayor Daniel P. DiMaria cordially invites you to the 2017 Business and Leaders Forum to discuss the Progress, Opportunities and Challenges for Morton Grove businesses…” Later on it states; “Meet the Candidates for the 2017 election…”. It is only after reading the back of the invitation and the enclosed card that it becomes apparent that this is a fund-raising ploy aimed at squeezing money out of the businessmen and businesswomen of our village under the guise of a Business and Leader’s Forum. Accidental “bait & switch”? Not likely.

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Also last week the “Winter edition” of the Morton Grove village newsletter was delivered to the homes in town. Interestingly, the content of the village newsletter mirrors the content on the first page of the Action Party web site, (including the use of the outline of the tree which is part of the village logo and the use of the village motto which first appeared on the village stickers). Use of village communications for private political activity is prohibited by not only village ordinance, but also by Illinois ethics statutes, ( ELECTION CODETITLE 15. REGULATING POLITICAL FUNDS AND CAMPAIGNSCHAPTER 255. REGULATING POLITICAL ADVERTISING AND CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS ).

What DiMaria and the Action Party seems to have done bears a resemblance to what passed for politics as usual in Chicago in the 1950s. Richard J. Daley, who was mayor at the time, used to offer a succinct piece of ethics advice to newly elected aldermen. “Don’t take a nickel,” Daley told them. “Just show them your business card.”

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Even the greenest of political newcomers understood exactly what Daley meant. He was telling them that people with an interest in city council decisions would be happy to throw an alderman a little cash on the side to help bring about a favorable outcome. They just had to find an acceptable way to do it.

A law office was a good place. Petitioners who needed a favorable council vote could be depended on to pay generously for a little legal work. An insurance agency was even better.

It was all considered quite legal, at least in the ethical climate that existed in Chicago at the time. There was no quid pro quo, or any need to discuss out loud what the petitioners might want the city council to deliver for them. That part was understood. If a landlord or a building contractor or a labor union wanted to flatter a public official by doing business with him, they had every right to do so.

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The Hobbs Act, passed by Congress in 1946, says that perfectly voluntary transactions can qualify as extortion as long as one of the parties is acting “under color of official right.”

So now, apparently, Village President DiMaria and the Action Party are not satisfied with shaking down village businesses “under color of official right”, but they are blatantly making use of 0000000mad-as-hellmaterials that have been paid for by the taxpayers of Morton Grove no matter if they support the Action Party or not.

Bathhouse John Coghlin and Hinky-Dink Kenna, (two old-time Chicago machine politicians) would be proud… maybe the residents of our village, not so much.

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Morton Grove Melodrama Part 10 – Mo money!

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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.
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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 9 – The Face of Our Village

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Dan DiMaria’s cry to the Action Party four years ago as to why he had to be elected Mayor was; “The Village Mayor is the Face of the Village.”

After being elected he certainly implemented his concept by plastering his name on everything from village signs , village newsletters and village mailings to residents to brand himself as the Rock & Roll Mayor.

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All at Taxpayer expense, of course. The last time we had seen the blatant politicization of governmental signage and abuse of public communications was under the Cook County machine politics of John Stroger.

If appears that DiMaria wants everyone to see his name everywhere as many times as possible …except on a check to pay for his political aspirations. He has left that up to developers, contractors doing business with the Village of Morton Grove (pay to play), and members of the Action Party to pay for his reelection bid.

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In the long list of donors one name is consistently absent Dan DiMaria.

Ignoring the Village Law that Dan DiMaria & Bill Grear both voted for, they have lined their political pockets from the old Blagojevich “pay to play” handbook by raising funds from Village of Morton Grove Vendors, Contractors, Developers, and those seeking favors & Ordinance Variances

Speaking of ordinances, this type of behavior is specifically prohibited by Village ordinance 01-08-12 Section D Prohibition of Political Contributions;

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.

2.   A political organization established to promote a candidacy of an elected official or a declared candidate, an elected official, or a declared candidate shall not knowingly accept a campaign contribution in excess of one hundred fifty dollars ($150.00) per year from any person, business entity whose contracts and pending bids for contracts with the village of Morton Grove in aggregate annually total more than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000.00). 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.

From January 1st 2014 through January 1st 2017 according to Illinois State Board of Election D-2 reports that every Political Party must file, (this can be verified by visiting the web site of the Illinois Board of elections), Dan DiMaria has only donated $315.00 in three years ,the least amount of any elected official in the Action Party. That’s less than $100.00 per year.

