It's a Matter of Trust
Today, my heart is breaking for my village. My heart is breaking for good people who have had to step up to a fight they didn't sign up for. My heart is breaking for the residents who will have to pay the cost of the fight, both financial and emotional. But at the core, my heart is breaking because trust has been broken, and once gone it will never be rebuilt.
Today at 10am, a good man will face one of his bullies who holds more power and completely controls the narrative (at least for today). A man whose career has been built on the rule of law; a man who has quite literally has stood between good and evil; a man who is so humble that when faced with his Administrative Leave spoke of concern for those who are left in the office with one less person fighting for them -- this man will walk into Village Hall at 10am this morning and make account for the allegations against him. This man will walk past many residents who know, support, and love him -- and I hope his heart is filled as he enters that the truth will come out -- even if it's suppressed today.
Will anyone ask him about the months and months of immoral and illegal requests that were made of him? Will anyone ask him about his formal, written complaint against our Village President that was buried in a drawer? Will anyone stand up for the man who has stood up for what is right for so much of his life?
Pausing to say, though this blog and a series of unexpected connections, I got to speak to the Chief for an hour on Sunday, August 8th. That hour stands in sharp contrast to my hour in front of Starbucks talking to Mr. Berman in early June. The contrast was so startling that as I dug into it, I realized that absolutely everything is a matter of trust. Whose version of the truth is what you believe -- who do you trust?
When I spoke to Mr. Berman, he spoke of conspiring employees trying to slow down the work of the village (I've found no proof to this claim); he spoke of residents conspiring to slow the village with FOIAs (I've found no proof to this claim, and Mr. Berman has confirmed that he can not prove it either); he spoke of a lack of complaints (and yet I've held them in my hand and he wrote the report that claims there's no basis to the complaints that he also says don't exist); and he spoke of his desire to be neutral and get the facts (again, I've seen so public proof of this). When I spoke to the chief, he spoke of encouragement of others, he spoke of his life's motto of doing "the next right thing," he neither defended himself nor made a single excuse. I heard a man humble and kind. I heard a man who believes he did the best he could, as he admits -- he's human too. A man worried about health care for his daughter over the possibility of any tarnish to his reputation.
After the last board meeting we had, I told Trustee Augustine that I live my life by simple rules and one of them is that I will believe everything someone tells me up until the point that I catch them in a lie. At that first lie, I will never believe without concrete proof anything that person says again. Life is hard enough without having to make allowances for someone who isn't honest and upfront. You have my trust up until the point that you break it and then you will never win it back. I hold no grudges; I have no vendettas; I simply have no trust -- and when you stop trusting someone, you double check everything they do and say.
In order to allow 6 Trustees, 1 President, 1 CAO/Village Manager, and an attorney to have the power to spend our taxes, to make decisions on our behalf to run our village, and to enforce the very code we live by here; we have to trust them to make the right decisions in the best interest of the village, not themselves. This is a social contract that is the foundation of our local democracy. Without this most primitive trust, we can not allow them unfettered access to the money, to the information, and to the power to lead. This is what is meant by transparency -- this is what the residents are demanding -- and the louder we get, the deeper into hiding our leadership goes. This is a telling example of the value they put on trust and transparency.
This is where we are -- I've lost my trust of half my Board of Trustees, our Village President, our Village Attorney, and our CAO. I've lost trust in those who should have been working overtime to keep it and protect it. And I think what is worse is that I have no idea what they have gained by breaking the social contract with the residents of this village.
My heart today is standing on the sidewalk in front of Village Hall. My heart is holding a sign that supports our Village Employees, supporting them to have fair and equitable investigations. My heart is breaking because my body can't join my heart. I have a conflict that I can not move. This is my transparency, I want to be there and can not -- and I'm heart broken.