Updated: Feb 21, 2021
Yesterday, I posted about the imagery and the feelings evoked by a striking hawk in a logo.
This morning I see that the soaring hawk once again flies as the logo for RedTail Golf Club. But then I also was pointed to a board meeting in which Phil was the person who was pushing a large metal sign of that striking hawk logo in 2018. So -- I guess we know who believes the striking hawk is an appropriate look for our village owned property.
In light of this metaphor of a hawk striking its prey, I also learned that the written charges against Jan, the longest serving (and lowest paid) clerk in McHenry County, had been sent to the board. If Phil's hawk is a picture of his presidency, then Jan is the unseen mouse just beyond the hawk's talons as it goes in for the kill.
Before we get into the charges themselves, we have to look at the timing. Having dealt with THREE investigations of appointed officials; ONE investigation of an employee; one termination of a long serving employee; I thought I understood the speed at which the village moved in these matters.
It took two months for the highly suspect and informal investigation of CAO Smith and Phil to be completed by Mr. Berman -- given the sheer volumes of 'alternative facts' contained in it; it's a wonder that document could even be considered an investigation.
It took a month and a half from putting our Police Chief on leave until they fired him.
It took two months to investigate racist comments made by a newly promoted supervisor.
It took at least 6 months to build the case against the last of the legacy finance department employees.
Given all of the above -- why did it take less than 5 days from a Trustee mentioning at a board meeting that he was concerned about Jan's work to formal written charges? It appears to me that one of two things is possible --- either there was no actual investigation or confirmation of anything OR this was pre-planned at already set in motion long before the board meeting of February 9th. Add to this that we all watched Phil read from a paper his "clarification" of exactly what they were straw polling -- this was a plotted strike against our long serving clerk. To believe the tableau that the board attempted to paint that this was not already a done deal would be kidding yourself. This move was plotted and planned with a singular motivation -- yet again sending a signal to all who cross Phil and his Merry Board that they will use anything against you -- even if it is untrue.
Keep in mind that this board fell all over themselves to declare their dedication to transparency -- this move only confirms what I've thought for some time: to them transparency is great only if it destroys someone else -- if it highlights their scheming, then they run as far from transparency as possible.
My question is -- if this had been plotted for some length of time as this would seem to indicate -- why the drama on evening of the 9th? Phil will claim that since she's an appointed officer of the village that he couldn't have done that in executive session -- that the accusations had to be done in public. That's actually untrue. All he would have had to do is give Jan a letter removing her as clerk and then reported the details to the board not less than 5 not more than 10 days later. Better, had this not been vindictive, Phil could have just asked Jan to retire and not disclose any of this. With this in mind, the ONLY logical reason to handle this like this is to try to destroy the reputation of the longest serving clerk in McHenry County. Sound familar?
What are the reasons Jan is being removed? Six and a half pages essentially breaks into 4 items Phil calls out as his reasons:
1. Shredding of a Village record and consistently providing incorrect information
This is the longest charge with the most 'backup' -- but it's basis is actually inaccurate. Oh, yes, Jan shredded a piece of paper. She did this to pull the original receipt (an internal tracking document -- not election materials) from Pam Eddy's nomination petition and replace it with one with the updated information when Pam resubmitted her altered packet after Phil removed her packet from village hall.
Let me say this again ---
Phil violated the rules of submitting nominating petitions by removing them from the clerk's care and removing them completely from village property.
Pam returned the documents (albeit altered) to the clerk. And when she did, the clerk wrote an updated receipt for the documents and shredded the now inaccurate one.
If you read the three and a quarter pages on this single charge, you will see that the village is attempting to claim that if Jan destroyed any document of the village she's in the wrong. However, this is in fact not true. In fact, in the Berman written report, he reported that his finding on the question of if CAO Smith shredded documents was this:
If this cleared CAO Smith -- why is the same standard not used for our Village Clerk?
2. Providing inaccurate testimony and being contradicted by two other witnesses under oath at the Electoral Board hearing
This charge is also from the transcripts of the electoral board hearings. It appears that despite not stapling the nominating petition, that Pam brought a stapler with her (which is in sharp contrast with her running mate, Phil, who used village property improperly to staple his petition). So, Jan was asked if Pam had a stapler with her and said no. Pam testified she did. Sue testified that she did. But no one asks if Jan KNEW she did. Sue told me that it was in Pam's pocket -- so, is it at all possible that Jan wasn't aware of the presence of a stapler? And much more importantly, would it have changed the situation? Jan couldn't tell the incumbents that their packets had to be stapled. Once handed to Jan, the documents were considered submitted so they shouldn't have been altered in any way -- let's again ignore that Phil took his petition back from Jan, used the Police department stapler, and resubmitted.
