Serwatka Reports on Last Lakewood Meeting

Lakewood Village President Paul Serwatka continues to report his take on Village Board meetings.

Here’s his reflections on last Tuesday’s meeting:

3 BIG SUCCESSES! – Reporting on Our Recent Village Board Meeting

Reporting on our June 27th village board meeting, there are three successes that I am particularly happy to share with you.

Unfortunately, as has come to be expected, these successes were not achieved without a great degree of ugliness and drama from former president, Erin Smith’s appointed trustee, Jason McMahon. I will go into this in great detail at the end of this newsletter.

The three successes I refer to are as follows:

  1. Amendment of an ordinance pertaining to the hiring, firing, and direction of our Chief of Police.
  2. Appointment of our new Chief of Police – Lakewood Sgt. Michael Roth
  3. Approval of a temporary consulting agreement to review/examine our village administration and advise on the restructuring of such.


(In order to provide what I believe to be a most necessary understanding of what is currently taking place within our village board, I have included, at the end of this newsletter, a somewhat in depth overview of the deliberations that took place at this meeting, as well as just small amount of the factually false information that has been disseminated by appointed trustee, Jason McMahon, in the days leading up to this important meeting. I hope you will take the time to read this information.)

Lakewood Board the night the Tax Increment Financing District was repealed. 

Success #1 – Taking The Power Back

Amending the ordinance pertaining to the hiring, firing, and direction of our Chief of Police was another important step in restoring accountability within our village administration as well as our police dept. (See the proposed ordinance amendment on page 36 of the board packet HERE )

Allow me to explain.

As far as anyone in our village administration, previous board members or village counsel can attest to, in the history of our village – prior to February 11, 2014 – the authority to appoint, direct and approve the policies of Lakewood’s chief of police was, by ordinance, vested in the 7 elected members of the village board.

The President made a recommendation to appoint – and 6 trustees voted to confirm the appointment or not.

On February 11, 2014 – under former manager, Catherine Peterson – this ordinance was changed.

With this change, for the first time in the history of our village, the authority to hire, fire, direct and approve the policies of our chief of police was put in the hands of one person – The village manager – who was not elected.

This ordinance, as it existed after February 11, 2014, gave the village manager alone – SOLE AUTHORITY on the selection, hiring and firing of our chief of police.

This ordinance gave the village manager SOLE AUTHORITY on the direction of the chief – and SOLE AUTHORITY on approval of the policies the Chief wished to implement.

Under this ordinance, no direction whatsoever was required by any board member. They had no authority. They voted on nothing.

Prior to Manager Catherine Peterson, no other manager for the village of Lakewood had ever had this scope of authority.

On June 24, 2014 – Leigh Rawson was selected and hired to be our new chief of police. This was done at the sole discretion of manager, Catherine Peterson. This was the first Chief to have been hired solely by our village manager.

No vote was required by our board of trustees for his hiring and none was taken.

This is evidenced by reading the Village Board Meeting Minutes leading up to, and including, the June 24, 2014 meeting, HERE.

The Ordinance Amendment We Proposed

In stark contrast, the ordinance amendment proposed in our recent June 27, 2017 Agenda would very simply revert back to EXACTLY the same structure and scope of authority that had always been in place prior to February 11, 2014 – Prior to village Manager Catherine Peterson’s requested amendment.

The June 2017 amendment of this ordinance, as we proposed, would give the authority to hire, fire, direct and approve the policies of our chief of police BACK to the 7 elected members of our village board – with the president making a recommendation and 6 elected trustees voting to confirm or not.

I believe this was clearly in the best interests of Lakewood residents, as well as our chief of police and our police officers, alike.

After quite the unpleasant deliberation, this important amendment was passed with the vote count as follows:

Voting YES: Trustees Stephan, Ritchie, Odom, and Rexroat
Voting NO: Trustee McMahon
Absent: Trustee Davis

Success #2 – There’s a New Chief in Town!

The appointment of our new Chief of Police – former Lakewood Police Sgt. Michael Roth is now official. His first day will begin July 5th!

I have received several emails thanking and congratulating our new board for choosing former Sgt. Roth to be our new chief and commending the work he has done in our community.