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You might rightly believe that he should be able to afford to give more.

He gave himself a 25% increase in his stipend & non itemized expense compensation that he receives for being Mayor & liquor Commissioner. That came out to a $200.00 a month raise!

Interestingly, that started one month after he took office. There was no public notice, no amendment to the 2013 Budget and no vote by the Village Board authorizing the increase. He just casually dipped his paw into the public treasury.

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The Action Party is starting out the Spring Election with the largest bank roll in its history. All due to Dan DiMaria’s & Bill Grear’s disregard for Village of Morton Grove Ordinance 1-8-12, forbidding them from asking for and accepting donations from anyone doing business with the Village.

I guess they forgot the oath they swore when they took office, “…to Honor and obey The Constitution of the United States, The Constitution of the State of Illinois, & all of the Laws and Ordinances of the Village of Morton Grove. “

Is it possible that they, and the other elected members of the Action Party believe that the citizens of our town agree with and endorse the “politics as usual” graft that this represents?

There’s one question as a citizen of Morton Grove that you have to ask yourself; “well, do you agree?”

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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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Morton Grove Melodrama – Episode 2 Real Estate involves dirt

Well, dear readers, when we left our story last week we found that the village attorney ordered a Phase One EPA study to be done on the old Pequod’s property… and that they canceled the agreement with Peqoud’s on the grounds that they did not want to be liable for cleaning up the property.

As logical as that sounds, the village did not do it’s due diligence in making that final decision.

We also found that Chaser’s, a bar from Niles was making political contributions and the talk around town was that the village and Chaser’s were negotiating a deal to for the site where Pequod’s was planning to build.

As we join our story this week we wonder why the Village never tried to buy the old Maxwell/Studio property when it first went up at foreclosure sale!

Why did it wait to buy from Ted Mavarkis 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.

Why oh why?

Could it have anything to do with the fact that Ted Mavrakis, the owner of the Giordano’s property is a political donor?Oct 2015 001
(See this link  Dempster Ozark Corporation $360.00; Giordano’s $510.90; Ted Mavrakis is the Principal of both these business entities.)
One would think that an “investment” in a local politician that resulted in over 1/2 Million dollars in profit was a pretty good “bang for your buck”.

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Adding insult to injury, why didn’t the village do an EPA Phase One Study on the Maxwell/Studio property before paying and taking ownership of it?

They made the environment an issue with the Peqoud’s deal. Who dropped the ball on this, and more to the point, was the ball dropped intentionally?

Were they willfully ignorant, only finding out the property was environmentally contaminated when the owners of Moretti’s had  a Phase One Study so they could secure financing?
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Why was the deal structured so that Moretti’s could walk away with a prime piece of Dempster street real estate at net zero cost? 
 
Why do an EPA study on one property and not the other?  Was the Phase One EPA Study waved? If it was, who made the decision to do so?

Isn’t it the responsibility of the village attorney to protect the interest of the residents by making certain that all of the legalities are accounted for?

(The Village bought the Domicile property eleven years ago the same way on Ferris and Capulina that has environmental issues and will cost hundreds of thousands to cleanup.)

Is there a pattern here? Was it incompetence or ignorance or malfeasance… or was there some other reason?A P foxes in the hen house

The answer here will go to the grave with the powers that let that happen, unless there is an investigation to uncover the truth.

Why has the Village gone to such great lengths to renegotiate the TIF agreement to keep the Morretti’s deal alive, sweetening the deal with more TIF dollars and paying for the EPA cleanup?

Why?

The Morton Grove News has a theory.

Since Moretti”s is another political donor and there is an election coming up, Dan DiMaria, Terry Liston  & Bill Grear have to do make it look like they have done something besides catering to, and taking money from big political donors.

…regardless of how much it cost the people of Morton Grove.

Until shown otherwise, our theory is that the Village bottle-fed the Moretti’s deal as a reward for another big political donor. As the old Illinois politician Everett M. Dirkson once said; ” a million here and a million there… and pretty soon you’re talking about some real money.”

And so, dear reader, tune in next week when we will explore if our villain, Dubious Dan has made any more backroom deals,   000000crayon-up-noseif Babbling Billy, amuses his collegues by stuffing crayons up his nose, and if their trusty counselor,  Ophelia Ordinance finally realizes that her assessment might be hanging out

… and we ask the question who is Raj Fernando?

