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  • Writer's pictureTricia Babischkin

Board Meeting 12/8/2020: Review of Facts

During the most recent board meeting there were many things that were said that require fact checking and review. So much like Phil likes to begin his meetings with a list of prepared remarks to "shed clarity on several topics," I feel it's important to fact check and share the rest of the story -- as it seems Phil's 'Clarity' is limited.

Promotion of Sgt. Cole -- Presented by CAO Smith

Claim: Sgt. Cole has over 25 years experience as a police officer.

Reality: Actually, to explain Sgt. Cole's service record, I think this chart says it all. The orange is the time he served as a part time police officer. The Blue is the time he served as a full time police officer. The combo orange/blue boxes are when he was working full time for one department and part time for another. The two T's in 2009 are when he was terminated from the only other full time police jobs he's had.

So, the math on this, of the 300 months since he began working in his first police job, he's not had a police job for ~20% of the time and the vast majority of the time he has been part time. Being completely transparent, I only have records from the state of IL and there is a rumor that he lived out of state for some period of this time.

Conclusion: False. I don't think you can claim 25 years of police experience, but yes, he began his career 25 years ago -- this month in fact.

Claim: Sgt. Cole is "definitely qualified" based on his certifications. (quote is a direct quote of CAO Smith)

Reality: On a sheer number, obtained from the state -- that I've been told may not be complete -- Sgt. Cole holds 36 certifications. Of the list that CAO Smith listed, I found 2 in the list from the state (both are the FBI Leadership Institute that I believe he attended while with Lakewood fairly recently).

Conclusion: Inconclusive. While I can not confirm he holds the certifications that CAO Smith listed, I also understand that the state may not have the most updated list.

Claim: The promotion process is as it has been in the past.

Reality: It appears that some residents had inquired about a sergeant's test. She calls out specifically the short time that Sgt. Olszak was at Lakewood before he became a sergeant. She leaves out that both Richardson and Olszak had been sergeants at their last department. She also mentions that Sgt. Winters had been with the department less than a year, again leaving out that he had retired from his previous department with 25 years of full time service and had begun with part time 5 years prior. While no, there had not been a test for the three previous promotions, the actual precedent is the longest serving full time police officer in the department at the time. That appears to be the most common factors from Richardson, Olszak, and Winters promotions.

Additionally, I understand that in the past there was a formal interview process with the chief -- but wait... this is another difference. We don't have a chief. See the most interesting questions I've received as a result of this is if the CAO even has the power to promote a police officer -- as she is not the acting chief and holds no police powers. This is an interesting line of thought -- one I'd love more input on -- as to the real protocol for this promotion, especially in light of not appointing an acting chief.

Conclusion: Mostly false. Yes, the lack of exam is consistent; but it appears little else is consistent with the three previous promotions.

Claim: Ofc. Pluviose had applied for another position elsewhere, and that disqualified him for consideration for the promotion.

Reality: In the real world, people apply for other jobs all the time. People may or may not get those jobs and people may put in for promotions at their current job while applying elsewhere. Never in my career have I heard a hiring manager state that they disqualified someone for a job because of applying to anything else. Good employees grow -- they either grow within the organization or they go elsewhere to grow.

But despite this being the oddest excuse I've ever heard for someone not to be considered for a promotion, I have no way to confirm if he was or was not applying elsewhere. What I can say is it is obvious by looking at his career and his qualifications, he was looking to advance, if that wasn't available in Lakewood; it would have been natural to look outside of Lakewood.

Conclusion: Inconclusive, but weird.

Claim: The other officers didn't have a problem with the promotion of Sgt. Cole.

Reality: I think it's pretty apparent from the resignation letter that this was not true.

Conclusion: False.

Claim: There will be a confidential investigation of the allegations of racist comments.

