Public Service Announcement 2013

Public Service Announcement 2013

Posted in the Blue Island Forum

Voter

Midlothian, IL

#1 Mar 18, 2013
This is a free public service announcement asking the citizens of Blue Island to cast their vote on April 9th 2013.

We have had a great 27 year stretch with the current city government and we ask that when you cast your vote, choose Domingo Vargas along with his entire party.We need to continue the same outstanding services for our community.
Common sense

United States

#2 Mar 18, 2013
Voter wrote:
This is a free public service announcement asking the citizens of Blue Island to cast their vote on April 9th 2013.
We have had a great 27 year stretch with the current city government and we ask that when you cast your vote, choose Domingo Vargas along with his entire party.We need to continue the same outstanding services for our community.
Oh Boy! I can see Alan Stevo/Pace-Green jumping at this one like pigs to slop.
Madness

United States

#3 Mar 18, 2013
They must sit all day in their little insane think tank and drum up crazy ideas on how to stir up madness... Then reply to their own discussions under aliases to appear as many people agree with their madness.
Very similar to the multiple voices in their heads.
Pointing Finger

Maywood, IL

#4 Mar 19, 2013
Madness wrote:
They must sit all day in their little insane think tank and drum up crazy ideas on how to stir up madness... Then reply to their own discussions under aliases to appear as many people agree with their madness.
Very similar to the multiple voices in their heads.
In your case, the following is a very apt description for you is---- it takes one to know one.
A Long Strange Trip

Chicago, IL

#5 Mar 19, 2013
A Long, Strange Trip

Calumet City alderman takes film junket to Miami. Not only did taxpayers cover the tab, his record keeping leaves some curious questions.

By Andrew Schroedter/BGA 
  
Calumet City Alderman Thaddeus Jones flew to Miami last summer to attend the American Black Film Festival, an event that showcases movies made by black filmmakers.

Airfare, registration and five nights at a trendy South Beach hotel ended up costing about $2,500.

CBS2: Calumet City Pol Used Campaign Funds for Miami Trip

Jones didn’t cover the tab, local taxpayers did, because the alderman claimed to be scouting film-related opportunities for residents of the blue-collar south suburb.

But the Better Government Association found a number of oddities with Jones’ trip – beyond the fact that there’s little evidence it benefited Calumet City residents and a strong indication the junket was instead aimed at furthering Jones’ personal aspirations to become a producer and attorney in the entertainment industry.

Perhaps the most troubling finding of the BGA’s three-month investigation was that Jones appeared to receive taxpayer reimbursement for his hotel stay even though government records indicate that his campaign fund covered the tab.

Jones, who also is a Democratic state legislator representing a south suburban district, insists he didn’t pocket any public money, and this is a big misunderstanding. "That would be illegal," he says. "I’m not trying to get into trouble." Briefed on the BGA’s findings, Calumet City Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush says, "I would hope that Thaddeus has an explanation for this."

Yet, he’s unable to provide records that would explain away the questions.
A Long Strange Trip

Chicago, IL

#6 Mar 19, 2013
Here’s what the BGA found:
Last June, Jones traveled to south Florida for the four-day American Black Film Festival, which is described on its web site as "primarily composed of world premieres of narrative, documentary and short films. As such, it is the leading film festival in the world for African American and urban content."

Registration for the event, five nights at a hotel and airfare totaled $2,378, according to interviews, and Calumet City records obtained by the BGA under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

The city government cut Jones a $2,378 check to cover his costs.
However, Jones also used his campaign fund to pay $1,069 for his hotel room, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections, which collects data from campaign funds.

There is no record showing Jones ever paid back the campaign fund.
In short, it appears taxpayers compensated Jones for an expense – his five-night hotel stay from June 20 to June 25 – that he didn’t personally incur.

Jones, however, says he personally paid for the hotel room in Miami – the reason he sought reimbursement from Calumet City. The campaign fund check paid for separate rooms he had booked for colleagues but forgot to cancel, Jones says.

Yet on campaign records he submitted to the elections board it lists "Lodging – candidate" as the purpose for the $1,069 hotel expenditure.

After the BGA raised questions about the expenditure, Jones amended his campaign records. It now says "fees for non cancelled rooms for ABFF" as the purpose for the Miami hotel expenditure.

However, Jones is still unable to explain why he gave Calumet City a copy of the campaign fund check, which he signed, as proof of payment for his hotel stay, if in fact he paid for the room himself. On the check’s memo it even says, "Lodging for Thaddeus Jones."

The BGA obtained a copy of the check and a June 16, 2012, letter Jones wrote to the hotel – in it he references a "payment in the amount of $1,069 for my stay."
To cut to the chase, the BGA asked Jones to show receipts for all hotel rooms he says he paid for or was reimbursed for – in other words, for the room he stayed in, and any rooms he booked for colleagues.

That, in theory, would clear up the BGA’s questions.

However, Jones was unable or unwilling to provide any documents to support his claims.

Another question this situation raises is why Jones used campaign funds for a trip that appears to have had little to do with politics or government. State campaign finance law is porous, but generally bars candidates from using campaign cash for personal use. The BGA and Chicago magazine teamed up in recent months to explore that wider issue, and found political candidates are regularly misusing campaign funds.

