Sunday, June 12, 2011

Orland Park resident claims he is the victim of intimidation because of outspoken criticism of the former Fire Protection District board

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Orland Park resident claims he is the victim of intimidation because of outspoken criticism of the former Fire Protection District board

An Orland Park resident claimed he is the victim of intimidation because of his outspoken criticism of the former board and the practices of the Orland Fire Protection District.

Paul Cervenka, who lives in the Villa D'Este neighborhood off of 84th Avenue,  said that he was "given a message" on Friday night.

A truck dragged its wheels across the lawn of his home repeatedly sometime in the middle of the night. "It looks like someone drove a semi on my front lawn," Cervenka said.

How does he know they targeted him?

"Well, they came pretty close to my neighbor's yard and then stopped and backed up, according to the track marks left so it is clear they were targeting me," Cervenka said. "They damaged part of my neighbor's lawn but it is real clear that they were focused on my lawn."

Cervenka said that the police asked him why his home would be target. Anyone close to the Orland Fire Protection District knows that Cervenka has been a constant voice for the taxpayers demanding to know how the former board was spending taxpayer funds.

Cervenka said that in the past, he has received anonymous letter in the mail making mild threats, but this is the first time, he says, he has had actual damages. A typical front lawn costs about $5,000 to be re-sodded.

"If someone wants to disagree with my views, they can come to any Fire District board meeting and respond to anything I say or the questions I have but that's not what they want. They want me to go away and be quiet. And I won't do that. They sent a message but I am not going away and I am going to continue to do what I do."

Cervenka said he is encouraged by the recent change at the board and the new board's focus on saving money.

"I'm out there challenging the board's old ways and it's the kind of thing you expect from bullies. I'll keep it documented with the police. It's grass. It will grow back someday. The police said I should get a security camera for my house. Imagine that, in America, we have to watch our properties because you are vocal and want to save money for taxpayers. I've never attacked anyone personally. I always focused on the system and the board as an entity."

Cervenka said he has pushed three main issues in his board appearances during the public sessions:
- The first issue is costs. "The costs are just too extreme for Orland Park to be the 2nd highest cost in the state. That's ridiculous."
- The second issue is that the old board "was not transparent. They never released any information about salaries and spending. Requests were refused and the new President and board say they are going to post everything and I think that's important."
The third issue is the union. "I think the union has been too cozy with the board and the union was calling the shots in terms of hiring, spending and new equipment. I speak out against their hands-out control of the board. The hiring of the 11 firefighters is his idea and I am not sure I trust their claims about overtime. I think they created the overtime to justify doing this. We need answers."
 Cervenka said that he started confronting the board back in November. The OrlandPark.Patch video-taped that meeting and posted it and I think that raised some eyebrows. The board didn't like what I said and the video has haunted them.

Now of course, the changes are being implemented and I think that is where the hate comes from.

Cervenka has attended every Fire Protection District board meeting and will continue to do that despite what he believes is the intimidation.

Here is the link to the video taken by the OrlandPark.Patch of the November 2010.

Newly elected board members Blair Rhode and Chris Evoy have vowed to make the District more transparent.

(NOTE: The poster of this blog, Ray Hanania, is the communications director of the Orland Fire Protection District.)


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