Serwatka Reports on Lakewood Village Board Doings

From Lakewood Village Trustee Paul Serwatka:

My apologies for the brief hiatus in emails over the last couple of meetings… Let me bring you up-to-speed.

There are two issues that I believe warrant your attention – the first of which is the recent appointment of 7 residents to the Planning and Zoning Commission. More so, my concern is the process by which these appointments continue to be made and the role (or lack thereof) the trustees continue to play in the appointment process.

The second issue is regarding The Turnberry Lakes SSA-8 and the village’s very recent statement/clarification on lake usage, which I will address in a follow up email.

Issue one:

On the April 12, 2016 Village Board Meeting Agenda, there was a motion to approve 7 appointments to the Planning and Zoning Commission. The residents seeking these appointments were: Don Miller, Jason McMahon, Thomas Mula, Alan Hopkins, Robert Hansen, John Schrauf and Tim Morvay.

In conjunction with this motion was another motion to appoint Jason McMahon as Chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

I was the sole “NO” vote on both of these motions, while Trustees Santowski, Iden, Furey and Thomas voted “YES” to both. Trustee Davis was absent.

Here is the problem as I see it:

Per our Municipal Code, the Village President makes these appointments “with the advice and consent of the board of trustees.”

My concern with these appointments, and the appointment process itself, is as follows:

With the exception of one of the named individuals seeking appointment, I know nothing of these individuals – and, as it turns out, the other trustees who voted to make these appointments, know little more of these individuals than do I.

This is NOT to say that the individuals seeking appointment aren’t completely capable, competent and honest people – it is only to say that I had no way of determining this.

None of the trustees were afforded an opportunity to meet these individuals, to speak with them, or to review any type of resume, curriculum vitae or appointment application. Therefore, we cannot possibly, in good faith, have given our “advice and consent” on appointing them.

I expressed this concern to the board and asked each of the other trustees if they had any prior personal knowledge of these named individuals that they could speak of.

Each of the other trustees stated that they had no specific knowledge of these individuals, but that they were “comfortable in making these appointments based on the recommendation of village president, Erin Smith, just as they have always done in the past.”

Now, I am not making any accusations toward anyone here, however, I do feel quite strongly that this “modus operandi”, as continues to be practiced by my fellow trustees, is cause for concern.

Particularly, after a very recent, potential zoning scare in and around the Turnberry area, as well as a recent zoning debacle in The Gates, where a group of residents were forced to spend a substantial amount of time and money fighting what they believed (and I agree) was an improper zoning determination by the village.

These residents were successful in their efforts in this zoning dispute, but, they are not able to recoup the time and money they were forced to spend- nor are Lakewood taxpayers, in general, able to recoup the tax dollars spent in this legal action.

My personal opinion is that if the “advice and consent of the board of trustees” is warranted – as our Municipal Code states (and as I absolutely believe it to be in making these appointments) then there must be a vetting process in place that allows the board the time and the means to conduct its due diligence in making appointments such as these.

I believe anything less demonstrates a haphazard and reckless approach to governing that only lends itself to the potential for further legal actions and repeated injustices to our fellow residents.

It is for these reasons, that I, alone, voted against these appointments.

I encourage residents to reach out to trustees Santowski, Iden, Furey and Thomas and ask them to explain their actions in these appointments.

You can reference these motions on page 127 of the board packet at the link below.

I hope you’ll share this email with fellow residents and encourage them to join my email list. An informed community is our best assurance of promoting honest, accountable government.

As always, your thoughts, questions and concerns are always welcome.

April 12, 2016 Board Packet:


Serwatka Reports on Lakewood Village Board Doings — 5 Comments

  1. Paul,

    My name is Jason McMahon and we have met.

    Several times in fact.

    We spoke at length prior to your being elected to the Village Board and dropping election materials at my home.

    We have also had discussions regarding the SSA at Crosspoint.

    I supported your candidacy but now I see you are nothing more than a community organizer looking for a conspiracy to whip up into an issue.

    I have participated in Village politics off and on since my wife and I moved to Lakewood in 2002.

    I know Trustees Iden, Santowski, Furey and Davis.

    In fact, Trustee Davis originally reached out to me asking if I would be interested in the Commission back in 2006 or 2007 I believe.

    Most of the other Commission members have also previously served or have participated in our community in one way or another.

    You have been a Trustee for over a year now.

