Monday, July 26, 2010
I was not a big fan of the Greening of the Orland Park Police Station. In fact, when I first noticed what was happening, I was cracking my knuckles to dig in and ask why no one in public works was bothering to mow the lawn there or remove the weeds. That's when I discovered, as did many, that the Orland Park Police Department's newly completed complex three years ago was in fact an experiment to "Green" selected village property.
Three years have past, and I have to tell you, I am used to it by now. Not everyone is, according to an article int he Daily Southtown: (Read it?) And the writer does make the point that there are so many other things we should be concerned about.
The Police Complex has won many awards. More importantly, the police themselves continue to provide the best protection of any other suburban community, so much so that our Police Chief, Tim McCarthy, is the head of the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force, an honor that is only given to those with the experience. And no police chief is more experienced.
We do have other more important issues than getting angry over the "Greening" of the Police Complex.
For example, the Orland Park Pool is turning in to a ghetto. The skanks -- harsh word but what do you call people who are not residents, who come in for the day and then wander around the pool rummaging through your belongings and sitting down next to you on your lounge chair wondering why you are upset?
They should ban non-residents from the pool or make the cost even more prohibitive to join. It's the one thing that is so important to the community in the summer months.
Orland Park's flooding problems seem resolved. As we watch other communities deal with the flooding, we have to express a sigh of relief that the Village did take action to address the pockets of flooding in our town. Although one can still question how the village decided which homes to purchase from homeowners at top dollar prices, and then re-sell them at a loss.
Still, that's a minor issue and "much water under the bridge."
We have a lot of businesses closing. I saw the big pizza place, Gino's East on 159th Street, closed right after the 4th of July weekend. I was there about four weeks before and it seemed to have gone down the tubes. You can blame a lot on the economy but the place just wasn't very good. Sorry.
But we have new ones opening, like the Pita Oven at 94th Avenue and 159th Street. Businesses come and go and in this economy, we should all be doing our part by shopping locally.
I keep reading the orange signs on LaGrange Road that keep warning to expect constructions delays. Every morning I get up fearing when the shoe will drop, but so far the construction has not disrupted traffic and that is a good thing.
I hate those red light cameras, although unlike other communities, the police are not using them to generate cash flow. They are using them to nail extreme offenders who blow the red lights -- and that happens a lot apparently. It could be worse but so far, at least in Orland Park, the camera lights are helping to focus on the problem, not targeting everyday motorists making soft right turns on red.
While many other communities were cutting back on Fourth of July fireworks, Orland Park continued with its tremendous celebration. Although they eliminated the day time "Jumping Jacks" for the kids, the fireworks display was more than enough that night. One of the best.
Click here to watch them.
Things are really improving in Orland Park. And maybe that explains why some are complaining about the Police Department and the Green Yards that look like a prairie.
We don't have much more to complain about.
Well, maybe. The Orland Fire District is an over-budgeted, bloated system. Great firemen and firefighters. But the administration spends way too much, over taxes its residents and will be a major topic in the coming election this Fall and in the Spring. Maybe we should be talking about that!
-- Ray Hanania
Saturday, July 24, 2010
The place is turning in to skank-ville, and I hate to say that because I love the pool and have been a member for years.
There are people coming to the pool that shouldn't be there. And it's not a shocker that there is an increase of thefts taking place. Like the other day when a friend looked up from the pool and saw a woman walking away with her pool bag. At first she thought it was a person with the same bag but she quickly realized this lady -- a skank -- was walking through the pool area ripping people off.
My wife and son were at the pool the other day and this skank lady and her sad son decided to plop themselves down on their lawn chairs while they were sitting in them. And when my wife asked her what she was doing, she said she wanted to sit down there. "Got a problem?" Yea, I have a problem lady.
People who steal from others do just that, plop down on your sitting area and steal your belongings.
When you can't even feel safe with your property at the pool, that's about the time when you have to start wondering what the hell is happening at the pool. Skank-ville.
How about this. Ban non-residents from using the pool. Restrict the daily fee entrance even more. By the time a family of five pays for everyone to buy a day-pass, they might as well kick in the few extra bucks and buy a family membership.
And, maybe the village should put some undercover police or security working the pool so when we catch one of these crooks, we make an example of them.
The village needs to toughen up the dress code, and not only warn pool goers that they should put their valuables in lockers or not bring them at all, but to also warn that anyone caught stealing will face a stiff penalty. It's not the vale of the object stolen that is the issue. The issue is that you have to worry about your belongings because so care-less skank is wandering around trying to rip the place off.
Implement a No Skank policy. Ban the skanks. Or watch the pool turn into a ghetto.
-- Ray Hanania
Restaurant Review: Pita Oven next to the Jewel Commercial Strip at 94th Ave and 159th Street
9328 W. 159th Street, Orland Park, Illinois
(in the expanded Jewel Commercial Lot)
Reviewed: July 24, 2010
Finally a restaurant that offers fast service, great Middle Eastern food and one of the cleanest shops in a long time. Pita Oven offers a wide menu, for takeout and also eating in their seating area. AND, they make dinner meals like stuffed grape leaves and stuffed zuchinni and lamb for takeout service. They make full meals.
