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Proviso Probe

Saturday, February 09, 2008

will Cook County State's Attorney investigate Yarbrough and Vicenik?

Here's my take on the Yarbrough-Vicenik-Davis Broadview office issue. It seems clear that Karen Yarbrough violated the provision of Illinois law that prohibits using government resources for political activities. Broadview Mayor Henry Vicenik and U.S. Representative Danny K. Davis have pretty implausible claims of ignorance.

It also seems likely that Yarbrough/Davis staffer Larry Shapiro played a role in organizing the implementing the illegal scheme.

Question: will the Cook County State's Attorney (or Illinois Attorney General) enforce the law?

I'm also curious how Cook County Clerk David Orr reacts to Yarbrough and Vicenik invoking his name as blessing the illegal arrangement. Orr was asked if the division of the state representative office and the political office was sufficiently clear that it was OK to have both offices in the same building. Orr gave the OK to the division. But I am all but 100% certain Orr was kept in the dark on the one important detail: the whole building was owned by the Village of Broadview.

So when Yarbrough and Vicenik invoke Orr as saying the arrangement was OK they are trying to confuse. Orr said the division between politics and constituent service was sufficiently clear to have two separate leases assuming a private owner of the premises.

I hope Orr registers the appropriate amount of anger at Yarbrough and Vicenik and requests the Cook County State's Attorney investigate and prosecute if a violation of Illinois law has occurred.

It will be a good chance for Anita Alvarez, the Democratic nominee for Cook County State's Attorney and the third ranking person in the Devine administration, to show that the office can investigate and prosecute crimes by people with some local political clout.

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  • They should.

    By Anonymous d, at 7:27 PM, February 09, 2008  

  • I doubt that Anita Alvarez or Lisa Madigan will investigate a fellow Democrat,state rep. and Committeewomen during an election year. Maybe, Dick Devine could do the job now since he is retiring and finally stop the Yarbrough corrupt machine of Proviso.
    The main question is, Why did Yarbrough,danny Davis and Vicinek keep quite about this unusual arraigment of not paying rent for a taxable property in bankrupt Broadview????
    The sad truth is that Karen Yarbrough and Charles Flowers lied to the voters!! They said they could do better and would help our community, instead they only changed the names of the past corrupt leaders to there own names and are doing exactly what the others did.
    Shame on us for believing the false promises of change and beliving their lies!
    The only proper thing to do is to work hard and beat them at the polls to show them, we the voters are to be respected and not taken for fools!

    By Anonymous proviso voter, at 9:30 PM, February 09, 2008  

  • Have you checked the Illinois State Board of Elelction site lately? I see a $1200.00 payment to the Village of Broadview for rent for Proviso Twp Democratic Org. Trust me I am not defending Yarbrough by any means, so if they used the rented space for the election. The real question is how many payments of $1200.00 where made, a good reporter always follows the MONEY.

    By Anonymous Roosevelt Road Watcher, at 1:50 PM, February 10, 2008  

  • If Devine or Madigan don't get Yarbrough, she'll feel the peoples' wrath at the voter polls.

    By Anonymous proviso voter, at 6:52 PM, February 15, 2008  

  • Sauk Village schools finding stability after corrupt superintendent's reign

    February 17, 2008
    BY ANGELA CAPUTO Staff writer
    A set of math books and $15.

    For more than a decade, that's all teacher Bonnie McCoy counted on getting each year for supplies in her kindergarten classrooms because Community Consolidated District 168 officials claimed they were too broke to spend more.

    Meanwhile, former Supt. Thomas Ryan was cutting checks from school district accounts worth tens of thousands of dollars on behalf of family, friends and even himself.

    Two years after Ryan was convicted of stealing from the impoverished Sauk Village district, educators and officials say they're finally getting the tools and leadership they need to teach.

    McCoy didn't have to shop garage sales or thrift stores this year to buy blocks, puzzles, books or other essentials for her Wagoner Elementary class.

    Now bins in each early childhood classroom are filled with new blocks, paper, paint, books and games. And kindergartners - who attend full-day sessions for the first time - cluster around easels, an indoor sandbox and brand-new textbooks.

    "We're moving forward now," said Supt. Rudolph Williams, who worked in the district for more than a decade under Ryan's administration, both as a teacher and principal. "We want to turn that corner."

    While the district has made strides creating an improved environment for learning, students, staff and administrators have yet to get entirely on track.

    Test scores still lag far behind statewide averages. A high mobility rate means more than half of all students will either come or go during the school year. And the school board is struggling to find stability.

    "The district was in a lot of chaos," school board president Arleta Bazile said. "It takes time to make change."

    High expectations

    During the 10 years Williams worked as a teacher and principal at Rickover Junior High School, there were no honors programs to challenge high achievers. Nor was there a plan in place to help students who'd fallen behind.

