• Tricia Babischkin

Special Board Meeting: The Rest of the Story

So much was wrong with the board meeting last night, but at the core of it all is that this board meeting is what happens when you refuse to listen to the residents, when you completely lack self-awareness and any ounce of humility, when you think that blind praise will solidify your legacy while you do the exact things that are destroying it. I realize this is a harsh condemnation of the current board -- four of which will soon be gone -- but it is the way I see this.


Before I begin: I don't know Janet Barron. I know one of the U4L team has reached out to her to congratulate her with no response. During the last election, I was a bit busy; but I would peak at her work to get the incumbents re-elected in Lake Zurich. Their campaign was successful -- though the margins and turnout were much smaller than Lakewood and without knowing the issues they faced, I truly can not comment on it. I know she had some interactions with the Village of Lakewood's News & Politics site until she decided to leave -- I can't say all her interactions were positive. But what I know is that she appears to have some knowledge of local government and a willingness to get involved. I am looking forward to getting to know her better and would hope she is looking forward to working with the team too. I also hope that the endorsement of the re-elected President of Lake Zurich is accurate that she has a willingness to listen to all sides -- because I think that is absolutely critical in the role of Trustee. (Yes, even mine -- as I am willing to listen to all sides; but I highly suggest that those sides bring all the facts to the table.)


Now, let's clear up a few key facts that were left out of last night's farce of a board meeting:

  1. During the Budget 'Workshop', our CAO/Finance Director/Budget Officer, stated that the impact fees had been waived the past two years (truth) and would not be waived this coming year and she budgeted 13 new homes. This is untrue -- the impact fee waiver for TWO (and only TWO) developers are waived for all of FY '22 and about half of FY '23 based on the ordinance passed in late summer last year. These TWO developers also happen to be contributors to the Re-Elect Phil Campaign, per his Campaign Disclosure. I wonder if once she realizes that the impact fees are likely waived, if we will see a difference in the budget for the hearing.

  2. Property Sales: There's been some village emails that have gone out from the CAO/Finance Director/Budget Officer and the Board (both incoming and current) regarding my questions on these pieces of properties. Essentially there are a few claims:

  3. First, the board approved the properties to be re-appraised. Actually, per the board meeting, the board asked to have the remaining properties, not currently for sale, on RedTail appraised so they could go up for sale. It was the CAO, from what I can tell from an email, who decided to add the re-appraisal of TWO of the THREE unsold of the lots still available (these would be Lots 16 & 17).

  4. Second, despite having these new appraisals from the middle of March (3/11 to be exact), the website was never updated -- the public was never made aware of the change in price. So, you expect the public to believe that a developer just happened to guess there was a new appraisal on the property and offered something VERY close to 80% of the new (unpublished) appraisal? Would it shock anyone to learn that this same person owns other land in the village and that land had Re-Elect Phil signs on it during the election?

  5. Third, Lot 11 was NOT re-appraised. I asked our CAO why that wasn't included when she decided to have the other lots appraised -- her response, "I don't recall offhand, I'll have to get back to you." Funny -- you single out ONE lot to be excluded and you can't recall why? Is it at all possible that you (or Phil) had talked to the developer (who had been involved in the purchase of some other recent lot sales) and they mentioned a desire for these two lots, but wanted a lower price or even a confirmation on the appraisal?

  6. Finally, the large bonuses for Kenny and Jim at RedTail. I take no issue with bonuses being given (they total 10% of the total income planned from the budget amendment of RedTail in FY '21) -- they and the entire staff at RedTail worked hard last year in the midst of a global pandemic. But let's all agree on a few real facts:

  7. RedTail was not a burden on the village until Phil took office. In fact, it was profitable for the years prior to Phil taking office.

  8. Over the two of four years that Phil has been in public service, Redtail has sustained a 6 figure loss in income and the final year -- while yes, should likely be profitable, the numbers aren't firm as to HOW profitable.

  9. In the meeting, there was talk of the number of rounds -- per National Golf Foundation (NGF -- a publication on the golfing industry), 2020 rounds were up nationally 14% due directly to the pandemic -- mostly in the working from home golfer sector, who now has more time to golf during the weekday. As of December in round counts, we were up 22% -- or about 8% above the national average. What is important here is that the largest gains were in our unseasonably warm early winter -- people were golfing well into December and in fact, we had a more than doubling of our rounds in November and December over the pre-COVID averages. We may never be able to parse out the effect of COVID, great weather late into the season, and the warm personalities of both Kenny and Jim had on the 2020/21 season -- but yes, all three had a positive affect. Here's a chart I found handy to make showing the rounds:


But let's get to the real question:


So, how do we end this farce and get truth and professionalism in governing? Well, the first step is over -- the election is done and there was a mandate for change. But it appears the outgoing board refuses to work with the incoming board on the transition and is truthfully making everything more difficult than it needs to be.


