On the eve of Election Day, North Riverside Village Trustee H. Bob Demopoulos sent a letter to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan accusing Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. of using taxpayer money to publish what he calls “his political party’s position on key issues and its candidates” in the election.
The publication at issue is the North Riversider newsletter, published quarterly by the village. It typically highlights village events and programs and often spotlights officials and residents doing good deeds or who have accomplished something.
Demopoulos complains that the latest North Riversider “highlights and supports the VIP candidates” running against him and his Save Our Firefighters slate for three open seats on the village board.
“Shockingly, the mayor used approximately 25 percent of the publically funded publication to support his political party’s position on key issues and its candidates in the upcoming April 7, 2015 municipal election,” Demopoulos wrote.
The letter asks Madigan to investigate possible violations by Hermanek of election and criminal laws.
The newsletter includes four full pages of information regarding the village’s plan to privatize the North Riverside Fire Department. One of the pages includes pictures and brief statements by village officials backing the plan, including Trustee Jason Bianco and Trustee Deborah Czajka, VIP Party candidates who are running to retain their seats on the village board.
Demopoulos addressed his complaint to the attorney general publicly at the North Riverside Village Board meeting Monday night, and asked that taxpayers be reimbursed for the cost of newsletter’s publication.
Hermanek brushed off the complaint, saying that the information was published to clarify what would happen if the fire department were privatized.
“There’s been a lot of misinformation going around town so we’ve been getting people who’ve contacted us regarding issues with the fire department,” Hermanek said. “We put that in there so we could explain what’s going on.”
Hermanek also said the issue of the fire department had nothing to do with Tuesday trustee elections.
“It’s not a political situation,” Hermanek said.
Monday marked the second straight meeting where politics intruded into village business. At the previous meeting, Hermanek accused firefighters of damaging and removing more than 30 campaign signs and said police were conducting an investigation.
On Monday, police confirmed the investigation was closed and that no culprits had been identified. That led Firefighter David Rajk to demand an apology from Hermanek, who declined to do so.