The owner is from the Orland Park area and his family is originally from Ramallah, Palestine. The cook staff is experienced having worked not only at many restaurants but also receiving professional training.
This is a great place to stop for a great lunch -- offering all the popular sanwiches like Gyros (which is called Shawerma in Arabic) in lamb and chicken. They also offer entrees including beef/chicken shawerma, lamb or chicken baob dinners with rice, combination platters that include skewers of lamb, chicken and "kufta" which is spiced diced ground lamb grilled like tasty hamburger.
They offer a variety of salads including tabouleh and Jerusalem (or Tahini) diced salad -- tahini is merely a great tasting sesame seed paste mixed with olive oil that gives the salad an easy to enjoy falvor. Not too spicy at all. They have hummus (garbanzo bean dip) and babaghanouj (eggplant dip).
And, it is very affordable. A typical sandwich will cost between $3.50 for a falafel sandwich to $4.99 for a lamb, beef, chicken, or kufta sandwich. They offer a special gourmet falafel sandwhich for $4.50 which you ust try.
You are going to love this place. If you have never had a Middle Eastern meal before, don't worry. It is not as spicy as the Indian cousines and very healthy and tasty. Just walk in and the staff will be happy to explain any sandwhich. And once you find one you like, you'll be back every day.
If you like making some Middle Eastern foods (go to www.ZiyadRecipes.com to get great easy to make recipes) then you will also find they have a well stocked grocery section for the essentials like making tabouleh with cracked wheat, or coucous (maftoul).
Sahtein! (Arabic for enjoy the meal)
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Police are investigating the murder of Lockport resident Ibrahim Nofal, 28, who was reported missing Tuesday July 13. Nofal operated an auto repair shop at 15563 S. 70th Court in Orland Park.
Nofal's body was discovered Saturday morning by hikers in Pilcher Park in Joliet. The coroner confirmed his identity early Tuesday.
A video shows a silver or gray 1996 to 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee pulling in to Nofal's shop around 6:30 pm last week. It drove away a short time later. Orland Park police, according to reports, believe Nofal was in the car.
Details on the murder are sketchy and his family and relatives are in shock. Services have been held for him at the local mosques.
Sources are saying that it is possible that there was a disagreement involving the repair of a vehicle that Nofal had sold to a customer, but there is no confirmation. Police have declined to speculate on the reason for the apparent kidnapping or the cause of death which remains under investigation.
Police are asking if anyone knows any information on the death to call Orland Park police at 708-349-4111, Joliet Police at 815-724-3100 or the Will County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-323-6734. The family has offered a $50,000 reward for information on his whereabouts.
Reports say the reward may be increased in light of his death, and to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest of the individual or individuals involved.
Monday, July 19, 2010
I thought people who live on Windsor Drive in Orland Park off 151st Street would enjoy this video of what the homes and street looked like in 1985. It's part of a family video I took when one of my cousins, Simon Canahuati, was visiting from Venezuela. (His family is Palestinian and they immigrated there after Israel took over much of Palestine in 1948.)
Many of the homes on the West Side of Windsor Drive, along Kingston Street, were not yet built when this video was taken. The homes here int he video are about one to three years old.
Orland Park, Chicago Loop, Chicago Sun-Times video taken in 1986 from Ray Hanania on Vimeo.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Peraica insists he is not obsessed with Liz Gorman
By Ray Hanania
Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica says he is too busy working on other election campaigns than to bother himself with complaints from his colleague Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman.
The two commissioners have been rivals since the very first time they said hello to each other.
And Peraica emphatically denies any role in the mudslinging candidacy of his friend, Mark Thompson, who challenged Gorman in the February 2, 2010 Republican Primary for the 17th District seat. Peraica also says he doesn’t know Pat Maher, the dynasty poster-child in the Hynes and 19th Ward family clan who faces-off with Gorman in November.
(I have included Peraica’s email response to this column at the bottom of this blog with my commentary where necessary.)
Yet, in a report issued by an examiner of the Illinois Election Board detailing possible unethical and illegal misconduct in the reporting of election campaign disclosures by the Thompson campaign, Peraica’s name is cited seven times.
Peraica called to take issue with my blog (Click HERE to read) and column (Click HERE to read) addressing all this. I detailed the examiner’s report and included it in full on the blog posting (Click HERE to read).
It raised serious questions about Peraica’s role in the Thompson campaign. Money changed hands and, according to the examiner, was not properly disclosed. That is a serious violation. The Election Board will review the examiner’s report at its meeting on July 19, this week.
“All I ever gave Thompson was a $100 donation. I attended a breakfast that he had. He was on our sample ballot but that’s because he won the endorsement of the Lyons Township Republican Organization. I did endorse Thompson because I am a part of the Lyons Republican Organization. That was decided by the members and Gorman was also considered for endorsement,” Peraica insisted.
“We did things for Thompson that we did for other endorsed candidates.”
Peraica said that a $1,000 payment to GOP Media was actually payment to Tom Swiss, Thompson’s campaign manager, who also runs a direct-mail operation that handled Peraica’s primary election materials.
“I can’t be blamed for what Swiss did with the money,” Peraica insisted. “I paid him for doing my direct mail $2,000.”
