Serwatka “Not Home” Note

When knocking on doors and finding no one home from 1966 on, I would jot, “Sorry I missed you.  Cal,” on my literature.

Now, Paul Serwatka, one of four running for the State Rep. seat of retiring Mike Tryon, has printed a message on a Post-It Note.

You can see it below:

Paul Serwatka's door-to-door piece. Note the rubber band through a little hole so it can be attached to a door handle.

Paul Serwatka’s door-to-door piece. Note the rubber band through a little hole so it can be attached to a door handle.

If it were mine, I would have sign, rather than printed my name.

A Rahm Emmanual Crook

A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office:

Former Chief Executive of Chicago Public Schools Indicted for Accepting Bribes and Kickbacks to Steer No-Bid Contracts

CHICAGO — A federal indictment returned today charges BARBARA BYRD-BENNETT with using her position atop the Chicago Public Schools to award lucrative no-bid contracts to her former employer in exchange for bribes and kickbacks.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett

Barbara Byrd-Bennett

The 23-count indictment alleges that Byrd-Bennett steered no-bid contracts worth more than $23 million to THE SUPES ACADEMY LLC, and SYNESI ASSOCIATES LLC, in exchange for an expectation of hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.

The companies agreed to conceal the kickback money by funneling it into accounts set up in the names of two of Byrd-Bennett’s relatives, according to the indictment.

A later agreement called for the funds to be paid to Byrd-Bennett in the form of a “signing bonus” after her employment with CPS ended and the companies re-hired her as a consultant, according to the indictment.

The companies, which specialize in training principals and school administrators, provided Byrd-Bennett with numerous other benefits, including

  • meals
  • an airplane ticket
  • seats at basketball and baseball games

the indictment states.

Byrd-Bennett also expected to receive reimbursement from the companies for costs associated with a holiday party she hosted for CPS personnel, according to the charges.

The Wilmette-based SUPES and the Evanston-based Synesi are also charged in the indictment, along with their respective former owners, GARY SOLOMON and THOMAS VRANAS.

Byrd-Bennett had worked as a consultant for SUPES and Synesi before moving to CPS in May 2012.  She was appointed chief executive officer at CPS on Oct. 12, 2012.

The indictment charges Byrd-Bennett, 66, of Solon, Ohio, with 15 counts of mail fraud and five counts of wire fraud.  Solomon, 47, of Wilmette, is charged with 15 counts of mail fraud, five counts of wire fraud, two counts of bribery of a government official, and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Vranas, 34, of Glenview, is charged with 15 counts of mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud, two counts of bribery of a government official, and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States.

SUPES and Synesi are charged as corporate defendants with 15 counts of mail fraud and five counts of wire fraud apiece.

The indictment seeks forfeiture from defendants Solomon, Vranas, SUPES and Synesi of all money and property traceable to the violations, estimated at approximately $2 million.

An arraignment date in U.S. District Court in Chicago has not yet been set.

Zachary Fardon

Zachary Fardon

“Graft and corruption in our city’s public school system tears at the fabric of a vital resource for the children of Chicago,” said Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.  “School officials and city vendors who abuse the public trust will be held accountable.”

Mr. Fardon announced the indictment along with John A. Brown, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Nicholas J. Schuler, Inspector General for the Chicago Public Schools.

“The American people expect honest services from their government leaders, particularly those responsible for leading our teachers and caring for our children,” said Special Agent Brown.  “The FBI, in conjunction with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners, remains steadfast in its pursuit of those willing to trade the education of our children for their own prosperity.”

“The public education system is harmed when a high-level insider chooses to line their pockets with public funds,” CPS Inspector General Schuler said.  “My office is committed to rooting out corruption at any level through joint investigations such as this one.”

The contracts referenced in the indictment were awarded by the Chicago Board of Education, which governs CPS, as part of a CBOE training program called the Chicago Executive Leadership Academy (CELA).  One such contract – worth $2.09 million for leadership training of school administrators – was awarded to SUPES within two weeks of Byrd-Bennett’s appointment as CEO, and then extended with an additional $225,000 allocation in 2013.   A larger no-bid contract – worth $20.5 million – was awarded to SUPES on June 26, 2013.

The indictment alleges that Byrd-Bennett used her position as CEO to lobby CBOE officials on behalf of SUPES and Synesi, and to actively seek funds from the CPS budget to expand the CELA program for the companies’ benefit.

Byrd-Bennett directed CPS employees to obtain the necessary approvals to eliminate competitive bidding from the procurement process, and to ensure that the contracts were awarded to SUPES, according to the indictment.

All the while, Byrd-Bennett falsely represented to CBOE officials that she received no financial compensation from the companies, the indictment contends.