Again, after quite the unpleasant deliberation, the appointment of Chief Roth was passed with the vote count as follows:

Voting YES: Trustees Stephan, Ritchie, Odom, and Rexroat
Voting NO: Trustee McMahon
Absent: Trustee Davis

Success #3 – Transforming Our Village Administration

The approval of a temporary consulting agreement to review and examine our village administration and advise on the restructuring of such, promises to be a most valuable tool as we continue to take steps toward transforming our village, creating a more accountable administration and creating more efficient and effective government within our village.

Our hired consultant, Heather Meister, is a Lakewood resident with a quite impressive and quite lengthy resume.

Among just a few of her credentials are:

MBA—University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kenan Flagler School of Business
PhD Coursework—Case Western Reserve University, Weatherhead School of Management
Fellow and Scholarship Recipient—Mandel Center for Not-for-Profit Managerial Leadership, Case-Western University
CPA—Certified Public Accountant, Licensed in Illinois
CIA—Certified Internal Auditor
CFE—Certified Fraud Examiner
PMP—Project Management Professional
Six Sigma Green Belt—American Society for Quality
CPIM—Certified in Production and Inventory Management

Heather’s scope of expertise will help our guide our board and administration as we continue to seek out a new Finance Director, our next village manager/administrator, administrative support staff, etc.

Heather has an extensive background of successfully helping to create efficiencies in situations exactly like ours, but typically in much, much larger arenas. And to me, the fact that she, as a Lakewood resident, has a vested interest in seeing our community thrive, is a big plus. Heather’s services will be provided as an Independent Contractor for a term not to exceed 4 weeks.

We will provide updates to residents, regarding our findings, as Heather provides them to us.

Once again, after quite the unpleasant deliberation, the appointment of Heather Meister for consulting services was approved with the vote count as follows:

Voting YES: Trustees Stephan, Ritchie, Odom, and Rexroat
Trustee McMahon ABSTAINED from voting
Absent: Trustee Davis

Going into some unpleasant detail, I believe it is immensely important that all residents are aware of the scope of deliberations that took place, as well as just some of the factually false information that continues to be disseminated by one particular appointed trustee.

Though it is long, and unpleasant, I hope you will take the time to read and better understand what has been, and is currently, taking place on our village board due to this one appointed trustee – Jason McMahon.

Though I truly regret having to bring such unpleasantries into what was otherwise such a positively eventful day for Lakewood residents, I cant help but feel that equally important to informing you of these successes is informing you of lengths that appointed trustee Jason McMahon continues to undergo in his continued efforts to prevent these successes for our village.

The Long and Painful Deliberations

At the onset of our discussion, Trustee McMahon (appointed by former president, Erin Smith) made abundantly clear that he would oppose, both, this proposed ordinance amendment, as well as the upcoming listed agenda item to appoint Sgt. Mike Roth as our next Chief of Police.

Jason went on, for quite some time, to argue the following (I’ll provide just his most salient points):

– Jason McMahon does not believe that the village board has the authority to amend this ordinance, which would serve only to revert it back to exactly what it used to be.

– Jason does not believe the village board has the authority to hire, fire or appoint any village officer, employee or independent contractor, including our third listed agenda item, a temporary consultant. Furthermore, Jason does not believe the board SHOULD have the authority to do so. He believes a manager should have sole discretion for all hires.

Jason stated very specifically that his interpretation of the Illinois Municipal Code was such that our village board, since the inception of our village, has been functioning improperly, under the wrong form of government.

– Jason went on to state that he believed that Lakewood was originally founded as a “Managerial” form of government and has, all the while, been wrongly and improperly functioning as a different form of government.

– Our village attorney, stated something to the effect that he was reasonably certain that Jason was incorrect and that, while he did not have intimate knowledge of this section of the Illinois Municipal Code to cite specifically, he felt confident in saying that he did not believe that our village had been functioning under the wrong form of government since incorporating in 1933.

– We discussed the idea, that if Jason’s interpretation of the Municipal Code was correct, and Lakewood had, in fact, been operating under the wrong form of government for all this time, this would mean that every board, every legal counselor, ever village manager/administrator we have had since 1933 would have been acting improperly and that the ramifications of such would be incomprehensible.