Reality: At this point the only thing we are fairly sure of is that despite putting Chief Richardson on Admin Leave to conduct the investigation, it does not appear that Sgt. Cole will be put on leave at this time. This appears to be an inconsistency in process as frankly, the complaint is just as harsh. What seems truly odd is that it appears Sgt. Cole is being afforded a bit more respect in terms of a promise to keep his investigation confidential while this board and the administration appeared to take pride in dragging Chief Richardson's name through the mud. The residents are going to demand that this investigation be conducted with more attention to detail than the "Finding of Facts" that Trustee Berman had and with less bias than the investigation of Chief Richardson. I wouldn't be surprised if we hear there is a discrimination lawsuit coming soon. And should that lawsuit become a reality, it wouldn't be the first discrimination lawsuit that has been brought against the village under this administration. We settled the last one at the behest of our insurance company -- how much more will this regime cost us in taxes to pay for their conduct?

Conclusion: More Information Needed.

Levy Information - Presented by Phil

Claim: The levy resolution passed at the 11/24/2020 could not be tabled because of timing, as I had asked in my public comments.

Reality: The levy must be sent to the county by the last Tuesday of the month of December (12/28), it must be voted on not fewer than 20 days prior to that date. I stated both of these things in my public comment asking the board to table the levy because of the lack of updated financials, a budget that is full of errors and in desperate need of review, and an audit that is now beyond late. With full disclosure, I do not know if the individual ordinances need 20 days between the levy resolution and the passing of them -- but I'm also not a highly compensated municipal employee who should have a firm grasp on the timing and needs of this process.

First, if the reason they had to push forward with the levy resolution was because of this critical timing issue -- why was CAO Smith's reason for why the resolution should not be delayed that it was a "non-binding resolution?" One would think that if it was truly critical to pass the levy because of timing; she would have stated so outright and not hidden behind the term "non-binding."

Second, the impression that the board appears to be giving is that the resolution is non-binding and as such can be changed. This is not in fact the case. The levy request can not be changed, but how the levy is broken up can be -- so should CAO Smith want to change the % to the Fire Protection or to Street & Bridge; she can; but the total levy is set.

Finally, no one wants taxes to increase. It feels to me that because this board is facing an election; they were very vocal about not increasing the levy -- do they realize that by approving the same levy as this past year, the budget will essentially be the same -- are they ready to tell the police that we won't have money for them to have a new car again next year?

Conclusion: Inconclusive -- bigger questions is why couldn't our CAO explain that timing was the reason we couldn't wait for the audit, budget review, and more end of month financials?

Stormwater in the Gates

Claim: The Vactor cleaned out a clog in or near a manhole. The plan is to use the Vactor to create the first comprehensive map of the storm sewer lines in the Gates with no timeline given.

Reality: There's nothing really to fact check here. I was walking in the Gates after the single manhole was cleared and was shown the root parts that were near the manhole cover. That said, I also got a good tour of the work on Hampshire. So, once I understood the concept -- you can imagine my excitement to drive over this (12/12) morning to take a look at how well it works.

First, let me back up. We had a lot of rain Friday through this morning -- weather service says we got more than an inch of rain. As I was driving this morning, I drove past a normally dry detention pond at Vida and Lakewood Rd. It was almost full to the top of the sewer pipe that feeds it from a French drain (as I understand). I thought -- wow...if this is full, I bet the detention ponds at the end of Hampshire would be too. So, I drove over to check them out.

In the foreground of this photo is the detention pond. It was full -- but full of leaves -- with no obvious water line as you'd expect if the water had been there and drained. I think it's pretty obvious where the water is actually going, but how is it getting there?

So this is odd, and I plan on giving Phil a ring to have him explain to me why there wouldn't be water in the the median. Now, it's possible that unlike the pond on the west side of town, these drain (somehow) into the pipe that takes the water to Crystal Creek; but I was under the impression that the pipe in the middle of Hampshire isn't connected to the Broadway storm sewer. But I want to understand what I'm missing here.

However, what I didn't miss was driving down Hampshire and seeing some odd puddles. There are two spots in the road that look like this:

Is there supposed to be a big puddle that's not draining into the storm drain? This looks like we have some work to get water to flow all the way to where we want it to go. Is this a reason for the dry medians? No, it was not raining when I was taking these photos.

Conclusion: More information is needed.

Still being reviewed are the claims around the grant for Haligus Road and the Linebacker program from the state for an interim police chief.

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