Verdict is simple: village loan was wrong
There has been quite a bit of attention the last few months given to the issue a $15,000 Village of Brookfield check being issued to pay off an individual’s property taxes.
Along with that has come considerable effort to sweep this under the rug and change the focus of the real issue. The views of the board majority are that this was no big deal, and it should just go away. My view on this is simple: this was wrong.
Last week, misinformed statements were made by a Russ ally in a letter to the editor claiming that Trustee Mike Garvey and myself must have forgotten that we signed off on this check (“Of check sign offs and sign removal,” LETTERS, Feb. 16).
I never signed off or approved any check, or any other paperwork related to this matter of using $15,000 of taxpayer money to pay off an individual’s property taxes.
Trustee Garvey was not even on the board when this matter happened. There was never any paperwork even presented to this board when this check was written.
What is this issue really about? It is about President Russ directing a village employee to write a $15,000 village check to pay off a friend’s property taxes. It is that simple.
Village ordinances and Illinois state statutes give him no authority to do this. The village board would have needed to be informed and approved any sort of loan agreement, whether it was $1 or $100,000 or, as in this case, $15,000.
Some have found it convenient to claim “but we got CVS!” If this was such a good idea, why was no one told about it? And don’t forget, the seller, who had his taxes paid off with taxpayer money, walked away with a substantial profit.
Some say “but the village got all of its money back.” That’s not true. The village expended nearly $3,000 chasing after this money, for which the taxpayers were not reimbursed.
Some say “but the attorney approved this, and we have all the paperwork.” Not true. A memo from the attorney clearly says he did not agree with this being done in the manner it was done. Additionally, no one has found any signed paperwork anywhere on the deal.
Some find it convenient to ignore the sneaky accounting transactions used to cover this up, convenient to ignore signed affidavits contrary to what Russ states, convenient to attack Michele Catanzaro for blowing the whistle on this.
But, again, if this whole idea was such a good thing for the Village of Brookfield, why all of the efforts to hide it?
The spin we heard at the last meeting was to attack Trustee Garvey and myself for not approving legal action against Catanzaro. As was first made public by Trustee Wil Brennan, Russ paid Catanzaro $15,000 of taxpayer money last year to keep quiet.
This agreement, too, was never voted on in public or even announced in public. Now, Russ, at the urging of Brennan, is using more taxpayer money to go after Catanzaro.
Trustee Brennan, when was it that the board publicly approved an y agreement with Catanzaro? I think some people are just upset the hush money didn’t hush. Catanzaro felt compelled to disclose this loan deal. Brennan just wants to attack the messenger, instead of looking at the problems at hand.
Some say “but the village was not harmed in any way.” That is the most untrue statement heard. That is a statement made out of arrogance and out of ignorance. There are rules and laws and procedures to follow, especially when it comes to the use of taxpayer money.
Government is set up to work based on these rules and procedures and laws. Four votes can make decisions, but even four votes should not ignore the rules. Unless, of course, Russ and those four votes feel that they are above rules, laws and procedures.
This issue is simple: no member of this board can direct an employee to write a check for $15,000 to pay a friend’s taxes. For those who find this OK, ask yourself what dollar amount is not OK–$50,000, $500,000? And then ask yourself, what rules, laws and procedures are in place to prevent that from happening.
I think you will find that they are the same rules, laws and procedures that have been completely and irresponsibly ignored here.
Elected officials take an oath of office to abide by the law. What happens when they violate that trust?
? Kit Ketchmark is a Brookfield Village Trustee.
Riverside ZBA rolls over on Henninger development
The Riverside Zoning Board’s action, to roll over and grant the variances requested by the developer of the Henninger site without any evidence to show hardship or the impact on the most congested area in the entire village, means that a 55-foot, four-story monster block is going to be allowed to cover that property.
Reducing the mandated setback to just five feet means that a 12,000 square foot wall will rise at the line of the present sidewalk along Burlington Street to a height of more than 50 feet.
By claiming that the fourth floor is merely a case of allowing people to live under the roof in the same manner as the two apartments in the Arcade Building, or that the Town Hall is taller, or that the historic Water Tower is almost twice as high reminded me of the type of arguments that Walter Baltis used to destroy the Babson Estate or Arnold Skow used when he chopped up the Coonley Estate.
No matter how many trees appear in the renderings, that building will cover almost every square foot of that lot.
Allowing the developers to reduce the access way to a 14-foot, one-way, in-or-out ramp to service 20 condos and all the retail space will surely cause cars attempting to enter and leave to end up waiting in Burlington’s single traffic lane. How a fire engine or a garbage truck will maneuver in or out is anyone’s guess.
Granting the variance on required parking on the basis that the developers will pay an as-yet unspecified fee to the village for the number of places they are short will not provide any real parking spaces.
No provision has been made of any guest parking for the condos and none is provided for either the employees or the customers of the “fine-dining” restaurant that the EDC seems to think will magically appear, or for any of the other retail spaces businesses it is hoped this structure will attract.
All that has been accomplished has been to demonstrate that the village will cave in to any developer who threatens to take his ball and go home if he can’t set the rules to maximize his profits.
Besides creating an oversized architectural nightmare that will cast its shadow much farther than anyone in the village government seems to realize or care about, this action will surely lead to other property owners and developers pushing for similar concessions.
This is not the last permutation of this design or request for additional variances that we will see. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Personally, it was very disappointing to me to see that so few of Riverside’s 9,000 residents bothered to show up and ask questions. More people need to wake up and get involved in this issue before it is too late.