Peraica also said to me in referring to the report, “I think you are reading too much between the lines … I bought a set of emails from Swiss for Republican Voters in the 16th District where I was running two races at the time. That’s what I used it for, for my races not for Mark Thompson. I paid for that data that Swiss generated for me. What he does with it is not my business.
But the examiner’s report directly challenges Peraica’s claims. In fact, the examiner’s report states flatly that the money Peraica donated was intended to help Thompson, a clear contradiction to what Peraica insisted when he spoke to me.
The report explains Peraica’s involvement with Thompson differently:
“This check was a contribution from Stephen Bolton, which was reported on the Respondent's December 2009 Semi Annual Report as a contribution for $2,000, even though $1000 of this contribution was not received until after January 1, 2010. The second item was a check dated January 20, 2010 from Citizens for Peraica payable to GOP Media in the amount of $1,000. Mr. Swiss testified that this check was given to GOP Media for the benefit of the Respondent/Committee as part of a $2000 "Transfer In" that was previously reported as received by the Respondent/Committee on December 15, 2009.”
The examiner’s report continues:
“Clearly the $1000 check from Citizens for Peraica to GOP Media was made for the benefit of Mark Thompson and therefore violates this statute.”
This happens in politics all the time. One politician wants to help someone else and they often disguise their role intentionally to avoid being associated with mudslinging. But the report pulls the veil off the Thompson campaign and Peraica is clearly there.
“There is a fixation [by Hanania] on this Gorman-Peraica thing. There is an obsession but it is with her, not me. She continues to take swipes at me every time she sees me at a board meeting. She supports my candidate against me in the Democratic primary. She is attacking me. I don’t have a fixation with her. She has a fixation with me. I am happy to have my record speak for itself,” Peraica said, not hesitating to slam her husband Gerry Gorman and to question their past financial dealings with an auto dealership they owned.
If Peraica really didn’t have anything to do with Thompson running against Gorman and if he doesn’t care about Gorman, then he should publicly repudiate Thompson and his campaign and publicly point a finger at Thompson and Swiss and blame them for the mess.
I don’t think that is going to happen.
PERAICA’S EMAIL IN RESPONSE TO HIS SEEING
THIS COLUMN BEFORE IT WAS PUBLISHED:
THIS COLUMN BEFORE IT WAS PUBLISHED:
Thanks for the call back and discussion.
The title and premise of this piece is wrong. The purpose of my call was to challenge your assertion that "Peraica always makes an enemy of a friend," not to "obsess over Cmr. Gorman."
Liz Gorman is a non-issue, as far as I am concerned. She has her record to run her race on, and I have mine. She has her associations and supporters, and I have mine. I do not wish to engage with her or you in that kind of back and forth.
These are the facts regarding the Thompson v. Gorman primary race.
The State Board of Election examiner's report is filled with innuendo, speculation and fiction concocted by Gerry and Liz Gorman, and advanced by Todd Stroger's attorney, Burt Odelson.
Thompson decided to challenge Gorman in the primary for commissioner position, while running for re-election as GOP committeeman.
I had two opponents in the primary, recruited, endorsed and financially supported by Liz Gorman: Mr. Pittacora, who ran as a GOP committeeman candidate against me, and, Mr. Sloan who ran against me for commissioner. Ms Gorman, and her husband Gerry Gorman, actively and diligently worked on behalf of both Mr. Pittacora and Mr. Sloan, along with Stroger's supporters: Cmr. Joseph Mario Moreno, Ron Serpico and Larry Dominick (all democrats) in order to try to defeat me.
[HANANIA COMMENTS: This assertion is typical of Peraica’s exaggerations for political benefit. Dominick is an independent not a Democrat and was a Republican all his life. So the name-calling is unjustified. Though Moreno is a Democrat and Serpico may be, the fact is they were UNINVOLVED in the Gorman race.]
We defeated both of our opponents by roughly a 75%-25% margin.
When both Mr. Thompson and Ms. Gorman appeared in front of Republican Organization of Lyons Township (ROLT), they were both given a chance to address the assembled members. Mr. Thompson was almost unanimously endorsed over Liz Gorman for commissioner position. Both ROLT and I, therefore, put Mr. Thompson on our sample ballot, put up some of his signs and did what we normally do for all of our endorsed GOP candidates.
Since both Cmr. Gorman, Cmr. Moreno and other democrats circulated petitions for and supported my opponents Pittacora and Sloan, I attended a Mark Thompson fundraiser and donated $250 to him on November 30, 2009. This is the only donation that I made to Mr. Thompson. I endorsed and supported Mark Thompson in his races for commissioner and committeeman.
Due to the vigorous opposition from Mr Pittacora and Sloan against me, financed and directed largely by Gormans, I had to expend substantial effort and money to run my own races in the primary and did not focus at all on the Thompson/Gorman contest.
In January 2010, I purchased a current list of all emails from GOP Media owned by Tom Swiss in order to get my information out via email to all GOP voters in the 16th district. I paid $1000 to GOP Media for the compilation and transmission of the list. What GOP Media or Mr. Swiss did with the $1000 thereafter, I do not know, or care. GOP Media provided a service to our campaign and we paid GOP Media an agreed price of $1,000. This was not a "disguised" donation to anyone else.