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Morton Grove Melodrama – Part 1

And now, dear readers, another episode in the melodrama of Dubious Dan  DiMaria.

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There are many unsolved mysteries in life even though science, technology, and research have come a very long way. Although we may demand a logical explanation for these mysterious things, as of now we will have to settle for mere speculation.

One mystery that residents may never get a straight answer to is; Why did the Village  kill Pequod’s relocation to near the train station?

Morton Grove News has a theory that might shed some light on unraveling this great mystery by assembling the facts & making an educated guess on what happened.
 
Pequods, a long established and successful restaurant, along with TIF assistance from Morton Grove, was all set to start building a new restaurant across from the Train Station.

Then the village attorney ordered a Phase One EPA study done on the old Pequod’s property because the plan was to acquire it when the new restaurant was finished.

Having an EPA study done on any property that a municipality purchases is smart. It saves the tax payers from the liability of paying for a clean-up that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.  

The study showed traces of dry cleaning fluid on the Pequod’s property, which is strange because there was never a dry cleaner within blocks of that location. 000000villian001

Questions have been raised as to how dry cleaning fluid landed on the property when there was no record of any business that would use such chemicals anywhere near this parcel. This becomes a mystery worthy of the talents of the famous detective, Sherlock Holmes.
 
Well, guess what Sherlock? The Village immediately canceled the agreement with Pequod’s on the grounds that they did not want to be liable for cleaning up the property. As logical as that sounds, the village did not do it’s due diligence in making that final decision.

TIF’s are created to improve blighted property and increase the tax base of the community. TIF funds are and have be used to clean up environmental concerns. Morton Grove never inquired about the cost to clean up the property or attempted to renegotiate the TIF agreement if Pequod’s had the property cleaned up.

Redevelopment near the train station just stopped!  

Why? Like Sherlock Holmes, Morton Grove News has a theory.

Shortly after taking complete control of the Morton Grove Action Party, Dan DiMaria, Bill Grear & Terry Liston started taking in political donations from several sources.

One of those political donors was Chaser’s, a village of Niles Bar. Dan DiMaria being a Niles Guy could have known the owners.

See one of many public records of political contributions at elections.il.gov/…re/ItemizedContrib.aspx

Why would a Bar in Niles be so generous to Morton Grove politicians?  Well, word has it that 000000villian002Chasers started negotiating with Morton Grove for TIF assistance in building a new bar in Morton Grove across from the train station!  

Out with the well established Morton Grove Restaurant and in with the Niles Bar, (incidentally creating direct competition with another well-established Morton Grove business, The Bringer Inn).

As of this date no final agreement has been publicized between the Village and Chaser’s.

Why?

Is the village waiting until after the upcoming election to spring this announcement on the unsuspecting residents?

Until shown otherwise, our theory is that the Village killed the Pequod’s deal as a reward for a big political donor.

And so, dear reader, tune in next week when we will explore if our villain, Dubious000000goofy-sidekick-002 Dan DiMaria has made any more unfulfilled promises… if Dubious Dan’s sidekick Babbling Billy, still moves his lips while he pretends to read… and if their trusty counselor,  Ophelia Ordinance finally realized that she only packed half a sandwich.

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Ethics? We don’t need no stinkin’ ethics!

New action party

 

The fact that something is legal doesn’t make it ethical.

Let’s make the case explicitly, and explain why legality doesn’t determine ethics.

First, we can proceed by enumerating a few counter-examples:

  1. Most kinds of lying are perfectly legal, but lying is generally recognized as being unethical;
  2. Breaking promises is generally legal, but is widely thought of as unethical;
  3. Cheating on your husband or wife or boyfriend or girlfriend is legal, but unethical, though the rule against it is perhaps more honored in the breach;
  4. …and so on.

So, if you want to hold that what is legal is also ethical, you’ve got to bite an awful lot of bullets, and accept as ethical a lot of behaviors that you very likely don’t want to accept.

The following contributions to the Morton Grove Action Party are probably legal, but you decide if they are ethical:

SOURCE: http://www.elections.il.gov/campaigndisclosure/ItemizedContrib.aspx?FiledDocID=543879&ContributionType=Individual+Contributions&Archived=True&OrderBy=LastorOnlyName-AtoZ&ItemizedContribFrom=D2Quarterly.aspx

Campaign contributions Morton grove Action Party

A-1 Contractors                                120 E Marquardt Dr Wheeling, IL 60090 $500.00

Do these folks do business with the village?

