Orland Park Board arrogantly ignores voters will

Orland Park Board arrogantly ignores voters will

This post has already been read 20584 times!

Orland Park Board arrogantly ignores voters will

The Orland Park Village Board is apparently pretending that village voters really didn’t mean to support “change” in the last election, voting to oust 24-year incumbent Dan McLaughlin and replacing him with a little known, well-intentioned challenger, Keith Pekau. The board has named Joe LaMargo, the former head of the District 135 School Board, as the new village manager. And there is talk that the board might give McLaughlin a consulting contract, too!

By Ray Hanania

It’s as if the election never happened in Orland Park on April 4, 2017.

A record number of Orland Park residents voted decisively to bring change to the village, but apparently members of the Village Board are so arrogant that they don’t care what the voters want. They never did.

Fate had other plans. Keith Pekau, an average, everyday Orland Park businessman who like the thousands of other Orland Park residents was fed up with the lies and the greedy drive for money, threw his hat in the ring.

Pekau defeated McLaughlin because voters were fed-up with the lies and confusion about facts.

Voters rejected the board’s plan to give Mayor Dan McLaughlin a fulltime job with a massive salary hike from $40,000 to $150,000 with a pension spike of $110,000 a year. The voters never bought the argument that the pay hike was to save taxpayers money. Everyone knows that a community either has a Fulltime Mayor OR a Village Manager. You don’t have both, unless you don’t care about spending.

Now that the full-time mayor is someone the board didn’t plan on having, Pekau, they decided to move ahead to name a new interim village manager and to keep looking for a “permanent” village manager. So, they gave the position to one of their own.

About 100 Residents of Orland Park filled the board meeting room Monday Oct. 17, 2016 to protest increasing Mayor Dan McLaughlin's salary 375 percent from $40,000 to $150,000 a year. Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania.

About 100 Residents of Orland Park filled the board meeting room Monday Oct. 17, 2016 to protest increasing Mayor Dan McLaughlin’s salary 375 percent from $40,000 to $150,000 a year. Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania.

Yet despite all that happened, the Orland Park Village Board of Trustees decided they don’t care what the voters wanted. On Monday, April 17, the board named Joe LaMargo as Interim Village Manager.

In 2015 when Mayor McLaughlin first began asking board members to support his own pay hike, the salaries were much lower.

LaMargo, who was making $116,000 a year will now make $160,000. His interim assistant Village Manager will be Karie Friling, who was making $124,000 and will now be making $135,000 a year. (Click here to read the Village Press Release on the changes.)

Like everything in Orland Park, it doesn’t make sense.

Worse are rumors that persist that the village trustees are quietly thinking about hiring McLaughlin to a new position paying more than $150,000 salary he demanded (and the board easily provided) that prompted voter anger.

Clearly, the vote shows the Village Board has no respect for the voters, not to even mention the new mayor. Pekau was at the meeting, criticized the move, but won’t be sworn-in until May 15.

Maybe the board plans to do more. Maybe the village doesn’t need a “mayor” anymore. Basically, Village Manager is the unelected mayor of Orland Park! His title says it all. He’s going to “manage” the Village!

Maybe at the next meeting, the board will move the mayor’s chair from the front of the board meeting room behind the podium, to the back of the meeting room, in the last row behind the audience. The new mayor can watch helplessly as the Trustees and the new Village Manager make all the decisions.

Despite the will of the voters, the board can do whatever it wants.

And that is ironic. And even arrogant.

I mean, look at the vote. It’s not like the Trustees who ran won the mandate of the voters.

A record 12,837 people voted, nearly 4,000 more votes cast than in any of the past four mayoral elections.

But more significantly, these voters protested against the three trustees who were on the same ballot.

Pekau won the election with a record 6,953 votes. McLaughlin only received 5,824 votes.

But it’s the rejection of the trustees voters shouldn’t ignore.

The trustees ran unopposed. Of the nearly 13,000 votes cast, Jim Dodge only received 8,288 votes, with no opposition. Dan Calendriello received 8,245 votes and Kathy Fenton received 8,248 votes.

The Trustees, who voted to hire LaMargo had no mandate to act without the new mayor’s support.

This isn’t about LaMargo, although he has his critics. (Some school activists blame him for the turmoil at District 135, but that’s disputed. All the fighting, the abrupt unexplained changes and the secrecy. People removed in the midst of ugly rumors about school funding and budgets. What really happened there?)

LaMargo began working for the village in 2006, was elected to the District 135 school board in 2009, and became board president in 2013. He resigned in September 2015 and became deputy village manager, after the board ousted professional Village Manager Paul Grimes.

But the people of Orland Park spoke loud and clear on April 4. They wanted change. And you would think that the trustees on the Village Board might consider that as they greedily grab the reigns of power.

McLaughlin lost because his administration was arrogant. They just didn’t believe that they could lose. That’s why they ignored the protests of the public which rejected the salary boost and increased pension.

Pekau, the new Mayor, is a good person, too. He wasn’t elected because people loved him. The voters didn’t know him. He was elected because the people were angry about McLaughlin and the arrogance of the Orland Park Village Board. They voted against McLaughlin and the board.

What Pekau needs to do when he takes office is to appoint a commission to investigate a few things.

  • How much money has been spent and borrowed on the Mainstream Triangle Project?
  • Was the LaGrange Road Construction a dangerous inconvenient mess simply because of bureaucracy, or is there something else going on that we don’t know about? Has it been mismanaged?
  • Bring back Trustee and Former Mayor Ed Schussler and put him in charge or examining the facts behind the assertions that the village will save money by increasing the mayoral salary while “keeping” the redundant posts of Village Manager and Deputy Village Manager.
  • What’s the real story on the reasons for the pay hike? Were we lied too? I wrote back in Sept. 2015 that McLaughlin wanted to switch to a fulltime job but the board insisted it was their idea and only recent!

A good elected official, I recently reminded one trustee, is a public servant who makes the needs of the public they serve their priority.

Clearly, for some of the trustees, their only priority is their own.

This post has already been read 20584 times!



Columnist, blogger at Illinois News Network
Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist who covered the beat from 1976 through 1992 (From Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley).

Hanania covered Chicago political beats including Chicago City Hall while at the Daily Southtown Newspapers (1976-1985) and later for the Chicago Sun-Times (1985-1992).

The recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, Hanania was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. Hananiaalso received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.