    If this is such an important committee to you, why haven’t you reached out and met with the Commission members?

    Your entire rant simply shows your unwillingness to do your homework.

    And in case this isn’t enough to put your grand conspiracy to bed, I am going to let you in on a little “not-so-secret”:

    The Commission does not have any power.

    We are merely a recommending body to the Village Board. Anything we see, you see and vote on.

    In fact, sometimes the Village Board does not even accept our recommendation.

    We typically meet once a year, maybe, and our big job is looking at a fence or swimming pool variances.

    In the time it took you to craft your letter to Cal, you would have been able to read ALL the minutes from the past 10 years and understand how most of the Commission members vote and maybe how the Commission works as well.

    Or you could have called Catherine, requested contact information for the current and proposed commission members and done the research yourself.

    Maybe it is time to stop trying to be a community organizer, whipping everyone into a frenzy with empty rhetoric and start actually making an effort.

    I fail to understand your original complaint.

    You do not like the Catherine and Erin’s recommendation based upon their knowledge of the candidates but you want them to provide you with more information?

    Do your homework.

    Stop being an obstructionist and start doing what we elected you to do, solve problems and participate in solutions.

  2. Jason –

    I hope you’ll forgive me for not being able to put a face to the name.

    I have met and spoken with, literally, hundreds of Lakewood residents in the last year as well as, literally, thousands more residents throughout the surrounding area recently – so, I tend to forget some names and faces.

    With regards to my NO vote on these appointments, I hope you read in this email to Lakewood residents where I specifically stated:

    “This is NOT to say that the individuals seeking appointment aren’t completely capable, competent and honest people – it is only to say that I had no way of determining this.”

    In fact, I believe my entire email emphasized the fact that my problem was not, in any way, with any of the appointees themselves, but rather with the process by which the appointments are being conducted versus how they’re supposed to be conducted.

    Again, our Municipal Code states that the President makes these appointments with the “advice and consent of the board of trustees.”

    One of the primary responsibilities of our staff is to provide the trustees with the required information necessary to make our decisions on any given issue.

    To “do our homework” as you say… Staff is to provide data/information and we make decisions based on it.

    Without good information from staff, we cannot make good decisions as a board.

    With regards to the issue of these appointments, I was given only a list of seven names and a recommendation from the President.

    I was given no other information, whatsoever!

    If trustees are to “give advice and consent” on any issue, they must be given the necessary information and time to do so.

    This is where the process is flawed.

    This is where I have a problem.

    Trustees are provided with our meeting agenda and board packet via email, late Friday afternoons, usually between 3 and 5 pm, as we head into the weekend.

    The village meetings are then held 4 days later on the upcoming Tuesday.

    It just isn’t realistic, nor is it the expected role of the trustee, to find contact information for the seven appointees (keep in mind the village staff isn’t even available on weekends), to then get in contact with all seven individuals and have a question and answer session with each – all before Tuesday’s meeting.

    As far as the other trustees go, I specifically asked each of them if they had any further specific knowledge of the appointees and their answer, collectively, was essentially that they knew nothing specific, but that they have always been comfortable with Erin’s recommendation.

    I specifically promised residents that I would never govern in that manner.

    One of the primary complaints I heard from literally hundreds of Lakewood residents while campaigning to become a village trustee was of the complacency and “rubber-stamping” by board members.

    I campaigned to be different.

    I campaigned “to provide an entirely new level of transparency” and to put an end to the rubber-stamping.

    I believe that this is exactly what I am doing in this instance.

    I’m sure you can agree that no private sector organization would undergo any hiring, or make any appointments, of individuals without some type of application and/or interview process.

    So, why should government be any different? Do we really want our government to be any different?

    At risk of sounding redundant, I hope you understand that my “NO” vote was in no way a disapproval of any of the appointees, but rather, as I said, a disapproval in the disregard for the appointment process itself.

  3. shake it up paul

    that’s why you got my vote it will be a good day when things change !!!

  4. I can’t help but to have reservations about McMahon.

    Seems he and Smith must be pretty tight being that this is not the first time she has handpicked him for appointments.

    Paul, I’m glad you at least took the time to get his commitment on the issues upfront.

    We will have to watch and see if he lives up to his word and hold him accountable if he does not.

    Just say the word and we will stampede the village hall if need be.

  5. I would be happy to meet face to face with anyone that has questions.

    I find face to face meetings are much more productive and civil.

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