    So when he took the district's top administrative position two years ago, his first priority was to establish academic programs that would meet students at their level.

    At both the elementary and junior high schools, honors sections now attract students. And a handful of students are even bused to Bloom High School District 206 schools to take Advanced Placement courses.

    Coupled with new assessments, which identify students who are struggling to reach the state's academic benchmarks, and an after-school tutoring program, Williams says the bar is rising for students.

    "My expectations for the kids are high. Regardless of their circumstances ... these kids can learn," he said.

    Standardized test scores have declined during the past two years, though, with just more than half of students meeting or exceeding the state's expectations. During that the same time, a majority of Southland elementary districts made gains.

    Williams attributes the slide, in part, to a high - 54 percent - mobility rate among students, which is nearly four-times the statewide average.

    "We have kids that come in from a different district in January, and we've got to bring those kids up to snuff to take the ISAT," Williams said. "Those are the cards we are given, and we've got to play them."

    Revolving Door

    A revolving door of leadership - with three interim superintendents and 17 school board members in the past two years alone - also has contributed to the district's post-Ryan turmoil.

    But the school board - and district finances - appear to be stabilizing.

    After Ryan's departure, spending policies were overhauled to prevent future theft. And, despite being ranked one of the state's 50 poorest this year, the district sits on a $20 million financial cushion.

    "We have the money and the resources," school board member Marvin Perez said. "Now we need to do better."

    A majority of the district's $16 million budget this year is generated through state aid and other state and federal poverty-related grants, according to a district financial report.

    Unlike past years, officials plan to begin spending more on new after-school programs, such as tutoring and basketball, and the full-day kindergarten program.

    Teachers also received, on average, a 22-percent bump in pay last year, bringing their salaries in line with teachers across the state. A full-time nurse, a team of social workers, psychologists and a special education director were also added to the district's payroll since Williams was hired as superintendent.

    The additional spending is projected to deplete $2 million of the district's reserves by 2012, according to a district financial report.

    "The kids are farther along now than the kids were by March last year," early childhood director Anna Crepps said of the infusion of resources to her programs in particular. "It'll be wait-and-see, but we're expecting to see the first-graders accomplishing much more next year."

    By Anonymous you know,sounds like proviso, at 7:32 AM, February 17, 2008  

  • An eight-year prison sentence will be cut short for the former Community Consolidated District 168 superintendent convicted in 2005 of stealing money from the Sauk Village school district.

    Thomas Ryan is scheduled for release from the East Moline Correctional Center on April 12. He could be freed even sooner, though, based on credits toward the time he's already served, according to Ken Tupy, an attorney with the Illinois Prisoner Review Board.

    » Click to enlarge image

    Former Sauk Village schools Supt. Thomas Ryan is set to be released from prison in April, well short of his eight-year sentence for stealing district money.
    (SouthtownStar file photo)

    • Sauk Village schools finding stability after corrupt superintendent's reign
    For 16 years, Ryan held a tight grip on the day-to-day operations of the Sauk Village district by using fear and intimidation tactics - even threatening to break a perceived snitch's legs - to keep critics at bay.

    Gifts and bonuses were bestowed upon others, including staffers, who helped him cover a trail of fraud, authorities said. Even after an audit revealed Ryan was misusing school district money, the school board, which was so firmly under his control, refused to launch an internal probe.

    The school district's culture has improved dramatically since Ryan resigned, kindergarten teacher Bonnie McCoy said.

    "People are not afraid to talk anymore," she said. "There's more of a sense of camaraderie."

    Ryan's reign came to an end in 2005 after a Daily Southtown investigation that uncovered the extent of Ryan's thievery and misuse of school district money, which included spending $68,580 on his three daughters' college tuition and awarding no-bid contracts to friends.

    The Southtown's in-depth coverage was spurred by an audit that revealed questionable use of money intended for the three-school district.

    The Cook County state's attorney's office stepped in, convened a grand jury and charged Ryan with felony theft in 2005 after seizing $730,000 in bundled cash from his Orland Park home. Charges were also brought against former school board president Louise Morales and building and grounds supervisor Edward Bernacki, neither of whom was sentenced to time behind bars.

    Later that year, Ryan pleaded guilty to the theft and repaid the district $400,000 in restitution.

    But the reduced sentence, school board member Marvin Perez said, "is a slap in the face to the community."

    The 56-year-old's release will be contingent on a parole plan that has to be approved by the Illinois Department of Corrections. He would be on parole for two years.

    "He'll have to have an approved host site," agency spokeswoman Januari Smith said. "And he'll have to meet some other criteria that the Illinois Prisoner Review Board determines."

    By Anonymous sounds like proviso, at 7:32 AM, February 17, 2008  

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