Jones, 42, holds the distinction of being the first African-American alderman in Calumet City’s history. A protégé of Frank Zuccarelli, the politically powerful supervisor of Thornton Township, he joined the council in 1997.
A Long Strange Trip

Chicago, IL

#7 Mar 19, 2013
Jones is in his second term as state representative of the 29th District, which juts south from the city’s Roseland neighborhood to the northern tip of Will County.
State government paid Jones $64,717 last year, according to the Illinois Comptroller’s office.
Additionally, his total compensation in Calumet City exceeded $56,000 in 2012.
On top of that Jones and other aldermen can receive more than $5,100 a year for conferences, travel and conventions. Since 2003 Calumet City has paid Jones more than $26,000 for related expenses, according to public records.
That includes a total of $7,278 for the American Black Film Festival in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2012. Taxpayers even paid for Jones’ hotel and airfare when he attended a short play festival in Miami in June 2008, according to public records.
Jones owns what he describes as an entertainment company, and has said he aspires to make a short film about Calumet City. But he insists his attendance at the film festival, which screens short films, wasn’t business related.
He uses taxpayer funds because his purpose for going is to make connections that will lead to opportunities for young Calumet City residents seeking a career in the film or television broadcast industries, he says.
However, the BGA could find no evidence that locals have directly benefited from Jones’ excursions.
Jones says Qualkinbush and other council members have never objected, or questioned his seeking reimbursement from taxpayers. In fact, the council unanimously voted at an April 2012 board meeting to approve his attendance at the festival.
"I’m not hiding anything," Jones says.
This story was written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Andrew Schroedter, who can be reached at [email protected]
blue

Chicago, IL

#8 Mar 19, 2013
Madness wrote:
They must sit all day in their little insane think tank and drum up crazy ideas on how to stir up madness... Then reply to their own discussions under aliases to appear as many people agree with their madness.
Very similar to the multiple voices in their heads.
This is the truth. They have begun to believe their madness. Is this guy showing the film the lyric. Bga is the best. im contacting them for the check. i want my money back.
Deal or No Deal

Chicago, IL

#9 Mar 19, 2013
A Burning Conflict March 14, 2013 04:18 PM

Fire district trustee votes on fire chief’s pay, benefits. Only problem: they live together.
By Katie Drews/BGA 

Michelle Gibson was promoted to chief of the Tri-State Fire Protection District in 2007, and since then she’s seen her salary grow by more than $30,000 – to around $140,000 a year.

Turns out one of the officials responsible for Gibson’s promotion and generous pay hikes is her long-time life partner, Jill Strenzel, a member of the three-person board elected to govern the Darien-based agency, the Better Government Association has learned.
 
In 2007, Strenzel voted on Gibson’s promotion from deputy chief to chief, and since then Strenzel has voted on several other agreements that dictate Gibson’s salary and benefits, according to interviews, and fire district records obtained under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

Among Gibson’s perks: use of a 2012 Ford Expedition that she’s allowed to use for "personal and business" reasons.

Hamilton Gibbons, president of the Tri-State board of trustees, said via email that the relationship between Strenzel and Gibson does not constitute a real conflict because same-sex relationships are not recognized as marriages in Illinois.

According to Gibson’s most recent contract, which was approved in April 2012 by all board members, including Strenzel, the chief stands to make about $138,000 in 2013 and about $143,000 in 2014. She was making $104,000 as deputy chief, and that jumped to $115,000 following her 2007 promotion, which took effect in 2008, records show.

The fire district provides taxpayer-funded fire fighting and paramedic services to parts of Darien, Willowbrook and Burr Ridge, and to unincorporated areas of Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills, among other locations.
 
A BGA survey of 10 other fire chiefs in the west suburbs near Tri-State’s turf found base salaries between $110,000 and $153,000, with average pay around $129,000 a year.

Though not illegal, Strenzel’s participation in such votes represents a clear conflict of interest, according to experts consulted by the BGA. After all, Gibson and Strenzel have been a couple since at least 2003; they are in a committed relationship and living together, according to records and interviews.
 
Typically, board members for government agencies abstain from decisions that affect friends, relatives and associates.
No Deal

Chicago, IL

#10 Mar 19, 2013
"It’s impossible to be objective, and certainly it wouldn’t appear to be objective," said Ann Buchholtz, professor of leadership and ethics at Rutgers University, when briefed by the BGA on the Tri-State situation. "The best thing is to simply sit out the decision where there is a question and let the rest of the group decide."
 
Willowbrook Mayor Robert Napoli, who also learned of Strenzel’s voting record from the BGA, said, "The person may be very well qualified but that’s not the point. That’s like me taking care of a relative of mine and making sure not only that they are employed but getting raises and promotions. Does that sound right? To me, that’s improper."
 
Robert Sodikoff, acting village president of Burr Ridge, agreed. Darien Mayor Kathleen Weaver noted Tri-State is its own taxing body and declined to comment further.

Strenzel and Gibson did not respond to requests for comment.
 
Hamilton Gibbons, president of the Tri-State board of trustees, said via email that the relationship between Strenzel and Gibson does not constitute a real conflict because same-sex relationships are not recognized as marriages in Illinois.
 
He said Gibson "has meritoriously risen through the ranks," and Gibson’s predecessor recommended Gibson, who had been the district’s deputy chief since 2004, as his successor. Gibbons also said the couple’s relationship has been public for many years and that Strenzel was re-elected even after Gibson became chief.

Tri-State, which has four stations, serves roughly 42,000 residents, according to the district. Fire protection districts provide the same functions as traditional fire departments, but often stretch across municipal boundaries and aren’t necessarily governed by a municipal government, but their own boards.

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