So -- this charge, I'd chalk up to reasonable doubt as to if she knowingly lied. And again, if Jan had said that Pam had a stapler -- does that suddenly mean that the papers were stapled when they were not? Does it alter the reality of the situation that the petitions were submitted unstapled, were removed from the clerk's care, altered, and resubmitted?
3. Poor, negligent and unsatisfactory performance of assigned work relative to FOIA
So, unlike the previous two, this charge does not have to do with the election board hearings. It actually has to do with the FOIAs that have been submitted to the village. There are four examples listed as issues with the way Jan handled FOIAs.
She asked a private business to turn over documents under FOIA. I'm going to guess that this was likely an error -- one that is not the grievous sin that this makes it out to be. All the business owner would need to do is email back and ask, "Hey did you mean to send this to me?" and it would be taken care of. However, this particular business owner had been working with Phil on some 'unpermitted items' and one can assume thought he was going to go to his buddy instead of asking the honest question. Oh -- and this happened in the summer of last year and no one in the village spoke to Jan about it --- so, I'm thinking if it rated a conversation, it should have been had before now, right?
There was a FOIA requesting the IP addresses from a Zoom Board Meeting. The charge appears to claim that Jan extended the request until a time that she wouldn't be in the office on purpose. Jan works part time -- only 3 days a week. FOIAs must be fulfilled in 5 business days and the extension is 5 additional days. So -- in 10 days (two business weeks), there is a 40% chance that Jan won't be in the office on a due date. Additionally, our CAO has called Jan in to fulfill FOIAs on her days off --- so that's hardly an excuse. The reality on this one is that a) the requester is Bryan Younge and this is a dig at a resident and b) as the FOIA officer, Jan would have requested the records requested of CAO Smith (the keeper of the Zoom account) and had CAO Smith been timely in her response would have forwarded this one on to the law firm -- as it was (as Jan describes) 'sticky.'
The last of the itemized examples is actually the interesting one. This one calls a specific person by name. You want to know what's interesting about this? It appears that the gentleman named is not a resident, but in fact a lawyer. Hmm -- does anyone think that the village has done anything recently that might make them a target for any sort of suit? So the claim here is that she didn't outline the exemption and the FOIA was referred to the PAC. It goes on to state that Jan didn't inform the CAO of the PAC review in a timely manner -- except that the PAC emails Jan AND the CAO when they respond -- ask me how I know? Additionally, it is my understanding that the CAO has deliberately inserted herself into the FOIA process and reviews every FOIA request -- so if Jan has failed to do something properly, then also has our CAO/Finance Director/Budget Officer/HR Director/etc.
The claim is that Jan released documents marked attorney client privilege in response to FOIA. I have no way to confirm this, but as I was the recipient of Phil handing me privileged documents; it seems odd that Jan is being (yet again) held to a different standard than any other officer of the village.
4. Poor, negligent and unsatisfactory performance of other administrative duties
The last charge is a laughable single paragraph. It claims that Jan failed to update something on our village website. Yes, the code should be updated on the village website -- but the site is a mess. It's as possible that the code mentioned is in the wrong spot as it is that it is missing --- but the key is that Jan doesn't post things to the website....wait for it....because she was not trained. Now, if this should have been changed; then Jan's supervisor (that would be our CAO) should have stepped up and made sure that Jan had all of the tools she needed to do this work.
Four charges. Four charges blown out of proportion, taken out of context and twisted for a singular purpose. Four opportunities that the village administration could have ensured that Jan was treated the same as the other officers of the village. Four utter failures to do this.
It's heartbreaking to watch Jan become the next victim of this regime. It's heartbreaking not because most of these are unfounded and inaccurate -- but that the people leveraging this weapon against her are the ones who do what they claim she's done without penalty. Our board liked to throw the word "weaponizing" around at the last board meeting -- well, they are weaponizing their power and using that power not just against our village clerk; but against a fellow neighbor and resident.
To what end?
Could it be to discredit a FOIA sent to a lawyer who might have a client with a powerful case? Or could it be that on Tuesday the 23rd, Phil and Pam both have an appeal hearing regarding their complete disregard for election process in the submission of their nominating petitions? This would be the same February 23rd, that Phil is planning on dragging our 19 year veteran Village Clerk through the mud with this pack of mostly falsehoods and 'alternative facts.'
When you vote on April 6th (or before in early voting), remember Jan. Remember the people Phil has stomped on to push through an agenda that is entirely his own and serves only himself. Remember that in the course of the two years he has been in office, he has targeted the police, the finances, the records, and run RedTail into the ground so deeply it took a global pandemic to force people outside to golf to turn it around. This isn't success by any metric I know -- this is razed earth and in the final days of his leadership, it appears there is nothing he won't attempt to burn to the ground.