– Jason then went on to state that he believed that our village clerk has been in office, unlawfully, for the majority of her 18 years and that any documents she has signed, any petitions or ballots that she has certified in these years are therefore not valid.

– Jason essentially stated that, as he believes Lakewood is supposed to operate as a “Managerial” form of government, he believes that as such, only the village manager has the authority to hire, fire, appoint, discipline or direct any village officer, employee, or independent contractor.

Jason went on to argue that he personally believed this exclusive authority, was in fact more properly vested with a village manager, alone. He believes having this scope of authority vested in a village manager, alone, allows a form of “Checks and Balances” and protects those employed and appointed, as well as residents, from any improprieties that could otherwise occur under a president and board of trustees.

Jason stated that giving this authority to a president and board of trustees “would remove the important checks and balances” that would otherwise be in place by granting a manager with this exclusive authority.

Please, think about that for just a minute!

To further illustrate Jason McMahon’s position – in the days leading up to this village board meeting – where these important issues would be voted on – Jason began posting on the McHenry County Blog and social media, stating the following:

(Important to keep in mind: We do NOT currently have a “Village Manager” in place. This position has been vacant since approximately the beginning of May, 2017)

(Please, also note the subtle, but intentional, misstatements as bolded below)

[Copied Excerpts as Posted on McHenry County Blog By Jason McMahon]

“We are governed by State Statue and our own ordinances. Those laws must be followed. Usurping those laws is a dangerous slope.

1. Paul Serwatka does not have the authority to accept the resignation of our Police Chief.

The Chief position is currently a position hired by our Village Manager.

The Village Manager should accept his resignation.

2. Paul Serwatka does not have the authority to appoint a new Police Chief.

By ordinance, the Police Chief is a position hired by the Village Manager typically with Board approval.

This is a form of checks and balances.

MOST IMPORTANT – An ordinance, removing the checks and balances is proposed for our June 27, 2017 meeting.

The proposed ordinance is attempting to take the authority to hire our Police Chief from our Village Manager and confer it on the Village President.

This is a terrible idea for several reasons.

First, It will put this new Chief and ALL future Chiefs in a bad position; creating a huge opportunity for impropriety.

As an appointed position, the Chief would now serve SOLEY at the discretion of the Village President meaning the President can FIRE HIM AT WILL.

This puts the Chief in a terrible position….

This new policy would be a step backward for government transparency…

Currently, the Village Manager posts the job, reviews all applicants and submits qualified applicants to the Village Board for approval.

Under the new process, the Village President can select anyone he would like and gain Board approval.

I support the hiring of Mike Roth, however, I do not support the dangerous ordinance amendment on page 36 of the Board packet.

Please come out on June 27, 2017 and support the PROPER hiring of Mike Roth.”
You can read Jason’s comments on this issue, in their entirety HERE.

All the obstructionism and all the negativity aside, This was a very positive day for our village and I can assure you, we will have many more positive days to follow.

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


Serwatka Reports on Last Lakewood Meeting — 17 Comments

  1. Kudos to Serwatka, Stephan, Ritchie, Odom and Rexroat.

    Your work is honorable and very much appreciated by residents.

    As for this McMahon character. It is obvious he is nothing more than a shill for Erin Smith and the old school regime of Lakewood’s corrupt yester-year.

    He has clearly demonstrated his intent of being a continued obstructionist, seeking only to impede the betterment of Lakewood and he has clearly demonstrated that he is entirely ineffective in his effort to do so.

    Ignore him!

    We all know who he is. We all know what his purpose is.

    Paul and team, stay focused on your continued efforts toward the betterment of our village.

    McMahon will be a thing of the past soon enough.

    And in a year and a half from now, if he is foolish enough to actually run to maintain the seat he currently, undeservedly holds.

    We will send him the same message we sent to Furey and Santowski in the last election.

    “Go away! You are not welcome here!”

    Again, THANK YOU to the new Lakewood Tax Fighter team!

  2. Brutus, I agree.

    The previous Police Chief was given that job to help cover up previous dealings in the Village, Jim Wales (former Chief in LITH) and I am sure Rich Flood had much to do with his job security in Lakewood.

  3. “Checks and balances” is NOT giving unchecked authority to the Village Manager.

    “Checks and balances” is limiting the authority of the Village Manager.

