Archive for March 2012

What Did Sig Know? When Did He Know It? — 3/31/2012

March 31, 2012

ImageCook County Republican Central Committee Chairman Sig Vaznelis (above) ignored the wishes of his predecessor, Lee Roupas, when he elevated Sean Morrison, a lifelong Democrat, to the Republican committeemanship of Palos Township in January.

It was an odd choice.  Roupas had recommended a lifelong Republican activist.  Morrison had voted in but one Republican primary in his life.  If Morrison took a Republican ballot on March 20, then he doubled his total of Republican votes.

Morrison being a Democrat had already hurt his improbable primary campaign to upend respected Board of (Tax) Review Commissioner Dan Patlak, the only GOP officeholder with a Cook County-wide jurisdiction.

Morrison, a servant of the Ed Vrdolyak-Gerry Gorman-Liz Gorman alliance, was flagging.  His relentless negative ads were under attack by the Daily Herald and the Chicago Tribune.  Both endorsed Patlak.  Morrison sought Republican acceptance.  Sig stepped in, betrayed Lee Roupas, and – poof – made the 19th Ward Democrat frog into a Real Republican prince.

Of course, the voters were not going to kiss any frogs.  Patlak was re-nominated.

And now, with primary dust settling, Sig Vaznelis needs to answer questions of his own.

Did he vet the committeeman candidates at all?

What did he ask them?  What did they reply?

When did Sig Vaznelis learn that Morrison’s Las Vegas-based registered agent represented mobsters?

Or did he fail to figure out who Morrison actually is?

Sig had every reason in the world to question Morrison’s bona fides.

Fox News reported that Morrison’s agent in Baghdad was forcibly removed from the Green Zone by the United States Army, after it relieved him of his sidearm, for a seamy effort to profit from our Global War on Terror and Saddam Hussein.

Illinois officials had fined another of Morrison’s endless stream of business shells for violating state regulations.

Morrison, as self-conscious about his lack of credentials as he was about his lack of Republicanism, had taken to lying about his modest record of academic achievement

Voters in New Trier and Palatine townships wrote Morrison replaying his bald assertion that he held an associate’s degree from Morraine Valley Community College.

That was a new wrinkle in the Morrison resume, so I checked with MVCC.  The answer?

“Dear Mr. Robling:

This email is in response to your request of February 12, 2012, under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act of whether Sean M. Morrison graduated from Moraine Valley Community College. We have no record of anyone with that name graduating from Moraine Valley Community College.

Sincerely,

Mark Horstmeyer

FOIA Officer

Moraine Valley CC”

(Emphasis in the original)

Finally, Fox News Chicago conducted an investigation into recent Morrison employees suing him for payment.  It turned out that Morrison welched on his deal to pay performers in his girl-on-girl fight club reality TV show, in which the costumes were skimpy bathing suits.  Two women allegedly stiffed by Morrison appeared via Skype.  One said “he is a waste of skin.”  One said people “became homeless because they thought they were going to get paid.”  See for yourself: http://www.myfoxchicago.com/dpp/news/investigative/cook-county-republican-board-review-candidate-facing-lawsuit-women-mixed-martial-arts-mma-fighters-sean-morrison-20120229

Morrison’s response to the women’s plight?

“I am out a lot of money myself, unfortunately,” he told Dane Placko.

Stirring in its gallantry – or callous disregard?  You decide.

What type of elected Cook County official produces girl-on-girl fight club reality TV shows, anyway?

And of course, at the moment Morrison was in the midst of a million dollar campaign for an obscure – but potentially powerful – office.

No one had ever seen a primary for Board of (Tax) Review like Morrison’s.  He had mailers.  He had yard signs.  He had robo-calls.  And he had radio – lots and lots of costly radio.  But his contribution forms were long on dollars loaned to himself, without ever disclosing the source of those cash infusions.

All sensate Cook County Goppers here recall of Ed Vrdolyak’s finance practice – established in federal court — for Morrison den mother Liz Gorman.  Liz, short on funds, received cash from an Ed Vrdolyak loan to Gerry’s car business.