Right after the results of the election were announced, Our CAO and President-elect sat down and she informed Dave that Phil "had no intention of running the meeting on April 27th." This is the day after the certified results will be in and should be the date we are sworn into office.


As the incoming board, who believes strongly in a hybrid meeting solution, we began to use that date to work toward a plan for that meeting. We have been offered resident donations to secure a location of suitable size for an expected large in person turnout (and the ability for our families to share in person during our swearing in) and confirmed its availability. We secured a judge to do the swearing in portion. As of this post, we have multiple people holding and waiting on finalization of plans -- all because of one person who will not acknowledge any communication to discuss this.


In case you are curious, the plan we put into motion is that the meeting will be held in person at the Raue Center for the Performing Arts. This theater can hold 150 audience members plus the entire 10 people (board plus, lawyer, CAO, and clerk) required to be there for the meeting in. socially distanced fashion. We even got the building for the public hearing of the budget too. Additionally, we have worked with their technology people to confirm a Zoom option for viewing this meeting remotely. This was done at ZERO cost to the village.


All we have asked for is confirmation from Phil that his intention is still the same and that we can finalize these plans. The incoming board has heard crickets. Phil has NOT ONCE reached out to Dave to either congratulate him nor discuss a transition. Despite the contention between Paul and Erin (please note -- Paul had been highly critical of Erin for YEARS prior to his election to president and her prior decision to term-limit herself), post the election (despite the all the negativity directed at her from her successor), Erin showed grace and honor that during a board meeting she attempted to have a public transfer of knowledge to help the soon to be seated board -- we saw last night a Phil that appears to refuse even to believe he's leaving his presidency.


Lakewood needs to heal from this past election. The attitude and actions of the current president and his self-appointed mouthpiece need to end and they need to end sooner rather than later. This village spoke up with a single and resounding voice for what they want and if you had any doubt who Phil and his cronies work for -- it's obvious it's not you -- it's his own self-serving interests.


Here's the irony of it all -- Phil, whose ego seems to be what motivates him to self-congratulate, is actually destroying his own legacy with these final moves and refusal to move forward. I was actually shocked that when Doug UIrich resigned, Phil didn't attempt to figure out a way that he could appoint himself to Doug's seat to be able to be on the board for 2 more years. If Phil had an ounce of self-awareness, if he had anyone telling him the truth about the way his actions (and his half-truths) are seen, he'd realize that these final acts are truly hurting his reputation, not helping. There is absolutely no honor in his recent actions -- and I realize few are shocked by it -- but I admit, I really thought when he saw the results -- realized that the movement isn't a small bunch of loud mouths on Facebook, he'd dig deep to try to save a tidbit of self-respect. I admit, I was completely wrong in thinking Phil would ever do the right thing.


The population of Lakewood is 3,800, which includes children and unregistered voters. Because not everyone in each of the districts votes in the Lakewood Village election, it is hard to get a true sense of Lakewood turnout -- mostly because registered voters across the 5 major districts of the village exceeds our total population by about 1,000 people. SO -- let's just use the total population for our math.


958 people cast a vote in the presidential race in Lakewood. That's 25% of our population!

766 of those votes were for Dave Stavropoulos. That's 20.2% of the TOTAL Lakewood population!


Turnout in Lakewood was unprecedented. Votes for change was the definition of a mandate. Yet the board continues to try to disparage my site, the active Facebook group, and the intelligence of the residents of Lakewood. This would be funny, if this wasn't OUR circus. Phil stands as a failed leader and nothing is more clear than his continued denial that not only did he lose this election, he refuses to even be gracious in his loss and work with the incoming board for a smooth transition.


How can you help? I highly suggest that you reach out to Phil and Village Hall and let them know what YOU want. I know you told them in the ballot box -- but it's time they have to answer for their lack of integrity to step up and step away from our village and let your mandate be heard. You, neighbors and friends, spoke out at the ballot box -- let it be heard loud and clear that you expect Phil to do at least ONE honorable thing during his presidency -- transition with grace.


Here's their contact information:

Phil Stephan:

Email: pstephan@village.lakewood.il.us Phone: (815)459-3025


CAO: Jeannine Smith

Email: jsmith@village.lakewood.il.us

Phone: (815)459-3025


Or the board as a whole:

Email: boardoftrustees@village.lakewood.il.us

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