Former North Riverside Mayor Kenneth Krochmal called on Trustee Marybelle Mandel to resign and Village Administrator Sue Scarpiniti demanded that Mandel apologize to her for disparaging her publicly during the latest village board meeting to turn into political theater on March 15 as a critical election draws near.
Mandel, who is running for mayor in a three-way race pitting her against incumbent Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. and Trustee Joseph Mengoni, rejected the thought of resigning and did not apologize.
Krochmal, who has sought to tie Mandel to her husband’s 2000 federal conviction for making a false statement to a financial institution, again read from a federal appellate court opinion on the case, in which a judge wrote Mandel was a knowing participant in her husband’s scheme by wiring bogus gift letters for down payments on property.
Calling for Mandel’s resignation, Krochmal said Mandel was a “bag man in [her] husband’s criminal scheme.”
“What is a bag man doing here as a trustee?” Krochmal asked.
“I’m not a bag person, I’m an elected official working on behalf of the residents for a village that I love,” Mandel said.
In addition to Scarpiniti, five other village hall employees lined up to blast Mandel for statements in campaign literature they said demeans them, with particular focus on a recent campaign mailer from Mandel’s People Before Politics Party that labeled without evidence as “vaccines for votes” a COVID-19 vaccine pop-up event for senior citizens in February organized by Mengoni with help from village hall staff.
The mailer alleged without evidence that vaccines were “only offered to [Mengoni’s] political supporters.”
Joanne Suba, one of four village hall employees to randomly call senior citizens based on a list drawn from water billing and vehicle sticker records, told Mandel during the public comment portion of the March 15 meeting that the “vaccine for votes” allegation is “a complete lie.”
“My co-workers and I made all the calls to schedule the vaccinations,” Suba said. “We had only 48 hours to pull this together. We did the best we could on such short notice and at the end of the day, because of our efforts, we got 170 North Riverside seniors vaccinated. The only agenda was to take care of the senior residents of North Riverside.
“The implication that our tireless efforts were politically motivated is an insult to the integrity of our office.”
Other village hall employees, who previously had been reticent to specifically name Mandel as the reason they chose to unionize late last year, told her directly that she was the reason.
Koula Michalopulos, financial analyst for the village, said People Before Politics’ campaign mailers misrepresented the reason she and other non-union employees chose to organize.
“We are unionizing because of statements made by Trustee Mandel that consistently devalues the work that we do and the value we bring to the village of North Riverside,” Michalopulos said.
Mandel, who spoke only briefly during the roughly half-hour lecture she received from employees, said she was surprised employees would say such things, since they are cordial when she sees them.
“Whenever I walk into the village hall, see any employee out on the street, I say hello and treat everybody with respect,” said Mandel, who added that because she had seen her opponents’ nominating petitions, she knew who supported who. “I’m very surprised the office employees would say such a thing, because when I come in there we’re joking, saying hello. … What I’m hearing today is actually much different than what actually happens.”
Scarpiniti, the village’s finance director for the past two decades, slammed Mandel for comments the trustee made two weeks ago at a village board meeting, claiming Scarpiniti was illegally being paid for additional duties she took on last year as acting village administrator.
She said Mandel’s claims of respecting village employees rang hollow and suggested that Mandel was incapable of recognizing that it was inappropriate for an elected official to publicly allege an employee was committing a crime for being paid to do a job.
“You did not afford me that respect two weeks ago on March 1 when you accused me of being a criminal and stealing $52,000 from this village and the residents of this community,” Scarpiniti told Mandel. “You don’t provide me respect every single day when I come into work, when we’ve asked you repeatedly to please honor the position of the village administrator [and] do not go behind my back and go directly to departments and seek remedies for problems that you have.”
Scarpiniti told Mandel that, as an elected official and policy maker, she sets the culture for the village, and demanded an apology for Mandel attacking her integrity.
“You, for that, owe me a public apology,” Scarpiniti said. “The comments you made that I did anything illegal are absolutely false and wrong. And I just think it’s criminal in fact that you would be allowed to make those statements that would defame and disparage another member, regardless of political affiliation, of which I have none, in this town.
“You failed as not only a public official, but then you can’t even recognize that failure and even provide someone with the courtesy of a public apology for something you know you did that was wrong.”