Ms Gorman and Mr. Moreno bought and paid for Pittacora and Sloan signs, postage and literature against me, but I simply wrote it off as a political campaign move, acknowledged it, and did not file frivolous State Board of Election charges that do nothing but cost taxpayers unnecessary expense.
Commissioners Moreno and Gorman chose to file these frivolous charges against Thompson in order to drag my name through the mud, not with expectation of doing anything to Thompson.
[HANANIA RESPONDS: Peraica is secondary in the examiner’s report and I urge everyone to read it fully. Peraica is mentioned towards the bottom.]
As a journalist, you should always consider both sides, and not simply accept one sided allegations and accusations of political opponents.
The State Board of Election will have a fact finding hearing sometime later this year and all of this will be fleshed out in a contested adversarial hearing where both sides will have a chance to present their evidence and arguments via their respective counsels.
It will not be a one-sided conclusion by a politically appointed state "examiner", a non-attorney, who took only one-sided allegations presented by Todd Stroger's/Com Gorman's attorney Burt Odelson.
I will not denounce Thompson or any other candidate who chooses to run in a open, free, democratic primary races. That is called democracy. I support good-government candidates, and oppose those who are not. Mr. Thompson is a good-government candidate, and Cmrs. Gorman and Moreno are not.
[HANANIA RESPONDS: That’s why Peraica is so way off base, defending Thompson’s mudslinging viciousness and asserting it is “good government.”]
How candidates choose to run their campaigns is their business and they must be held accountable for what they do or say. I will not be held responsible for other candidates or their workers.
From what I remember, everything that Thompson said about Cmr. Gorman was true and accurate. In fact, there was a lot more that he could have said. But, that was his choice and he and his campaign should be held responsible. Not I.
It is interesting to note that Cmr. Moreno lost his race to his opponent Mr. Garcia as he obsessed over my races, while Cmr. Gorman barely beat Mr. Thompson in a very close race.
Both of my Moreno/Stroger/Gorman backed opponents, Pittacora and Sloan, were defeated overwhelmingly.
I hope that this clarifies some of the facts, and that you include them in the story as appropriate.
[HANANIA RESPONDS: It doesn’t. But in fairness to you, something you blogging pals do not offer themselves, I am willing to share your points.]
Friday, July 16, 2010
Newest episode of Star Chef Chicagoland scheduled for viewing
The second episode of the locally produced “Star Chef Chicagoland”reality show is scheduled for broadcast on Fridays on Comcast Cable TV Channel 19 in 145 suburban communities each week. The show features celebrity chefs making their favorite recipes for a panel of celebrity judges and is hosted by Ray Hanania, a columnist with Creators Syndicate and host of a weekday morning radio show on WJJG 1530 AM Radio.
Episode 2 features Second City comedian Aaron Freeman and his wife Sharon Rosenzweig making Challah Shabbat Jewish Bread and garlic pole beans. The celebrity judges include Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman (R-17th District), former White Sox Pitcher Billy Pierce, Les Aims Escoiffier member Nemer Ziyad and Bryan Sord the owner of 94 West Steak & Seafood Restaurant where the show is taped each month. Ziyad is the vice president of Ziyad Brothers Importing, one of the nation’s largest distributors of Mediterranean Foods and also Wild Garden Hummus Dip.
All episodes are also available for viewing online at www.StarChefChicagoland.com. The show airs in Palos Park, Palos Hills and Orland Park at 8:30 PM. It airs in Palos Heights at 7 PM. More listings are available online.
[Picture attached includes: From left, former White Sox Pitcher Billy and Gloria Pierce, Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman (R-17th) and 94 West Steak & Seafood Restaurant owner Bryan Sord. Photo courtesy Glenn Kaupert.]
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Americans are supposed to be better and different
By Ray Hanania
America defines itself as “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Yet when you challenge American policies, many Americans respond defensively arguing, “Well, they do that and worse in other countries.”
For example, when Muslims try to convert Christians in the United States, critics of the practice argue that their opposition is justified because “they have the same kind of ban in Saudi Arabia where Christians are prohibited from missionary work.”
But is that a good defense? We do it, but they do it worse?
There is a massive wave of new Americanism spreading throughout the United States. It has to do with several factors: fear of Muslims and a misunderstanding of Islam; the fact that many of the terrorists attacking Western targets are Muslim; the swell of illegal immigration from Mexico; growing rightwing extremism that promotes isolation from the rest of the international world.
And it’s not just in Arizona, where a good idea was bastardized into a political football by a Republican Governor who needs it to get elected.
Arizona has a huge illegal immigration problem. But the answer isn’t to single out Hispanic looking people and ask them to produce citizenship papers. That suggests that all Caucasians are citizens, which is not true, though the real problem is the drug war in Mexico that is spilling over in to our borders.
The problem also is that when police stop people for violations, they have to assume they are citizens. They ticket them and the illegal immigrants run back across the border. But if police could ask everyone the same question – produce proof of citizenship – Hispanic, brown skin or Caucasion, white skin, maybe their job would be a little easier.
We need to do something about the flow of illegal immigrants entering this country. Maybe we could follow the practices of Mexico, which jails anyone who does not have a proper visa or Mexican citizenship document.
