In his publicly financed newsletter to North Riverside residents, Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. peddled falsehoods about replacing the public firefighting service with a privatized company.
Before we begin to dissect Mayor Hermanek’s most glaring deceits, let’s consider his motives.
Do Americans really want to go down this road? Businesses exist to make money. There is nothing wrong with that.
However, private first response companies respond to their bottom line, not to those in life-threatening emergencies.
Mayor Hermanek has fought to deceive North Riverside residents that he must seek alternatives to the professional fire department that has served North Riverside for decades. He falsely claims firefighters are unwilling to negotiate in good faith.
Yet Mayor Hermanek actually told North Riverside residents he had reached an agreement with profit-driven PSI even before collective bargaining talks began on a new contract for Local 2714. That’s not only bad faith — it was an outright lie.
Mayor Hermanek’s idea of good faith is as warped as the concept of privatized, unproven firefighters incapable of performing a job where lives hang in the balance.
Some examples of Mayor Hermanek’s deceptive practices in the North Riversider newsletter:
Firefighters failed to answer Mayor Hermanek’s request for a contract solution.
Absolutely false. In fact, members of IAFF Local 2714 agreed to accept the cost-of-living adjustment that Mayor Hermanek recently granted to the police department. Instead of taking a pay raise, firefighters proposed the COLA be directed to the pension fund to help the village solve its history of illegal funding schemes. To say firefighters failed to negotiate in good faith is a complete falsehood.
Even if the village fully funded the firefighter pension fund it would need to find other ways to fund pensions.
In each of the last 10 budget years, the North Riverside Village Board failed to contribute to the firefighter pension fund according to state law. In five of the last 10 years the village did not contribute a single penny to the fund.
Illinois law requires the village to make the employer’s share of the pension payments (the firefighters have faithfully contributed nearly 10 percent of every paycheck). Therefore, the village board violated state law 100 percent of the time over the last decade. Imagine if you missed a house payment or rent payment in each of the last 10 months. How long do you think it would be before you were evicted or foreclosed upon?
Pensions are the reason North Riverside is looking at budget deficits.
Interestingly the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund
— the pension fund of the village’s politicians and other non-emergency employees — never missed a pension contribution and is considered nearly fully funded. In fact the village contributed twice the amount to IMRF than the firefighter pension fund over the last 10 years.
Yet the firefighter pension fund has been looted and shorted because village politicians cunningly exercised loopholes allowing them to spend first responder compensation funds for non-emergency purposes.
Why is Paramedic Services Inc. being offered a no-bid contract?
Mayor Hermanek says the village approached the profit-motivated company. However, state elections reports show that PSI was the largest political contributor to Mayor Hermanek’s VIP Party during the last election cycles. In state government that sort of game is called “pay to play.”
Even on the merits, a privatized fire department for North Riverside cannot compete with the professionalism of its existing department. To wit, the profit-motivated PSI currently employs a paramedic who failed to pass the mental aptitude examination required by the North Riverside Civil Service Commission and state law.
We welcome a debate on the merits of this wrong-headed proposal. But attempting to refute so many lies is like wrestling with a ghost.
Patrick Devaney, president
Associated Firefighters of Illinois