Gerry dropped four hundred thousand dollars cash into Liz’ campaign kitty, and then lied to Chrysler, U.S. District Court Judge Wayne Anderson and U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys in the court proceedings.  Gerry said, among other misrepresentations, that Ed’s loan was “new capital.”

U.S. Circuit Court Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook said, “The supposed $925,000 in new equity was in fact a $750,000 loan from Edward Vrdolyak, then the dealerships’ lawyer in this suit.”

It was in that suit, as it happens, that Judge Easterbrook said Gerry Gorman and other “Plaintiffs have behaved like a pack of weasels and can’t expect any part of their tale be believed.”

Words to live by.

But none of this lit Chairman Sig’s caution light.

Instead, his rubber stamp was ready when Sean asked for GOP cover.

Had Chairman Sig cared who he was installing as legal representative of the GOP primary voters of Palos Township (what did they do to deserve any of this, by the way?), he would have found that Morrison Security has an office in Las Vegas.  It has a registered agent in Nevada.  And he would have found Sean Morrison’s first Nevada registered agent was Las Vegas attorney Jerome A. DePalma.

Now, the registered agent is DePalma’s law firm.

Jerry DePalma has represented organized crime figures in Nevada for years.  He is a respected member of the Bar.  He is also universally suspected to be the former son-in-law of Sam Giancana.

According to John Flood, noted organized crime expert, “lawyer Jerry DePalma married Francine Giancana and… the two were the last to see Sam Giancana alive other than the unknown Mafia killers who carried out the hit on the mob boss.”

Jerome DePalma’s law partner is Dominic Gentile.  Bear in mind, their law firm represents failed-girl-on-girl-fight-club-reality-TV-show-producer-turned-would-be-tax-board-commissioner-turned-Palos Township Republican Committeeman, with two big GOP primary votes under his belt, Sean Morrison.

Dominic Gentile once represented a Luis Hidalgo, Jr.

“Who is Luis Hidalgo, Jr.?” you ask (making you most unlike Sig Vaznelis).

Luis once was the owner of North Las Vegas’ famed Palomino Club.  It’s one of the few clubs out there with both cocktails and all-nude dancers.  (Or so I am told.  Ahem.)

There, Luis was named a co-conspirator – not a defendant — in a contract murder case.  His 2005-2006 legal bills from Gentile were so large that Gentile received the club from Hidalgo instead of cash, and Gentile’s son Adam ran it…

And two years later, about 2008, Adam made a reality TV deal called “King of Clubs,” which was intended for Playboy TV.

Isn’t that interesting?

As it happens, Dominic Gentile and Jerome DePalma are, reportedly, originally from Chicago.

Sean Morrison’s campaign was discredited because it showed he makes untrue statements about himself and others.  Stuck with the assignment from Ed Vrdolyak to take out Dan Patlak, he chose the only course he knew, lie.

That Sean Morrison is surrounded by Las Vegas mob attorneys, Liz, Gerry and Ed, unpaid homeless girl-on-girl fight club actresses, and more, seems to be news to no one who knows Cook County and its GOP.

Unless, of course, you refer to Chairman Sig Vaznelis.

This might all be news to Sig.  Because when it was time to ask questions, Sig was busy looking for his rubber stamp.

In a few days the Cook County Republican Central Committee will meet to organize. That means it’s time to evaluate Sig Vaznelis’s chairmanship.  The answer to that one may be in the questions he didn’t ask – or in the answers he did not want to know.

Breaking a Trust to Play Politics — 3/16/2012

March 16, 2012

Context:  A bit cleaned up version of a response  at the Landmark site to the article, “RBHS board sends teachers layoff notices.”

I urge you [the prior poster] to tell taxpayers it’s a good idea to fire teachers to pay teachers.

Please.

Your history is wrong.

