Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bob Cacciato is a nice guy, but he's dead wrong

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Bob Cacciato is a former member of the Orland Fire Protection District board. He was thrown out of office by voters in the last elections along with Patrick Maher, the deceitful former OFPD board president.

I am not going to say Cacciato is a bad person. He's not. He is very personable. In any other circumstance, I'd probably be his friend. But I have to take issue with his ridiculous public posturing and his one-sided politically motivated attacks on the Orland Fire Protection District Board. As a resident of Orland Park for more than 27 years, that is my right!

Cacciato served for six years on the Orland Fire Protection District board (elected in 2005). But in the few times I attended district meetings (twice) I NEVER heard him speak a word. In fact, most of the comments came from the former district's attorney who would lean over and tell Maher what to say and do.

Suddenly, since being tossed off of the OFPD Board Cacciato is all mouth. At every meeting, he gets up and expresses his views as if his own history didn't exist. Like at Tuesday night's meeting when he got up and criticized former OFPD Board member Cindy Katsenes.

Cacciato was thrown out by voters who elected Blair Rhode, a respected local orthopedic surgeon, and Chris Evoy, a respected local businessman. Evoy and Rhode are average Orland Park taxpayers whose concern for the unlimited budget and spending at the Fire District is what drove the election results. Maher and Cacciato were thrown out of office because they refused to get a handle on district spending.

But today, Cacciato continues to make the spurious claim that the new board with Rhode and Evoy and its new President Jim Hickey don't care about public safety. Cacciato makes the ridiculous claim that throwing taxpayer money on the OFPD will make it a better place and that the public will be safer. Cacciato's message is ridiculous, that the quality of Fire Service is based on how many millions you throw into the OFPD fire.

The two are unrelated. Some of the neighboring fire departments are providing excellent service with far less money. In fact, the real problem isn't money for equipment, but the excessive salaries that were given to firefighters by Maher and Cacciato. Yes, when Maher and Cacciato were in charge, they gave away the bank. Because they didn't care about the interests of the taxpayers.

I don't know what Cacciato's purpose was, but clearly Maher saw himself as the next president of the United States. He came from political royalty, related to the family of Tom Hynes, a great scion of a great family that has since gone off the political deep end.

By pumping money into the salaries of the Orland Fire Protection District, Maher was doing what every Chicago Machine politician has done, believing that if they give firemen and policemen raises above and beyond the norm, those firemen and policemen will work the precinct for them to get them elected to hire office. They sold the OFPD (and the interests of the taxpayers) to the unions in exchange for political support.

But Maher ran into the Gorman Machine. Maher tried to unseat Liz Gorman as Cook County Commissioner and she slam-dunked him so hard, he literally vanished from local politics. Good riddance. Personally, Maher was a good person. Politically, he was a jerk. And as a president of the Orland Fire Protection District, he was a terrible leader who had no control on spending. And that's why the OFPD spends more than $30 million a year on their budget.

The majority of the spending is for personnel wages and salaries, and that number is among the highest in the country. Thanks to Pat Maher and Bob Cacciato. It didn't have to be.

So now the new board is stuck with this overpaid budget and they can only trim expenses from the remainder of the budget where there is some discretion.

But, instead of trying to help, Cacciato suddenly has found a voice. Suddenly he can speak up at board meetings, even though he remained silent at nearly every one where he was a sitting board member. (Just read the past minutes to see his silence.)

And that brings me back to Katsenes. Katsenes was hired to help find ways to save money. She has experience having served on the Orland Fire Protection District Board (serving as a trustee from 2001-2007). She was initially hired at $3,000 a month. But after the first month, Katsenes decided she didn't wan tto take the salary because the budget hurdles were so outrageous that she felt she needed to do something to make a contribution. So, she turned back her salary.

She took one month's wages and since then (June, July, August, September, October, and November), she has not taken a dime.

So what did Caciaato do at the board meeting during the public session? He got up and attacked Katsenes asking if she was going to "return" the $3,000 she received for that one month of work.

Are you kidding me Mr. Cacciato? When during your term on the board can you even name one consultant who turned back their salary ever while you were a trustee on the Orland Fire Protection District? It never happened. Not once. So instead of bad mouthing Katsenes, maybe you should thank her.

The public thanks Katsenes. And all that does is show you how disconnected Cacciato and the old board was when it came to the best interests of the public.

And then there is the issue of the three former members of the Senior Advisory Group. They loved Maher, because they had ties to the Maher administration. When Maher was tossed and the board sought to make the senior advisory group more productive, they got upset and they quit. But they disrespected the Fire District by attacking the new board and making ridiculous and unsubstantiated charges throwing mud at Rosemaria Genova who has a small $1,000 a month contract to do special projects and PSAs for the Fire District -- hired by Maher. She is a hard worker.

Instead of offering to help the district, these three politically-motivated seniors instead come to every meeting to be disruptive and make unsubstantiated accusations. They want to create turmoil and start fights. They couldn't do anything productive so their only recourse now that their hero Pat Maher is out is to cast ugly aspersions.

Taxpayers should come to the board meetings and see how hard Rhode, Evoy and Hickey are working to keep costs down and maintain the high level of professionalism that exists at the Fire District. They deserve the praise. Thanks to Rhode, Evoy and Hickey, the district has saved hundreds of thousands and prevented the spending of hundreds of thousands more that would have taken the OFPD budget to new heights.

As for the critics, hypocrisy is about all they really have.

-- Ray Hanania
(For full disclosure, I started working as the media consultant for the Orland Fire Protection District replacing Bill Figel. Figel was paid $4,000 a month, but to help the district, I accepted the same job at only $3,000 a month. Cacciato doesn't like that either. So what! As an Orland Park resident for more than 27 years, I have every right to express my views, too. And I am going to defend public servants who are dedicated to helping the public.)

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