Well, North Riverside residents learned last night that there are now two, count ’em two, “investigations” being sought from the Cook County State’s Attorney by opposing political camps.
One most people have known about for months. Mayor Ken Krochmal, following an internal investigation he conducted, reportedly handed over a file full of information to the state’s attorney regarding alleged improper actions taken by Trustee Rocco DeSantis in 2012.
The actions revolved around a request by DeSantis in February 2012 to retroactively raise the pay of a retired police lieutenant (a request that wasn’t honored by village officials) and allegations that DeSantis was harassing a resident over property maintenance issues.
The second investigation being requested of the Cook County State’s Attorney was announced on Monday night, during a brief confrontation between Krochmal and DeSantis over statements DeSantis made after his nominating petitions were disqualified by an electoral board that included the mayor.
DeSantis said he was forwarding the state’s attorney information that will reveal a misappropriation of funds related to village trustees participating in the village’s health insurance program.
A couple of observations:
These investigations will go nowhere at the state’s attorney’s office. The state’s attorney has enough on its hands without getting in the middle of a local political fight.
“Investigations” like this are nice campaign showpieces but, in reality, mean very little.
It technically allows for candidates to say, “Did you know my opponent is under investigation by the Cook County State’s Attorney?” without knowledge that an investigation is actually taking place. It would be more accurate to say, “Did you know I have lodged a complaint against my opponent?”
That statement has a bit less cache, however. It’s more like stating the obvious.
Back in 2005, when the political scene was fraying in Brookfield, this same scenario played out in public. One side called for an investigation into the actions of the rival party. The rival party responded by calling for an investigation into those making the initial accusations.
Finally, sick of being bothered about the whole mess, a spokesman from the state’s attorney made clear what everyone probably knew all along. The office had never started an investigation nor had any intention of doing so.
Decisions made by elected boards are about policy. To be sure, different groups of people back different policies.
Where a group of people might want raises for non-union employees to be retroactive in order to include retirees, another group might not want to do that. Where one group may believe it’s appropriate for elected officials to take advantage of village health insurance benefits, others may not.
Those are wholly appropriate matters for discussion in public. They are important policy decisions with real impacts on people and budgets.
And that’s why there are elections. Policies change when those making the policies change. Elections result in changes. Handing over files to the state’s attorney’s office doesn’t result in change, it results in theater.