Board will probe trustees, not Russ

? Brookfield board votes to investigate trustees Garvey and Ketchmark, but won't examine actions of President Russ.

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By BOB UPHUES

Two weeks ago, Brookfield Trustee and presidential candidate Michael Garvey demanded the village board discuss the possibility of hiring a special investigator to look into a secret 2002 loan deal approved by Village President Bill Russ.

On Monday, the plot of that storyline took an unexpected twist. In a 4-2 vote, trustees allied with Russ lined up instead to call for an investigation of Garvey and his PEP Party colleague Kit Ketchmark.

Trustee Linda Stevanovich called for a special investigator to look into votes that Garvey and Ketchmark cast in an executive session late in 2004 regarding taking legal action against former village employee Michele Catanzaro.

According to Stevanovich, the votes concerned reimbursement to the village of a $15,000 settlement paid to Catanzaro in November 2003 after she stopped working for the village. Garvey and Ketchmark voted against taking legal action against Catanzaro to recover the settlement money.

Garvey's and Ketchmark's votes were questioned because Catanzaro made a $200 contribution to the PEP Party in September 2004, around the time the village contemplated taking legal action against her. 

Catanzaro blew the whistle on the CVS loan deal last year, when she alerted Ketchmark to the existence of a check she said she signed in March 2002 on Russ' order to pay the back taxes on property eventually purchased by CVS. Ketchmark received a copy of the check after requesting it from village hall.

Trustee Will Brennan suggested that a newly released letter from former village attorney Rob Bush to Russ in May 2002, in which Bush expressed hesitancy about the loan deal, also came from Catanzaro. Garvey presented the letter, which he said he received anonymously, in conjunction with his call for a special investigator.

That vote to hire special investigator John Murphey of the Chicago firm of Rosenthal, Murphey & Coblentz, was supported by trustees Stevanovich, Brennan, Alan Dorobiala and Thomas Nowicki. The vote capped a meeting in which the majority of the board decided to ignore Garvey's call for a special investigator to examine a nearly $15,000 loan Russ personally authorized to pay the back taxes for a private property owner.

In defending the loan, Russ read from a prepared statement that charged Garvey's call for an investigation was politically motivated given the fact that Garvey waited a month after receiving the previously unknown letter from Bush about the deal.

"Can you truly expect the members of this board, the press and the residents to believe that your delays were not politically motivated to have this issue raised just in time for the upcoming election campaign?" asked Russ, who will square off against Garvey for the village president's seat in the April 5 election.

"The facts are simple. Our former law firm prepared numerous documents and advised the village how to conduct the transaction," Russ said. "Within months, the village was paid in full, including interest. The matter was ratified by the village board. The village was not harmed in any way. Our village attorney, after reviewing all of the documents a second time last week, again stated that nothing illegal or improper took place and there is no need for a special investigator."

Garvey, however, blasted Russ and his fellow trustees for arriving at that conclusion.

"All of this presupposes one thing," Garvey said, "that President Russ had the authority to tell Michele Catanzaro to write a check. There is no procedure to allow for President Russ to loan money.

"If you ignore this tonight, you're ignoring your oath of office," Garvey added. "You're all mad about how it got out, not about what happened."

Two sworn affidavits presented by both sides also contradict each other. One is from Don Lorenzini, formerly known as Don Adamcyk, one of the former owners of Santino's Restaurant, who sold his property to CVS.

In the affidavit, Lorenzini states "On March 6, 2002 I met Michele Catanzaro at the village hall and was requested by her to sign various legal documents. I signed all of the legal documents in Ms. Catanzaro's presence."

That statement is contradicted in a sworn affidavit from Catanzaro, presented Monday by Garvey. In her affidavit, she states: "President Russ or anyone else did not instruct me to have Don Adamcyk sign any paperwork related to the check on March 6, 2002. ... Don Adamcyk did not sign a mortgage, note or any other paperwork in front of me on March 6, 2002 when he picked up the $14,754.13 check."

Neither the village nor either of its legal firms has ever been able to produce any signed legal documents relating to the loan. Lorenzini in his affidavit states that while he has the signed documents, "since the date of the closing, I have moved from my previous residence and have placed many personal and business documents in storage. I am in the process of retrieving the signed documents, and I will forward them when I find them."

The village board never voted to approve the loan to Lorenzini, and the line item didn't appear on the village's list of bills until November 2002. The line item, titled "taxes" wasn't questioned by any trustees at that time.

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