But that Mexico is worse is not the answer to our problem.
Because America is supposed to be better. Freer. More democratic. More open. And more committed to civil rights. Isn’t that why we are a better country.
So why does an obscure back of the yards community like Homer Township – I know, you’ve probably never heard of it – feel compelled to pass a law declaring that English is the official language of their township?
They don’t have more important problems to solve?
The rural community of only 25,000 people with a growing suburban neighborhood base approved a new law that says English must be recognized as “the dominant language of Homer Township.”
And, not satisfied with the implications of that move, the board also voted to enforce residency laws that uphold federal immigration laws.
It’s all cute language to say that the leadership in Homer Township doesn’t want you to speak any foreign languages when you stop at McDonalds to buy a Big Mac. They don’t want you to count out your change in Spanish when you are filling up your car with gas. And they certainly don’t want any people taking orders at Middle Eastern bakeries for falafel in Arabic.
Sounds a little paranoid to me. And it all sounds very un-American, too.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and Chicago Radio Talk Show Host. He can be reached at www.RadioChicagoland.com.)
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Election board hearing July 19 will explore campaign violations by Mark Thompson and his ties to Tony Peraica
The dirtiest, the most disgusting and the most unethical campaign I have ever seen (and I have seen a lot) was the one that Mark Thompson directed against Liz Gorman in the February 2, 2010 Republican primary for the Cook County Board's 17th District seat. Gorman, the incumbent, has held the seat for two terms and easily won the Republican primary.
While her campaign material focused on her achievements:
- stubborn refusal to abandon the taxpayers in the fight against the 1 percent sales tax (She refused to give in when Todd Stroger continued to fight against repeal and she was instrumental in getting the repeal motion reintroduced repeatedly until half the Stroger sales tax was repealed) -- unlike Democratic Commissioner Larry Suffredin who was the deciding vote that made the Stroger Sales tax possible, even though he later reversed his position and joined int he repeal effort (Suffredin is supporting Gorman's political challenger, the Hynes' family dynasty's Patrick Maher.)
- warning repeatedly a year before the board finally woke up that Regional Schools Supt. Charles Flowers should not get funds from the county (a $190,000 loan) and that he was mismanaging the funds he already had. In fact, Flowers was charged with stealing some $376,000 in public funds more than a year later. (Read a story on it.)
Gorman's achievements as a County Commissioner representing Orland Township and the district all the way north.
But Thompson's campaign didn't focus on issues. (Here are a few links to recall some of Thompson's disgusting campaign efforts. Read this Jan. 4, 2010 ... or Read this Jan. 14, 2010. The Thompson campaign focused on cheap shots. And it seemed like he was getting money out of the air to do it.
Who was funding the Thompson hate campaign? That answer will be addressed at the July 19, 2010 hearing of the Illinois Election board. Thompson filed a complaint against the Gorman's during the election and the Election Board shot that complaint down. Gorman filed a complaint about Thompson and his failures to properly disclose where he was receiving money that was spent on the series of hate-literature that spewed from the underbelly of his sleazy campaign and the Election Board investigator responded with shock and awe.
And Peraica openly defended Thompson and insisted he had nothing to do with the Thompson campaign when I did speak with him about it. Read the story?
Based on the report, it seems clear that Peraica donated money to Thompson and those donations were not reported. That is one of Peraica's problems. He can't seem to focus on helping the people in his Cook County District and instead likes to waste his taxpayer funded time focusing on people he hates like Liz Gorman, one reason why Peraica should be ousted from the Cook County Board. (He is being challenged by Jeff Tobolski who in interviews has said he will focus on the needs of the district and not be some kind of political mercenary working to undermine the elected representative in other districts.)
But the mischief is clear and so are the violations, based on the Illinois Election Board's examination of the issues that will be decided on July 19, 2010.
Here is the report from the hearing examiner's investigation that will be presented to the full board on July 19, 2010. Remember, the full board has to act and the report only represents the conclusions of the person sent in to examine every piece of evidence and information and the facts.
Keep in mind that the last report before the election, here is what Thompson actually filed:
Funds available at the beginning of the reporting period
Funds available at the close of the reporting period
Plus a $20,000 loan
Here is the report
STATE OF ILLINOIS COUNTY OF COOK
BEFORE THE ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS
Vs. CASE NO. 10 CD 003
Mark Thompson Campaign Committee
REPORT OF HEARING EXAMINER
On January 22. 2010 the above referenced Complainant filed a form D·4, Complaint for violation of the
Campaign Disclosure Act wherein it is specifically alleged that pursuant to 10 ILCS 5/9·10, 11, 12, and 13 as
well as 5/9·9.5 of the Act, the Respondent failed to report certain campaign expenditures and contributions. It is also alleged that certain campaign literature failed to identify Respondent as having paid for it.
On February 3. 2010, a Closed Preliminary Hearing was convened. The Complainant was represented by her attorney, Burton Odelson. The Respondent was represented by attorney Stephen Boulton. After due
consideration, the Hearing Examiner made a recommendation to the Board that the Complaint was filed on
justifiable grounds, and therefore further recommended that a Public Hearing be conducted.