RBEA closed the contract conversations in conjunction with the board via a press statement dated March 7. Here are the RBEA / Board quotes, from the Landmark report:

[Begin Landmark quote:]

“‘The District 208 Board of Education and the Riverside Brookfield Education Association have concluded their informal discussions concerning possible changes to the current salary schedule and an extension of the contract between District 208 and the RBEA,’ the press release said.

“‘The board and association were able to have candid discussions about the impact of the current contract on the district. The discussions did not result in any changes to the contract but a foundation was laid for the expectations each has of the next contract.

“‘Each party wants to express its appreciation to the other for their willingness to engage in this type of discussion.”

“District 208 school board President Matt Sinde refused to say why the board did not accept the union’s offer of a wage freeze.

“‘I’m not going to talk about informal proposals,” Sinde said. “The press release states everything we want to say about this.’

“Monti also declined to comment about the talks, except for confirming that the RBEA had offered a wage freeze when he was asked if that had occurred.

“‘It is inappropriate and counterproductive for negotiation issues to be rehashed and discussed in public, especially in a newspaper,’ Monti said in an email.”

[End Landmark quote.]

Neither RBEA president David Monti, nor the board, nor the joint comunique on March 7, says, ‘there remains an issue about the full boards meeting.’

That’s because, [prior poster], obviously, as stated at the board meeting, the issue had been resolved by the Board and the RBEA before the joint statement was released.

And then Tim Walsh jackpotted our board, RBEA and the process when he ignored David Monti’s wisdom, “It is inappropriate and counterproductive for negotiation issues to be rehashed and discussed in public,” and MOVED TO REHASH A NEGOTIATION ISSUE RESOLVED AT LEAST A WEEK BEFORE.

Tim’s act was political, strategic and irresponsible. It breached his duty of loyalty and confidentiality to the Board, which means us. Tim burned a bridge either with his fellow board members, or with the union, or both.

If he breaches his duties again, Tim Walsh should step down. The next 15 months are too significant for the students, teachers and taxpayers for a “Tim Tell-all” to be chattering away out of turn. After this stunt, who can trust him?

Anyone who understands negotiations, as Dave Monti and Matt Sinde’s statements in the release and to Bob Skolnik show they do, knows that those who blab in public imperil the entire activity.

What we need instead is to strengthen the Board, RBEA and the process — to take tough decisions, like a “no firing give-back.”

A “no-firing giveback” is not easy for Monti, or any of his executive board, or any of his members. It is very hard. It is painful. It is giving up something to which they are entitled.

Cutting $2 million in student activities and administrative expenses has not been easy for the last two boards, either.

And none of this easy for the students or their parents.

We are past the easy fixes. No easy resolution awaits us. Both sides need strength now to do what is hard.

But Tim Walsh decided he knew better, that he should weaken the process, and then furthered his error by cloaking it in his idiosyncratic “transparency.”  Transparency in confidential negotiations is a signed agreement.  That’s why they are “confidential.”

Tim Walsh violated his position of trust. He now personally bears responsibility for a seriously reduced level of confidentiality.

An Appeal to RB’s Teachers — 3/13/2012

March 13, 2012

Here is a post from the Landmark site that begins with reference to RBEA’s offers to forego some payment under the collective bargaining agreement:

We should give credit to the RBEA for its two offers.

Before the referendum, RBEA announced, without any public or official consideration, an offer to freeze parts of the remainder of the current 7.5% per year raise contract in exchange for passage of the referendum. Obviously this was legally non-binding, it was essentially a press release with no force of law, and it promised something the RBEA could not deliver on its own, since it would have to negotiate the new terms with the board of ed, but RBEA’s referendum-dependent offer ought not be lost in the back-and-forth since then or to come.

Second, from news reports it appears RBEA in the last several months offered the board to swap some of the compensation clauses of the existing contract for an extension of its term. None of us know the details, but that’s how it reads in the paper.

As we know, first the community voted down the referendum, quashing RBEA’s offer. Next, the representatives of the Board apparently declined the compensation-for-extension swap.