Advanced Dentistry        5821 Dempster St Morton Grove, IL 60053 $400.00

Aren’t these forks subject to inspection by the village?

Bill‘s Complete Landscaping Service, Inc              6100 W Oakton St Morton Grove, IL 60053 $250.00

Do these folks provide services to the village?

Chasers Sports Bar & Grill, Inc   9003 N Milwaukee Ave Niles, IL 60714 $550.00
Why would a Niles gin mill contribute to a political party in Morton Grove?

Loyal Order of Moose Morton Grove Lodge #376  6419 Chestnut St Morton Grove, IL 60053 $500.00
This is a 501(c)3 organization that is prohibited by law to engage in political activity

Lundin, Ron    6902 Church St Morton Grove, IL 60053     $250.00
Owner of Linn-Mar Towing which holds the exclusive towing & impound contract with the village

Marino Real Estate, Inc.    5800 Dempster St. Morton Grove, IL 60053     $550.00
The real estate business is regulated by the village.

McGrath Imports, Inc    9105 Waukegan Rd Morton Grove, IL 60053     $250.00
Yet another Morton Grove business regulated by the village

Mitchell Insurance Agency, Inc.    9140 Waukegan Rd Morton Grove, IL 60053     $650.00
Does this agency do business with the village?

Northwest Realty Group, Inc    7174 Dempster St Morton Grove, IL 60053     $50.00
Another realtor making political contributions.

 Northwest Realty Group, Inc    7174 Dempster St Morton Grove, IL 60053     $500.00
Apparently $50 wasn’t enough so the multiplied it by ten!

Restore Construction    11241 Melrose Ave Franklin Park, IL 60131     $1,000.00
Why would a construction company in Franklin Park contribute a cool “G” to a Morton Grove political party?

Citizens For Lou Lang     PO Box 1815 Skokie, IL 60076 $200.00
The fund raising arm of the Niles Township Democrats influencing Morton Grove politics?

El-Mech, Inc       8700 Waukegan Rd Morton Grove, IL 60053 $500.00
Why would an electronic component company contribute to a political party? Do they do business with the village?

Gene A Eich, LTD              6032 N Lincoln Ave Morton Grove, IL 60053 $165.00; $250.00
What is this Morton Grove attorney’s relationship with a Morton Grove political party. Does he do legal work for, or has been an adversary to the village?

Grendys, Charles             4318 W Carroll Ave Chicago, IL 60624-1705 $350.00
This is a co-owner of Fear City, a business that is regulated by the village and also does business with the village.

Right-Way Rescue       5915 Lincoln Ave Morton Grove, IL 60053 $500.00
This is  a 501(c)3 charitable animal shelter that relies on tax deductable donations.

This violates their non-profit status to write a $500 check to a political party. 

Action Party Golf sponsors01Sponsored the Golf Outing

 

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Got a zoning exemption for an over sized sign

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pigs at the money trough
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You can read the code of ethics and see that with the exception of the 501(c)3 charitable organization, the businesses were within the law to make the contributions. It is somewhat questionable if the politicians were within the law to accept them.

Village of Morton Grove Municipal Code: 1-8-12: CODE OF ETHICS:

  1.  Prohibition Of Political Contributions:
  2.   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.
  3.   A political organization established to promote a candidacy of an elected official or a declared candidate, an elected official, or a declared candidate shall not knowingly accept a campaign contribution in excess of one hundred fifty dollars ($150.00) per year from any person, business entity whose contracts and pending bids for contracts with the village of Morton Grove in aggregate annually total more than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000.00). 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.

The most striking effect of the Morton Grove Ethics ordinance is in its’ lack of enforcement. It could be because the chief ethics enforcement officer is the part-time village attorney who is very active in the political party to which all of the current elected officials are beholden. It seems as if it is a classic case of the fox guarding the hen house.

A P foxes in the hen house

The most important effects of 2014’s donations of money will come after Election Day. The influence bought by donors will remain. All of the politicians can be counted on to remember the favors that donors did for them.

How will those debts be repaid? How can we be sure that it won’t come at the expense of Morton Grove residents, who can’t afford to buy influence? The answers are the same as they’ve always been. Transparency through real-time reporting , vigilance by the public and the press. And an insistence that our representatives be held accountable.

Based upon recent actions by this administration, we hold out little hope.