On March 8. 2009. the Board agreed with the Hearing Examiner and found that the Complaint was filed on
justifiable grounds and therefore entered an Order that a Public Hearing be conducted.
Subsequent to the Board Order for a Public Hearing, and prior to the Public Hearing itself, on March I. 2010, attorney Richard Means filed a Motion on behalf of the Respondent. wherein the Respondent acknowledged certain 5/9-9.5 violations for some of the above mentioned literature. However Respondent also argued that the D-2 filed for the period ending December 31, 2009 had a balance of $11,036.50 and that at the Closed Hearing, the Complainant presented no evidence as to the cost of any of the election communication/literature in evidence, and that there was no evidence that suggested that none of the cost exceeded the amount of funds available to the Committee. Respondent also argues that there was no evidence that there were any contributions received by the Committee in excess of $500 thereby requiring the Committee to file a Form A· 1 accounting for such contributions. No substantive action on the motion was taken,
After receipt of Proof of Service upon the above mentioned parties, a Public Hearing was convened on April 28. 2010. Attorney Burton Odelson appeared on behalf of the Complainant and attorney Richard Means appeared on behalf of the Respondent. At the conclusion of this hearing and at the request of the Complainant, subpoenas were issued to US bank for the purpose of obtaining additional bank records relevant to the proceeding. The matter was continued until June 9, 2010 whereupon further evidence was submitted, and closing arguments were presented by both parties.
Upon convening the April 28, 2010 hearing, the Respondent acknowledged that there were 5/9-9.5 violations for a failure to identify the Respondent/Committee as the source of payment for certain election communications identified as items 1 A, B, and C respectively. In light of such acknowledgment. the Complainant rested as to this Issue.
SUBSTANTIVE MATTERS AT ISSUE
Deviating from conventional practice of allowing the Complainant and Respondent to present their cases
sequentially, and for the purpose of administrative convenience, this Hearing Examiner allowed the
Complainant to present certain items at issue. and then allowed the Respondent to the opportunity to respond as to the cost for each item.
Witness Tom Swiss
The Complainant called Mr. Tom Swiss as a hostile witness to testify as to the value of all items and deseribe the method of payment. Mr. Swiss worked as a volunteer for the Thompson campaign, but he also owned a political consulting company known as GOP Media. The Thompson campaign. retained to GOP Media to produce material and perform other activities related to the Thompson campaign.
It is very important to note, that a central theme to Mr. Swiss's testimony was that the Respondent's Committee (Thompson campaign) "reimbursed" GOP Media for the expenses GOP incurred related to the Thompson campaign. These reimbursements came in the form of checks (contributions) that were payable to the Respondent/Thompson's Committee, and then tendered to GOP media for Mr. Swiss to deposit into the GOP Media account.
During the months of December 2009 and January 2010, GOP Media incurred approximately $3200 in costs for Robocalls that were used in Mark Thompson's campaign for Cook County Board. Swiss charged these calls to his credit card. Swiss claimed that these expenses werc paid out of the $11,200 dollar balance that was on hand at the close of the December 2009 filing period. However he offered no evidence to support said claim.
Exhibit # 1. Campaign literature that both parties stipulated were not related to the County Board campaign.
Complainant withdrew this item.
Exhibit # 2. This was a certain letter that went to "Hard Republicans" in January 2010. All costs (production. and mailing) associated with this document totaled $375. Paid for by the GOP Media, but reimbursed by the Respondent/Thompson Committee in the manner described above.
Exhibit #3, Email designed by Swiss (value not identified) and emailed to approximately 700 people at a cost that was not elicited.
Exhibit # 4. Election communication that witness asserted was not related to his work for the County
Board campaign. Complainant withdrew this item.
Exhibit # 5. This is the literature that was associated with the envelope known as exhibit 2 discussed above. Again, the total cost for both exhibits 2 and 5 were $375.
Exhibit #6. A billboard truck. Swiss contends that the truck was from "volunteers" and therefore the cost was
"nothing". He later admilted it was "donated" by volunteers. He stated it was used during January of 2010 and
that the owner was someone named Jim Brookman. He claimed that the estimated expenses (400-500 dollars) for the art work was paid for previously and was listed on a previous report. He also testified that gas was paid for by Jim Bookman himself, but he did not know how much the gas cost. No A-1 was filed in relationship to this truck.
Exhibit # 7. More election communication with a production cost of $668 and postage of $1476. This
was sent in January 2010 to about 7000 homes. Again, Swiss contends it was paid for by GOP Media, and the Respondent'Committee reimbursed GOP.
Exhibit # 8. Another 7000 piece mailing in which GOP Media paid $1411 in postage, and $550.00 in production costs. There was approximately an additional $79 cost associated with a Mark Thompson web site.
Witness Mark Thompson
Complainant questioned witness Mark Thompson claimed he did not handle the finances, and he could not
explain why his contributions went directly to GOP Media and were not deposited directly into his Committee.
In fact when asked (at least twice) about who paid for certain election communications, he claimed he did not
know and that the campaign manager had the information. He furthermore admitted that his previous legal
representation at the close Preliminary Hearing was handled by Steve Bolton, a "friend." He furthermore
testified that he had "no knowledge of the details" regarding contributions that were originally made to his
campaign, but then went to GOP Media as opposed to being deposited to his campaign committee account.