In both of these instances RBEA reasonably conditioned alienation of something it had won in negotiation to achievement of another goal — referendum passage or contract extension. This is exactly how negotiating parties act.

And it is precisely not how partners act. Partners, as all will recall, share in gains and losses. But the term “partner” has become watered down lately. Corporate bafflegab frequently refers to joint ventures as partnerships. Suppliers regularly write on their websites or in their brochures about “partnering” with their customers. Vision statements — even of some high schools — have started reciting “partners” who are in fact not partnered, and cannot become partnered. Of course, neither the jv nor the supplier/supplied relationship is that of a partnership.

And neither is the employee / employer relationship, and especially not in a public institution like a high school.

Partners share goals, risks and rewards. Municipal entities have one class of partner: taxpayers. Taxpayers share the benefits of a great school system, and taxpayers share the detriment of an over-spent, under-managed school system.

Which is what we of District 208 are doing now.

As the District, 208 taxpayers elect representatives to operate the high school in compliance with community preference bound by applicable law. It is quite clear to everyone who reads the current RBEA collective bargaining agreement and its accompanying, equally significant, 25 or so memoranda of understanding, that those elected representatives back then (2007 and 2008) gave RBEA pretty much exactly what it wanted. The CBA was approved by a membership vote of some 105-2 (roughly), which shows nearly unanimous rank-and-file support for the document and its provisions.

So the board and RBEA were “Happy Together,” which was the theme of a Spring 2007 slick brochure the board and administration paid for with our money to tell us we should be happy that they were happy [spending and receiving our money].

And then the unhappiness came, when we saw the cost of keeping RBEA happy. I do not quibble about the contract, and i have never suggested we or our board should initiate a change to it. i have said and will forever say the teachers, like every other bargaining unit, are entitled to the very best deal they can strike. Thus are we bound to cheerfully comply with the terms to which our representatives agreed.

But obviously the ground has shifted. RBEA’s two unsolicited offers to peel back aspects of the 2008-2013 contract indicate its growing awareness of 208’s inability to pay. That’s terrific, but it is not nearly enough to right the ship. We are still significantly (roughly $2 million) out of balance. Further, the new board and administration have revealed in the series of meetings and discussions since July that there was essentially no management at RBHS, such that the taxpayers’ legitimate and indivisible interests in efficiency and administration were subverted to an old-boy clique and its wandering preferences. Never was this shown more starkly than when Dr. Bonnette allowed the pro-referendum campaign to be run by Tim Scanlon using our money and equipment and personnel to get more taxes from us.

And thus I appeal to the leadership and the membership of RBEA:

Thank you for making your two offers as you did. That they were not accepted indicates that, for this district at least, times are tough. Few — if any — of the taxpayers here have had the serial raises, roughly 10% per year for the 05-08 “catch-up” contract, and roughly 7.5% per year for the current contract, that you have enjoyed. We care about RB. We know we need devoted and effective teachers. But we can only pay so much. We know our relationship must be built on fiscal sustainability, and not on robbing Peter to pay Paul. In consideration for what this community has provided for at least the last seven years, and its more than $2 million in student activity cuts and administrative efficiencies, and its agreement to more than two dozen MOA riders to the existing contract, please forego any year-five TRS reportable compensation that must be funded by firing fellow teachers. That is, any and all. Please sign a binding statement that you will accept only that portion of your year-five compensation that does not rely on District 208 firing any of your fellows.

By doing so, you will maintain the choices and experiences available to our children at RB, save us the pain and distress of firing perhaps ten of your number and preserve their positions here.

It has been a good ride, but the music for now is over. The school is being rebuilt from within. When it is thoroughly improved it will be ready to seek additional support. Your agreeing to this step will hasten that day.

It is what partners do.