In reality, Byrd-Bennett maintained an interest in SUPES and Synesi through a secret consulting agreement, which promised to pay her a percentage of the gross proceeds from the contracts she helped to procure, according to the indictment.

The indictment cites an email between Solomon and Vranas on or about Dec. 6, 2012, which contained a prior email discussion between Byrd-Bennett, Solomon and Vranas.

In that email, Solomon informed Byrd-Bennett, in part:

“It is our assumption that the distribution will serve as a signing bonus upon your return to SUPES/Synesi.  If you only join for the day, you will be the highest paid person on the planet for that day.”

In the late summer or early fall of 2013, according to the indictment, Solomon informed Byrd-Bennett that the CBOE Inspector General wanted to review Solomon’s and Vranas’s emails.

Solomon said Vranas planned to use a computer program to delete the emails, and he told Byrd-Bennett to delete her emails as well, the indictment states.

Each count of mail and wire fraud is punishable by a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, mandatory restitution, and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or gross loss resulting from the offense, whichever is greater.  Each count of bribery of a government official carries a maximum sentence of ten years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or gross loss resulting from the offense, whichever is greater.  The charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States is punishable by a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or gross loss resulting from the offense, whichever is greater.

If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal sentencing statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.  The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt.  The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The government is represented by Assistant United States Attorneys Megan Cunniff Church and Lindsay Jenkins.

Roskam Comments on Speaker Candidate’s Withdrawal

A press release from Congressman Peter Roskam:

Roskam Statement on the Speaker Election

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, Congressman Peter Roskam (IL-06) released the following announcement on the election for Speaker of the House:

Peter Roskam

Peter Roskam

“Like every other House Republican, I was shocked at Leader McCarthy’s announcement.

“I fully expected him to be the next Speaker of the House.‎

“Kevin has spent years serving the Conference, and I look forward to his continued leadership.

“It’s clear we can’t move forward until we unite around a shared definition of success.”

Lakewood Hot Button Issues Update

Lakewood restaurant rendering couple on pier

Drawing of a possible restaurant on the site of the Village Hall next to West Beach.

Been wondering what’s up with the proposed Lakewood SportsPlex, the Tax Increment Financing District and the restaurant which the Village announced it wanted to replace the current lakefront Village Hall.

I filed a Freedom of Information request a couple of weeks ago and got nothing, but delayed in writing an article.

So, I re-upped the request and received the following reply from Village Administrator Catherine Peterson:

Per your request, attached pls find the documents provided in response to your FOIA request dated Sept 28.

Lakewood TIF with buildings 12-14

Lakewood Tax Increment Financing District.

In addition to your formal FOIA request, you also asked “Would you please tell me if there is still nothing new on these topics?”

While there are no additional documents related to these questions, pls be advised of the following:

  • I have had a number of mtgs with developers and financiers about development opportunities along the IL Route 47 Corridor.  However, these mtgs have not yet progressed past the discussion stage.
  • You might also be interested to know that the presentation about the extension of utilities to the IL Route 47 Corridor will be included as a part of the Oct 13 mtg.  The information will be in the packet that will be uploaded to the website on Friday afternoon.

The School Employees on the McHenry Grade School Board

Another article tomorrow tells of an effort in Kansas to find out the relationships of school board members to family members with jobs in their school districts and members who have jobs in other school districts.

Under the article about Paul Santopadre, the incumbent who lost to Betty Davis this past spring, replacing John O’Neill and Mike Hettermann, was the following questions:

Is it true Santopadre is a school teacher or administrator in another school district?

If it is true, what were the other Board members thinking?

Mark offered the following information about Board members Santopadre and Kimberly Qualls:

Open the Books Widget

Paul J Santopadre

Lake Villa CCSD 41 – 2014 – $118,910 – 22 Years Worked
Lake Villa CCSD 41 – 2013 – $117,153
Lake Villa CCSD 41 – 2012 – $113,740 – Elementary School Principal
Lake Villa CCSD 41 – 2011 – $109,418
Lake Villa CCSD 41 – 2010 – $105,321
Lake Villa CCSD 41 – 2009 – $101,456
Lake Villa CCSD 41 – 2008 – $096,167
Lake Villa CCSD 41 – 2007 – $091,153
Lake Villa CCSD 41 – 2006 – $092,331
Lake Villa CCSD 41 – 2005 – $084,286
Lake Villa CCSD 41 – 2004 – $081,746
Lake Villa CCSD 41 – 2003 – $068,559
Lake Villa CCSD 41 – 2002 – $057,000
Wood Dale Sd 7 —– 2001 – $042,828
Wood Dale SD 7 —– 2000 – $039,643

On the one hand he knows the laws, rules, regulations, policies, procedures, and politics in public schools.