June 9, 2010 Hearing
On June 9. 2010, this hearing resumed for the purpose of examining the evidence sent by US Bank, following a subpoena submitted to them commanding that they produce the fronts and backs of any check as well as deposit slips involving the GOP Media account from the period beginning January I, 2010 through February 2, 2010.
Mr. Tom Swiss testified that he was in control of the financial affairs of the Respondent Committee which
included accounting for both contributions and expenditures. He furthermore testified that there were certain
contributions that were reported as contributions in the Semi Annual Report for the period ending December
2009. but were in fact not received until after January 1, 2010. Again he reiterated that several of said
contributions were deposited into the GOP Media accounting(s) for the purpose of the Respondent/Mark
Of particular interest were two contributions. Regarding the first one, Swiss testified that one of the checks for
the Mark Thompson commit1ee was deposited into his personal account as opposed to the GOP Media account.
This check was a contribution from Stephen Bolton, which was reported on the Respondent's December 2009 Semi Annual Report as a contribution for $2000, even though $1000 of this contribution was not received until after January 1,2010. The second item was a check dated January 20, 2010 from Citizens for Peraica payable to GOP Media in the amount of $1,000. Mr. Swiss testified that this check was given to GOP Media for the benefit of the Respondent/Committee as part of a $2000 "Transfer In" that was previously reported as received by the Respondent/Committee on December 15,2009.
At the onset of this hearing. this Hearing Examiner was aware of the fact that at the close of the December 2009 reporting period the Respondem/Cornmittee had approximately $11,300 at its disposal to spend for costs (expenditures) incurred by the Thompson campaign for the office of Cook County Board of' Commissioners. I was also cognizant of the fact that while there are strict reporting requirements for contributions received prior to an election, expenditures need not be accounted for until the Semi Annual Report is filed for the period in which those expenditures are incurred.
Based on the testimony given by both Tom Swift, a sometimes volunteer for the Respondent, and sometimes
Independent Contractor for the Respondent in the name of GOP Media, the amount of money spent on the
various forms of election communications spent in Mr, Thompson1s campaign could have easily been paid for by the available funds as reported in tile Respondent/Committee's December 2009 Semi Annual Report. The costs never approached the $11,300 the Committee had available for such expenses. However, at hearing the
Respondent stated that Some of these cost were in fact paid for by some rather unconventional means.
Contributions given to the Respondent were never deposited and accounted for by the Respondent but in fact
routinely given to Me. Swiss of GOP Media to pay lor expenses that were related to the campaign. This included some of the expenses outlined above,
IRREGULAR AND NON REPORTING
The reporting methods utilized by the Respondent/Committee were cavalier and informal. I find this particularly problematic in light of the fact that Mr. Thompson has had Committee on file with the SBE for approximately 15 years, and he should have therefore been familiar with basic reporting practices. In both the April 28, 2010 and June 9, 2010 hearing, Mr. Swift made it clear that as the person primarily responsible for the financial affairs of the Committee (albeit not the Treasurer), it was a routine practice for the Committee to receive contributions from third parties, only for the Committee to tender said checks to GOP Media to reimburse (pay) GOP Media for said expenses related to Mr. Thompson's campaign. This practice apparently began before the filing of the December 2009 Semi Annual Report. This is problematic for several reasons. Sections 9-1.4 and 9-1.5 define what is both a contribution and expenditure respectively. The conduct as described above clearly falls outside of the statutory scheme for the reporting of contributions and expenditures. In fact, the type of conduct described above. makes it difficult to determine whether both contributions and expenditures were properly reported for the reporting period ending December 2009 as well as during the A 1 reporting period prior to the February 2010 Primary Election. Section 9-11 specifically sets forth the manner in which contributions in aggregate amounts or value exceeding $150 must be reported. The name, address, and dates of said contributions must be reported. Mr. Swift's practice of directing these contributions in excess of $150 to his GOP Media account, and in one case his own personal bank account makes it impossible to determine if the Respondent/Committee's December 2009 Semi Annual Report is an accurate depiction of the financial affairs of this committee.
It should be noted that while there is no evidence to suggest that the reports as filed are not accurate, the reporting practices engaged in by this committee were out of the ordinary and seemingly not consistent with the type of transparency that the above mentioned statutes seek to achieve. Also, Section 100.70 of the Board Rules, specifies that in instances where a particular expense incurred by a committee results in a particular payee being merely a conduit for the payment of a palticular item or service, this cost is still to be considered an "expense" within the meaning of the act, and not a reimbursement for that particular cost. When the Respondent/Committee passed on checks payable to the Thompson campaign to pay GOP Media, the Respondent appears to have done two things. First, there was a failure to properly account for the contributions received by the Committee, and second it appears that the Committee was "reimbursing" GOP Media for expenses incurred on behalf of the Committee, and not recognizing them as an actual expcnse incurred by the Committee.