Best regards, c

Firing Teachers to Pay Teachers — 3/10-12/2012

March 12, 2012

Someone implied we only said bad things about RB teachers.  So i came up with this…

Posted: Saturday, March 10, 2012
Article comment by: chris robling

To: “a sampling…”

“we” also said,

“I’d like to propose that we not use posts here, or anywhere else, to make personal statements about individual teachers or their compensation. I believe it does no good, and in fact a considerable amount of harm, to write, ‘Sally Sue teaches algebra for $100,000 per year and in the private sector she’d be lucky to make $50,000.’

“We–-the community, as represented by the District 208 School Board and its employee–asked these teachers to work for us at RB. We offered them the compensation package they currently receive. We are shirking our responsibility if we blame them for accepting something we offered. By attacking compensation, we are really expressing disappointment with the folks we put on the board, and the people they hired to run the school. …”

and

“As a community we have passed from ‘showing there is a problem’ to ‘finding a solution to the problem.’ Much of the solution resides in the school – teacher relationship. That means our smart play is to strengthen both the board (us) and RBEA (the teachers) to make the extremely difficult choices that will return RBHS to fiscal sustainability. Personal attacks of those not responsible simply do not fit in this picture. ”

http://www.rblandmark.com/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=8418&SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1&S=1

but none of this overcomes the fact that the teachers have chosen to make us fire young — or junior — teachers to pay senior teachers. every dollar we cut is to pay teachers in full year five of their five-year, more than seven-percent-per-year raises which followed the “catch-up” contract of ten percent per-year raises for three years. Firing the young or junior is RBEA’s choice, all we do is perform in accordance with the contract.

cheers, c 

So, “Bosco” said:

Posted: Monday, March 12, 2012
Article comment by: Bosco

Wrong, Chris. “Firing the young or junior is RBEA’s choice…” That is YOUR board’s choice. That’s what YOU want, though you try your slick doublespeak to try to appear objective. The SCHOOL BOARD is deciding to fire the young teachers so that they can keep 5,000,000 in their precious ed fund, in case the “tax revenues come in late.” The school board who you actively support is making this choice. The RBEA has no control over staffing. Would you please stop pandering and say what you really mean? No one is buying your marketing campaign of Mr. Independent. 

So, i said this:

Posted: Monday, March 12, 2012
Article comment by: chris robling

Dear Bosco —

Ummm, no.

RBEA could have solved RB’s over-commitment-to- spending crisis by swapping its raises for its roster, which is comprised of the teachers of our kids.

As is its right, it chose not to do so.

Every dollar we cut now is being cut to feed the RBEA CBA contract. Thus, by firing young or “junior” teachers, we have enough money to pay remaining or “senior” teachers. This is a lousy place to be, but it is dictated by RBEA’s steadfast adherence to the contract’s pay scales over choices (the junior teachers) for our kids.

Sounds like you think the District 208 community should spend its meagre fund balance / reserve fund / rainy day fund / call it what you will. That would leave us no protection from the vagaries of the Cook County property tax process. In a pinch, that means selling tax anticipation warrants or working cash bonds. Doing so accelerates our downward fiscal spiral. Debt instruments do not create revenue, they create obligation, commit current spending to capital and interest and thus reduce our ability to make choices about what we want for the students.

As to the “lousy place” in which we find ourselves — please do not forget that had Superintendent Bonnette made serious cuts in the 2010-2011 year budget, we would have far fewer cuts to make today. The problems increase (or compound, if you will) over time. The time to stop spending beyond our means was years ago. Prior boards and superintendents chose not to do so, the current group is choosing to do so. If fiscal strength and sound choices for students mean anything, then they deserve our thanks and praise.

But if you are wedded to the pay scales — not so much. More on RBEA later.