That is very valuable as there is a large learning curve due to all the specialized knowledge required.

On the other hand he’s part of the status quo system and benefits from the Rolls Royce pension system that needs to be reformed due to hiked pension benefits and salaries.

Probably the best thing to do is go to the school board meetings and meet him and talk to him.

Every taxing district needs a watchdog.

Now McHenry District 15 has at least two school board members that are Principals in other districts.

Kimberly Qualls and Paul Santopadre.

The district does not videotape board meetings and indefinitely archive them on the website.

Request they do so to hold them accountable for what they say, and videotaping is the only way people who can’t attend a board meeting can view the board meeting.

Mark did additional research on Board member Kimberly Qualls:

Kimberly Qualls

Alden Hebron School District 19

Year – Pensionable Income – Percentage Increase or Decrease over previous year

2014 – $77,764 – 3% – 18 Years Worked
2013 – $75,670 – 2%
2012 – $74,216 – 0% – Elementary School Principal
2011 – $74,190 – (4%)
2010 – $76,945 – 35%
2009 – $57,205 – 4%
2008 – $54,873 – 7%
2007 – $51,333 – 4%
2006 – $49,555 – 9%
2005 – $45,286 – 14%
2004 – $39,702 – 11%
2003 – $35,907 – 6%
2002 – $33,935 – 3%
2001 – $32,987 – 5%
2000 – $31,350


Two More County Board Applicants Surface

Yesterday, McHenry County Blog reported that Crystal Lake City Councilmen Jeff Thorsen and Cameron Hubbard had applied to be appointed to the vacancy created when Ken Koehler resigned to take a seat on the Metra Board.

Now two more names are in the mix:

Kent Krautstrunk of Crystal Lake, who is in the property management business and serves on the McHenry County Conservation District Board since 2011.  He has also advised the Crystal Lake Park District on finances. From 1975-78, he served on the board of the Northern Illinois Special Recreation Association.  He has also briefly served on the Champaign County 708 Mental Health Board.  Has a degree in parks and recreation administration.  He served in the Naval Air Reserve during the Vietnam Era.  He has founded and built two business in the 30 years he has lived in McHenry County.

John Reinart of Crystal Lake is a long-time real estate broker and developer of over 100 homes in and around Crystal Lake and Barrington, as well as commercial projects, such as, Jimmy Johns.  His experience includes having served on the McHenry County Fair Board in the late 1990’s.

Twp. Consolidation Board Debate – The Study

After the public comment period, the contents of which can be found here, the McHenry County Board considered the township consolidation proposals put forth by the Task Force.

Carolyn Schofield

Carolyn Schofield

The debate began with Carolyn Schofield making a $15,000 study of township consolidation by Northern Illinois University.

She announced that she was the best informed on the subject and attacked the robo-call made by proponents of putting consolidation on the ballot.

She complained about the proponents using her home phone number, which she said she had removed from the County web site.

She complained about the “bullying” content of the messages left at her home, all but one of which she said were not suitable for her children to have heard.

She complained of misleading information in the recording.

“It’s politics over policy,” she charged.

“The group offered no cost analysis, no [didn’t catch the next line].

“There was not enough time to get answers,” the Chairwoman complained.

“Why are we in such a rush?

“[There’s no] opportunity to find the answer of where are the inefficiencies and the cost savings?

“Not paralysis by analysis,” she said, referring to a comment made in July by fellow Task Force member Donna Kurtz.

“The push for this consolidation has been nothing but political.”

Mike Walkup

Mike Walkup

Next up was consolidation proponent Michael Walkup.

He charged that Schofield was “sandbagging” the township consolidation effort.

In a trial, “that’s where you lay in the weeds and then spring it on somebody in the middle of a trial.

“This could have been part of their [the Task Force’s] recommendation and it was not done.

“It could be considered deliberate.

“Just scuttes the entire attempt to put it on the ballot to have new township elections in 2017.”

[Scuttling is the act of deliberately sinking a ship by allowing water to flow into the hull.]

“[This path] was taken for transition [purposes]..”

Walkup then told of how the Illinois House had formed a Task Force to consider transition if townships were to be abolished.

Chaired by McHenry County State Rep. Ann Hughes of Hartland Township, the group ignored its mission at the behest of the Township Officials of Illinois, Walkup said, and passed a statute which required

  • petitions to abolish township government in all townships to have 10% of the registered voters in each township and
  • referendums to pass by a three-fourths majority

The courts threw out the petition signature part of the law, but refused to rule on the second part because no referendum had been held since the law was passed.

