Late Tuesday night, when I was processing the events of the meeting and the report that was handed out; I'd mentally planned a post outlining how every single thing that the chief has been accused of the CAO, the Village President, and at least one board member has either been accused of (without an investigation) or has been recorded doing publicly. And, yes, without a doubt, I can go down the list one by one and show you that there is nothing in the incidents cited that someone in a position of leadership above the chief hasn't done.
So, this truly begs the question -- if we assume that every allegation is as it is outlined and the recommendation is to fire the chief is true, why would we not have had a similar investigation and conclusion when the harassment of the staff was reported? These allegations are serious and yet they were completely ignored through the lack of a real investigation when levied against the CAO and the Village President. Either the conduct is wrong across the board and everyone who represents this village must follow the same rules of engagement or the conduct is fine and the police chief is merely following the example set by his leadership. It is not possible to have this both ways.
I've never been the person who uses the "but everyone else is doing it" excuse for poor judgement or bad behavior. That said, I firmly believe that we have an obligation to hold everyone to same standards. Just as there is public outrage because our Village President's property taxes dropped to less than 1/2 of those with smaller homes in our village; there is outrage as to why the CAO is able to stomp around and loudly scream at staff and residents, refer to her son's sexual activities and her own desirability, and this doesn't even get into the quality of the work product she produces. The Village President has been seen screaming and degrading people many times. He yelled at me on the phone -- should I march to the law firm and file a complaint? What about a Trustee who resorted to name calling to a resident via email because she had the audacity to question him (in email)? And yet, not one of those people have ever been censured, disciplined, or even counseled regarding their inappropriate behavior and the standard it sets for the staff and the affect on our village's reputation. (I will note that Trustee Younge, who has on more than one occasion allowed passion to blur his message was censured; but he's not the Trustee I'm speaking of.)
All of that said, I reached out to the board last night hoping to appeal to a sense of decency. As the way our code is written, they can fire the police chief without dragging his name through the mud. The 'highly confidential protected by attorney-client privilege' report was handed out by out Village President -- without even trying to protect those who complained. There should be no real reason to have the report read out. I even tried to appeal to the fact that I think this smear campaign would hurt their images in the community. Not surprisingly, I got one board member response -- Mr. Berman. He claims that this is 'transparency' -- that since he read out the 'report' he wrote on an investigation he performed -- with the same attention to detail we've seen from our CAO when it comes to facts and figures -- that it is 'only right' to do the same, as the public has questions. He's right, the public does have questions -- none of them are answered in that report and none of them are being answered by our board.
However, Mr. Berman asked an interesting question and has not responded to my reply -- so I will share both here for you, dear reader, to answer for me:
Mr. Berman: "Most of the residents of this Village are sick of these shenanigans and just want the Village to work for them. I asked you before, and I will ask again, please stop your attacks and let us all do the things we were elected to do."
"Two very fundamental questions for you:
1) what exactly do you think you were elected to do? I ask because, I agree with you. The majority of the Village (including everyone who I speak to) wants our village government to stop the shenanigans and do your elected jobs. But where I think the disconnect is that we disagree what your job really is. See IL state code says that it’s purely legislative, which means every command you (and yes, even Mr. Younge) send you the Village staff is overstepping your bounds as your job. You have a responsibility to spend our tax dollars wisely, which means both ensuring you have a proper budget (that actually adds); that you don’t spend money you don’t have or can’t use because it’s set aside elsewhere; that you don’t waste money on frivolous things, and that you do not open our Village up to very costly legal action. If you want to answer point for point how the actions I’ve watched, I’ve researched, and I’ve been trying to get the board to review meets those objectives...then maybe we would have something resembling progress.
2) In what way am I attacking? My right and my responsibility as a citizen in the US and a resident of this village is to challenge my elected officials to do their best jobs. Unlike so many other places in this world, I get to question you, to call you out, and to ultimately share my opinion at the ballot box. As you must have figured out, I have strong opinions. Opinions based in the facts. I share them and have a very large audience for them...I know how big the movement is...don’t kid yourself. I suggest you don’t make the Titanic-style mistake of assuming what you see is the whole iceberg.
The attendance at the board meetings keeps going up, people are watching and are engaged in your actions. I can’t figure out if you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing...but it’s certainly something you and the board should take note of."
Am I wrong? Am I attacking or doing my civic duty to hold my elected officials accountable?
Is it really unreasonable to expect that our elected officials be consistent in their actions, show respect to other members of the board AND the residents of the village, and to use fiscal responsibility in their decisions? Is it beyond reasonable that we separate the power of administration of the village from the finances (which appears to the most common root cause of municipal fraud when combined with a lack of oversight -- which we lack)? And finally, what is real transparency? I don't think it is character assassinations, but quality and through research to solutions to problems with fiscal responsibility at the top of the priority list.