Six months after losing its claim to the village presidency and its majority on the village board, Brookfield’s VIP Party sought to regain its voice last week by launching a broadside attack against the current PEP-dominated administration.
Wil Brennan, a VIP member and former village trustee, sent a packet of information last week to the Illinois Attorney General, the Cook County State’s Attorney and the Better Government Association that he said proves PEP is flaunting Brookfield’s ordinances relating to fund transfers.
On Oct. 19, VIP’s president and former village president, Bill Russ, followed up with a press release announcing “possible official misconduct in office and possible violations of the law against President Mike Garvey and the majority PEP Party board” regarding the fund transfers.
At issue are two proposed fund transfers in the 2005-06 Brookfield budget, a $764,450 transfer from the water/sewer fund and a $108,850 transfer from the garbage fund to the village’s general operating fund.
The transfers are similar to transfers VIP attempted to make in 2004 when it controlled the board. In both cases, the transfers were proposed to correct previous payments from the general fund that should have been applied to the water/sewer and garbage funds.
According to the minutes of the April 26, 2004 village board meeting, Garvey argued that the board had to declare the funds a surplus before trustees could vote to transfer them. The board failed to do either at that time and the funds were never transferred.
“The Village of Brookfield by its past actions has clearly demonstrated that it is necessary to have a majority approval to transfer funds from the water and sewer and garbage funds,” Brennan wrote in his Oct. 17 letter to the three oversight agencies.
The water/sewer ordinance at issue states: “No money shall be transferred from the water and sewer division funds for any purpose except upon the vote of the majority members of the board of trustees, and then only in the event that such transfers from funds are declared to be a surplus over and above any and all requirements of the water and sewer division.”
Brennan said that he was convinced by Garvey’s arguments in 2004 and that he “realized what a mistake it was.”
“They turned on their own argument,” Brennan said.
Garvey disputed Brennan’s interpretation of the 2005-06 budget document, saying that while transfers from those funds are budgeted, no transfers have yet taken place.
“The money is still in those funds,” Garvey said. “By the end of the fiscal year, the board will have to pass an ordinance doing it. By passing the policy document [the budget], we didn’t transfer the money. Wil was the budget chairman when he was on the board. He can’t be that ignorant of the process.”
Brookfield’s Finance Director John Dolasinski confirmed Garvey’s explanation of the fund transfer process.
“For any transfers, I would present them in some form to the village board for approval, and that has not been done,” Dolasinski said. “I’d present them as action items, probably later in the fiscal year.”
Whether these charges gain any traction is dependent on what the three agencies decide to do with the charges leveled by VIP. As of Monday afternoon, neither the Illinois Attorney General nor the State’s Attorney’s office said they had received a complaint against the Brookfield government.
Dan Sprehe, chief investigator for the Better Government Association, a private government watchdog group, said the village’s own ordinance regarding fund transfers is poorly written.
“The area is so gray,” Sprehe said. “I don’t read it as a violation. ‘Declaring’ a surplus is so vague. I’m not sure if they even have to vote on it. Basically it seems like the desire to do this depends on what seat you’re sitting in.”
In other words, politics may be the driving force. Brennan confirmed that he will be running again for village trustee in the 2007 election.
“Maybe it is,” Brennan said. “Those people sitting there now made every effort to thwart everything we tried to do, down to buying paper clips. Maybe what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
Garvey said he believes the charges are politically driven.
“They’re attempting to get some press,” Garvey said. “They’ll say we’re being investigated and if anyone calls the Attorney General or State’s Attorney they’ll get a ‘no comment.’ They’re trying to position themselves to get re-elected in the future.”