  4. The same Jim Wales who “retired” immediately after an official misconduct investigation in which every police commissioner resigned thereafter?

    Boy he was a piece of work.

  5. Copland, yep that would be the one and a real chum of Nygren.

  6. Copland, anotherwatcher –

    You should reach out to Serwatka.

    I suspect he would be very interested in any insight you had to offer that might be of assistance in his continued house cleaning in Lakewood, as well as a assuring that none of the pesty rodents find their way back in to Lakewood.

  7. I Say We Bull Doze The Whole SOB.

    I Liked It Better When It Was Farm Fields!

  8. Here is what is interesting to me about this.

    I am not an expert of the Illinois Municipal Code.

    So I do not know who is correct.

    But what I do know is that NOWHERE in Serwatkas summary does it provide a legal argument for why Serwatka is correct and McMahon is wrong.

    This should be really easy to do.

    Cite IL law showing that Serwatka is correct and that Lakewood is operating properly.

    But for some reason Serwatka chose not do to this.


  9. Lakewood has been a village without a city manager form of government since 1958 when I moved here.

  10. It’s not a matter of “Serwatka being wrong”

    It would be a matter of “Has Lakewood been operating under the wrong form of government since it’s inception as a village, in 1933, or not?”

    If this is the case (which it is not and will soon be demonstrated)

    It would not be Serwatka who is wrong.

    It would be every board, every village attorney and every manager/administrator that has governed Lakewood since 1933 that is wrong.

    But, it is not the burden of any administration to “prove a negative” if McMahon has evidence that Lakewood has been operating under the wrong form of government for the last 84 years he should come forward with it.

    Worth noting, Lakewood didn’t have an administrator/manager until the mid 90’s..

    Peterson, herself, was hired as an administrator and was later awarded the title of “Manager”.

  11. Particularly amusing is how Smith, Santowski, Furey and McMahon all publicly purported to be “strong conservatives” then go on to:

    – Contribute to Quinn campaign against Rauner

    Sport “Hillary for president” accessories

    – Gain the public endorsement and support of the McHenry County Progressives , Nancy Zettler and her progressive “Gold Pin independent” rag blog, and now, progressive activist “AlabamaShake”

  12. Were Jason for the rebuttal he usually pretty fast at jumping in, or is his he just figuring out he is wrong

  13. McMahon was “wrong” the minute he chose to sell his soul and pledged allegiance to do the bidding of Erin Smith and clan, in order to gain an un-earned “place at the table” of the Lakewood village board.

    He obstructs not out of any belief of being “right”, but out of obedience to, and for the sheer entertainment of, Smith and her conquered regime.

    (Yes, Gene Furey, we include you in that group)

  14. The way I understand it, the problem isn’t necessarily that we’re operating under the wrong form of government, but rather since the form that we should be operating under isn’t clear, Paul and his pawns have been cherry picking which forms suites their agenda at whichever time is convenient.

    Paul and his pawns are conservative for conservative sake; might even call them anarchists.

    They don’t care what they wreck, as long as they keep their campaign promises.

    Sure, they’ll lower the property taxes by 10% too, but not before they wreck our bond rating and take the city into negative cash flow.

    Then when they drop the levy so low that the next 5 election cycles can’t regain a cash positive budget, it’ll force us to borrow and pay interest.

  15. Jason McMahon, you’re an “Eagle Scout” now?

    How and why are you turning this into an​ issue with Serwatka?

    We elected him and the new team, quite decisively I might add, to do a job and they are doing exactly as we elected them to!

    In Serwatka’s case, we elected him twice! And in both cases we did so in historically record setting turnouts!

    The fact that you would even suggest they should do anything other than what we elected them to do, perfectly illustrates exactly why we sent Smith and her clan packing.
    It also illustrates perfectly why you, Jason McMahon, were selected by Smith to be appointed to the board. To play the obstructionist and to cover up the improprieties of the old administration.

    Lakewood residents look forward to your bid to actually try to be elected to the board.

    Yours will be a whole new historical record for our village – of an entirely different kind. Not one you’ll be bragging about to posterity.

    It will be a good exercise for you and your family to be publicly shamed with a most humiliating showing at the polls, as you deserve. Maybe then you’ll actually repent your sinful ways and leave us all alone.

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