Cheers,

Support the Board as It Addresses RB’s Problems — 3/8/2012

March 12, 2012

Posted: Thursday, March 08, 2012
Article comment by: chris robling

the teachers need not have had these talks. they are entitled to our performance. we should keep our bond with them cheerfully and fully.

we face this because we elected Jim Marciniak, Larry Herbst, Sue Klienmeyer, MariAnn Liebrandt, Bill McCloskey and Karen Bensfield, and they agreed in 2008 to a contract they could not pay and we could not afford.

since they acted officially in our name, we are stuck. because this board and its predecessor have already cut some $2 million or more in administrative and other areas, to fund next year’s teacher raises we have to fire teachers. thus do awful consequences flow from poorly considered decisions.

when the teachers opened these talks, i thanked them and saluted their courage. i suggest we now enter a phase of community discussion aimed at strengthening the board in writing a totally new contract that represents our desire for the best school we can afford. it cannot repeat the generosity of the current contract, with raises over seven percent per year, or its predecessor, the three-year so-called ‘catch-up contract,’ with raises of roughly 10 percent per year.

nor can it be defined by some two-and-a-half dozen memoranda of understanding, the sum of which vests day-to-day authority over our school in the union, and not our superintendent.

the teachers are always entitled to the best deal they can negotiate.

so are we.

cheers, c

Teaching “Curious” About Triage @ RBHS — 3/9/2012

March 12, 2012

“Curious” started with its typical inanities again, and so i said…

There are none so blind as those who will not see . . .

1. Rationalize spending to income

2. Impose management where there was none

3. Build a great RB from there

4. FWIW, from May 7, 2011, over at riversideinfo.org:

So, to make it very simple: The community has definitively found RB, great things going on there notwithstanding, to have serious problems and thus to be in need of similarly serious improvements. Revanchists may get with that, or they may report back to fantasyland. Looking backward to false interpretations, and trying desperately to advance them as new ideas, may be the best [they] can do. The rest of us are finished with all of that. In fact, thousands of us took part in ending it. We have already moved forward.

“Curious Resident” then said:

Pompous quips will not help you gain believers, nor votes next spring.

1) To rationalize spending to income in advance of a defined vision foolishly risks excessive attrition.

2) No problem with this. Improve management.

3) It takes years to build it back and I predict a passed operating fund referendum will be required to attain the level of performance our community expects. Why cut more than you know you want to end up with?

There was a single failed “save everything” referendum, but it is a small group’s fantasy that “the community has definitely found RB to have serious problems”. I’ve heard nothing but positive comments about RB’s academic performance.

RB has increasing enrollment, increasing costs and has not has not received an increase in operating fund revenue since the passed referendum in 2000. http://www.rbhs208.org/Aug12Finance.pdf

We have a vision problem and a financial problem. I’d suggest we start with defining what we want RB to be and then (if need be) compromise from there based on what we are able/willing to fund.

So i had to say…

yikes this is tiresome.

but — it is vital that an RBEA CBA beneficiary make these statements repeatedly as you do. i only wish more voters and taxpayers saw them. if so, we would gain even more than the 79 percent of “believers” (your word, not mine) currently tallied.

your math sounds novel. perhaps a restatement of the last board’s theorem? to wit, “we spend, so we have friends.”

the notion that we ‘keep spending w/out rationalizing expenditures to revenues’ so we may discuss indefinitely our vision, ranks up there, balance-sheet-wise, with (2 + 2) = (5).

unfortunately for our credit rating — and more immediately our fiscal viability as a going concern — ($20 million) > ($18 million), so $20 million must come down to $18 million — at least for now.*

but maybe you know other math, such that: ($20 million of spending) against ($18 million of revenue) does not expend ($2 million of reserve) if and only if (we are talking about vision).

w/o your proof, printed and vetted, i dare say it’s an irresponsible path to take. but maybe my vision is skewed.

and let us not forget to mesh your reply to point 2, “No problem with this. Improve management,” with your position on point 1, ‘keep spending.’

since lax management implies waste and inefficiency, many people prefer to fix management before spending more than is absolutely needed… to limit any losses to waste.

how does this sound to you?

from your expression, my sense is the RBEA CBA view is, “spend now, spend later, we can talk all you want about vision. just keep spending.” funny that some 80 percent of our RB spending goes to… RBEA CBA beneficiaries. more on that later.

*figures rough — for illustrative purposes only.

POSTED FRIDAY MAR 9, 2012 18:31 #