Consistent with the above statutory requirements, the Respondent's reporting of contributions on the December 2009 Semi Annual Report that were not actually received until January of 20 I 0 wcre also violations. I know of no instance where a committee was allowed to report contributions as received merely based upon merely on a " promise" to submit a contribution at some future point in time. There is no statute or Board Rule that allows for said conduct. Therefore, in this instance the contributions by Mr. Peraica and Mr. Bolton that were reported on the December 2009 Semi Annual Report, but were in fact received either in whole or in part violated the above cited sections in that they were not actually received when the Respondent/Committee claimed to have received them.
Of particular note is the Respondent's reporting the receipt of a $2000 "Transfer In" (Exhibit # 1 ) Contribution on December 15, 2009 from Citizens for Peraica in which part of this contribution was received in the form of a $1000 check payable to GOP Media (not the Respondent/Committee) in January 2010. (Exhibit # 2). Oddly enough, a review of the Semi Annual Report for Citizens for Peraica for the period ending December 2009, does not even show a December 15th Transfer Out to the Respondent's Committee. This is a major discrepancy that requires further explanation on behalf of the Respondent. However, this very act amounts to violations of the Campaign Disclosure Act. Section 9-25 of the Act specifically states that no person shall make a contribution in the name of another and no committee can knowingly accept a contribution made by one person in the name of another person. Clearly the $1000 check from Citizens for Peraica to GOP Media was made for the benefit of Mark Thompson and therefore violates this statute. At the same time, because this check was given and accepted by the Respondent/Committee Mark Thompson in January of 2010, a Form A-l should have been filed.
Additionally, the same can be said of Stephen Bolton's $1000 contribution in January. While it was reported as part of a $2000 contribution on the Respondent's December 2009 Semi Annual Report (Exhibit # J), Mr. Swiss testified that $1000 of this money was received in January of 2010 and as a result, a second Form A1 should have been filed for this contribution.
It should also be noted that even the cost of the Billboard truck could not be ascertained. Mr. Swiss claimed it was donated by a friend (Jim Bookman). Surely the rental cost of such an item that was used during the month of January (time unknown) conceivably had a vallie in excess of $500. Again, no attempt was made to account for the value for the time it was used, or the fuel consumed. This was clearly an In-Kind contribution of some sort.
Lastly, the Respondent stipulated to the fact that there was a 9-9.5 violation for a failure to provide the source of payment for certain election communications. This being the case, and now being aware of said violation and promising not to violate this section in the future, it is my opinion that no further action be taken in this regards.
In light oflhe above this Hearing Examiner recommends the following:
1. That the Board find that the Respondent failed to file two form A-1s in a timely manner because
Respondent failed to report two contributions in excess of $500 that were received by the
Respondent/Committee in January 2010. (Peraica and Bolton contributions)
2. That the Board tind that the Respondent violated section 9·25 of the Campaign Disclosure Act when the
Respondent accepted a contribution in the name of another. (Peraica contribution to GOP Media on behalf
of Thompson )
3. That based on the irregular practices of accounting for both contributions and expenditures as described
above, the Board order that appropriate Campaign Disclosure staff to audit the committee to insure that all
contributions and expenses have been properly accounted for.
4. That the Board order the Respondent to only report contributions in instances when money is actually
received and services have actually been rendered and not report contributions of any form where the
Respondent Committee in fact has not received them.
5. That the Board issue any other order that they deem appropriate to insure proper compliance with all of the
provisions of the Campaign Disclosure Act and that a failure to abide by said order(s) will result in a
possible fine for each violation.
Mark D. Greben
Monday, July 5, 2010
Mayor Dan McLaughlin was with his family and about a thousand other local residents for the village's annual 4th of July Independence Day fireworks celebration Sunday night.
It was spectacular.
Although many suburban communities are facing difficult times, Orland Park has managed to hold the line, and while it trimmed back some of the traditional events at the celebration, it went all out for the fireworks, which is the primary reason why so many families come out each Fourth of July to Centennial Park just west of the Orland Park pool.
It's an annual tradition for my family. The band was entertaining. The speeches were short. McLaughlin spent much of his time on the grass greeting residents and just having some fun.
Thanks Mayor McLaughlin and the Village of Orland Park Board for another spectacular 4th of July Fireworks Independence Day celebration:
Here's the video from the event which I hope you enjoy as much as my family did.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Former White Sox Pitcher Bill Pierce poses with his wife Gloria, Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman (R-17) and 94 West Steak & Seafood Restaurant owner Bryan Sord. Pierce and Gorman were two of the celebrity judges appearing in the latest episode of Star Chef Chicagoland, a food reality show produced for Comcast Cable TV Channel 19 by Orland Park’s Ray Hanania. The show features celebrity chefs preparing meals for a panel of judges that also includes Nemer Ziyad, owner of Ziyad Brothers Importing and member of the Les Ames Escoiffier Society, and Sord.
The second episode, to be broadcast in August on Friday nights at 7 pm or 8:30 pm (depending on your suburb) on Channel 19 Comcast Cable, features 2nd City Comedian Aaron Freeman and his wife Sharon cooking a traditional Jewish Shabbat entre, Challah Bread and garlic string beans.
For more information on the TV show you can visit www.StarChefChicagoland.com. The show is broadcast in 145 suburban Chicagoland communities. (Photo courtesy of Glenn Kaupert).