Accusations against trustee fly in North Riverside

DeSantis says attacks are politically motivated

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By BOB SKOLNIK

Meetings of the North Riverside Village Board are usually short and rather sleepy affairs. Not on Monday.

With village elections a year away and independent Trustee Rocco DeSantis looking like a definite candidate for mayor, DeSantis came under heavy attack Monday night.

It started when Mayor Kenneth Krochmal read aloud a letter from a lawyer representing a North Riverside couple accusing DeSantis of harassing them and threating to sue DeSantis and the village if it happened again.

The letter, from Wheaton attorney Michael Urgo, Jr. on behalf of North Riverside residents Joseph and Gina Melone, was hand-delivered to North Riverside Village Hall on Monday before the board meeting.

The letter claims that the village's code enforcement department has given Melone a Sept. 1 deadline "to tend to very last details of the esthetics" related to a prior code enforcement complaint.

The letter claims DeSantis "has made somewhere between six and one dozen unauthorized inspections and/or uninvited visits" to the Melones' property. It accuses DeSantis of stalking the property and says that DeSantis' actions have been reported to the police.

After reading the letter aloud, Krochmal said he would consult with the village's attorneys and conduct his own investigation of the matter.

"I will do a thorough investigation of this," said Krochmal, who announced last month that he would not run for a second term as mayor.

Later in the public comment portion of the meeting a number of residents and former Mayor Richard Scheck criticized DeSantis and fellow independent Trustee H. Bob Demopoulos, who were both elected to the village board one year ago, ending the long time stranglehold of the VIP Party on the village board.

The most unusual charge came from David Tomalis.

DeSantis and Demopoulos were incorrectly listed as VIP Party members on the placemats at a fundraising pancake breakfast for Boy Scouts that was held at Mater Christi Church on April 1.

Tomalis said DeSantis was so mad about the error that he berated village Administrator Guy Belmonte and the village attorney for the mistake. Tomalis also said that DeSantis threatened to sue the Boy Scouts over the mistake.

"DeSantis was unruly and threatening in nature," Tomalis said. "His out-of-control behavior and emotional unstableness caused the village attorney to exit [to defuse the situation]."

Tomalis requested that the mayor investigate the incident.

"You will get an investigation," said Krochmal, a VIP party stalwart. "I will conduct an investigation."

DeSantis fired back at Tomalis.

"You weren't at the meeting," DeSantis said. "I never said a word to the Boy Scouts. Who told you that? You weren't there. How would you know anything?"

Melone stood to make a public comment, but Krochmal advised him not to say anything that might be connected to a pending investigation.

Melone took the advice.

"I better not," Melone said. "I wasn't going to say anything mean. I just wanted a question answered. I'll let the powers that be handle it."

When Demopoulos began contradicting another resident, Scheck rose to speak.

"Trustee Demopoulos, this is the right of every single resident of the village of North Riverside to make a comment at this session," said Scheck, who served as mayor of North Riverside for 20 years before deciding to step down in 2009. "You don't have the right to belittle any resident."

Then Scheck and DeSantis went at it briefly with each raising their voices. Scheck told DeSantis that he has confidence in Krochmal to conduct an impartial investigate the allegations after DeSantis indicated that he did not expect a fair investigation.

"I think the investigation will be impartial, proper," Scheck said. "There is a code of conduct for trustees, and you better start adhering to it because that's what you got elected to do."

DeSantis claimed that the charges leveled against him were politically motivated.

"You're scared of anybody running against the VIP Party," DeSantis said from the board table. "God forbid if somebody runs against the party and wants to do something for the town. Right away everyone jumps on him and tries all these fake accusations."

Then the man who organized the pancake breakfast stood up and explained that listing DeSantis and Demopoulos as VIP members was an inadvertent mistake.

"I want to personally apologize to all those that were involved and say that it was an honest mistake," said John Bork.

After the meeting, DeSantis declined to comment on the specific allegations leveled against him. As a former police officer he said that he knows it is best not to say anything when an investigation is about to take place.

"I better just wait on that," DeSantis said. "I don't want to say anything to hamper any investigation or whatever they're going to have regardless of whatever kangaroo [court it will be]."

But DeSantis was happy to talk in general terms about what he thought was going on.

"They're mad that me and Bobby were elected, and they are furious that they can't have the all the power all the time," DeSantis said. "They don't want any outsiders in and I believe that meeting really showed it."

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Don't be bullied today!   

Posted: April 9th, 2013 5:36 AM

Vote VIP!