“The state legislature will do absolutely nothing concerning any [transition] glitch…because they are completely under the influence of the Township Officials of Illinois.

“The only way to force them [to] do something [is] by consolidation.”

Mike Skala

Mike Skala

Mike Skala was next on the microphone.

He said he had “read everything from the Task Force” and wanted to comment on three things.

He was “not satisfied with the data there.”

When he asked the proponents why there wasn’t a study, he was “told they didn’t have the money to do the study.”

He said he wanted the township side, too.

“I am completely in favor of allowing people to vote on this [the resolution for a study].

“I totally want the information.”

The second aspect concerned the robo-call.

He said he got nine phone calls and talked to six.

“All but one were very much in favor of having the information.

“One lady said, ‘I don’t care what happens to my taxes.  I just want consolidation.”

“I really do feel they need the facts.

“I think there should be a fact-gathering on both sides.

Commenting on the resolution for a study, Scala saw the need for it but “$15,000 is not enough money to do the job…half-assed.”

Donna Kurtz

Donna Kurtz

He suggested spending $40,000 to do “a decent study” and offered an amendment to that effect. [The county is spending a bit over $20,000 to have a consulting firm suggest what the future for the Valley Hi nursing home should be.]

Having been attacked by Schofield, Donna Kurtz struck back.

“This should have been anticipated months and months ago.

“This is not the way to do business.”

Yvonne Barnes

Yvonne Barnes

Schofield was immediately recognized again.

“I have been working very hard on this and have a great deal of knowledge on this.

“I looked for a committee for this to go through.”

Yvonne Barnes found fault that an independent organization was specifically names in the resolution.

The resolution “seems so vague to me.”

“There you go again,” Andrew Gasser said.

“I see poor Ralph [Sarbaugh, the finance guy] with his head down with his face buried in his laptop again.

Andrew Gasser

Andrew Gasser

“Is this an extraordinary situation.?”Are lives at stake in McHenry County?

“I’m really disappointed in us as a legislative body.

“We’re saying we’re fiscally responsible, but we’re not.

We don’t have a blank check book.”

Nick Provenzano joined the criticism.

“How ironic that we’re here with something that hasn’t gone through committee.

“We’re going to be voting on much more mysterious motions.

“It’s as mysterious as the next eight motions [the ones concerning township consolidation].

Barnes again:  “There’s no checks and balances.”

Kurtz:  “Members of the Task Force were not asked for their input.

“We’re being asked to just rubber stamp a proposal that’s not thought out and could have been considered by the Task Force and [vetted] by Finance and Audit [Committee].

The Board voted 14-8 not to increase the cost of the study from $15,000 to $40,000.

The eight who wanted to almost triple the amount were Kopsell, McCann, Miller, Nowak, Provenzano, Skala and Gottemoller.

By the same numbers, the Board sent the resolution to committee for further consideration.

Voting in the minority were Aavang, Hammerand, Jung, McCann, Miller, Provenzano, Skala and Smith.

Food Still Free at Nunda Twp. Fridays

Free Food sign close-upThe First Methodist Church of Crystal Lake continues its every Friday morning distribution of free food at the Nunda Township Hall.

Made possible by the Northern Illinois Food Bank, plus the Jewel stores in Crystal Lake and Woodstock, the event starts after the boxes from the Food Bank truck are unloaded.

There are also eighteen volunteers who have cultivated a garden behind the township hall this summer.

They provide fresh produce.

The truck usually arrives about ten and it takes about a half an hour to separate the food into tables of dry goods, meat, dairy, vegetables, fruit, desserts and bread.

People start arriving before six AM.

Last week there were over 70 and enough food to allow folks to go through twice.

Since the Nunda Township Hall is off the beaten track, a map can be found below:

Where the Bay Road Nunda Township Office complex is located.

Where the Bay Road Nunda Township Office complex is located.

Norge Fund Raiser Coming Up

Lori Brown sent out the invitation for the Norge Ski Training Center fundraiser this year.

She says,

Our annual Wine and Bourbon Tasting Fundraiser is coming up.

Mark your calendars for November 7th…..

Something new this year – tickets must be purchased on-line.

Please note site at bottom of invite.

The 2015 Norge Ski Jump fundraiser invitation.

The 2015 Norge Ski Jump fundraiser invitation.

If you would prefer to just pay me and I sign you up, that is fine as well. Just bring your print out ticket to event, or show it on your phone at entrance.

McHenry High Schools Closed Again on Thursday

Here’s all that is posted on the District 156 web site:

Schools are Closed – Thursday, October 8, 2015

Nothing in Spanish.

If you have not looked at the power points that the McHenry High School Board presented to citizens on Monday night, you might want to. They can be found here.