.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Proviso Probe

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Welch gets sensitive over questions posed to asst supt/girlfriend

On February 25 at Proviso Math and Science Academy the Proviso Township High Schools (District 209) board of education held its regular meeting. The meeting included discussions of various items like standardized tests, attendance and graduation details. Also, Board president Emanuel “Chris” Welch treated former board president Theresa Kelly rudely. And the unpleasantness escalated when Kelly asked questions about Assistant Superintendent Nikita Johnson.

The first tiff between Kelly and Welch in open session was over approving the January minutes. Kelly thought there were enough abstentions to keep the minutes from being approved. Welch rudely told her that she didn't know Roberts Rules of Order. Since the incident happened first thing after executive session it is possible the bad blood was carry over from the closed session.

Welch really lost his cool when Kelly raised the issue of whether Assistant Superintendent Nikita Johnson was going to be working at District 99 (Cicero Elementary Schools) next year. Johnson confirmed that she had interviewed for the position. She issued a non-denial, saying that she hadn't signed a contract with District 99. Johnson said, “I have not been offered the position... I have not received an offer.... I'm employed at this district. I work hard every day.”

Johnson was on the agenda as “Authorize Asst. Superintendentto begin FY09 Budget process”. Kelly claimed this was properly the purview of the superintendent. Welch responded that the board could delegate it to someone else under Illinois law.

A fairly widely discussed rumor holds that Welch and Johnson have been dating since at least summer, 2006, shortly after Johnson was hired.

Johnson explained with she was a highly sought after “young professional” and claimed to be frequently recruited for positions. This may be true. But if she was so highly recruited, why isn't she taking a position at a school district without financial and political connections to her boyfriend? Welch is primarily connected to Cicero through District 209's law firm, the DelGaldo Group.

Welch got quite angry with Kelly over asking whether Johnson would actually be implementing the budget she'd be writing. I was taking notes, not videotaping, so below is a partial transcript of Welch's response to Kelly's questions.

“All you do is grandstand and do things that are inappropriate.... Shame on Mrs. Kelly.... [Johnson] is qualified.... You're questioning her professionalism. Why don't you become a professional?” At one point Welch called Kelly “ignorant.”

After the meeting I exchanged some friendly words with Welch. He asked if I thought Kelly's questions should have been raised. I responded that it was fair to ask if the person writing the budget would be around to implement the budget. Welch said it should have been raised in closed session. I sorta shrugged. After thinking about it, I'm pretty sure Kelly raised the issue in the right place.

From one perspective it's kinda a personnel issue. But it's definitely a budget issue. The district is already stretching Illinois law to delegate the budget away from the superintendent and to an assistant. This unusual practice is compounded by the irregularities that the board is delegating the budget to the board president's girlfriend (who happens to be the neice of board member Robin Foreman) and that Johnson's leaving before the budget is implemented. These are both issues that raise concerns about if the budget will be legitimate, or just some gobbledygook to appease the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). Because of ongoing poor management District 209 has to provide its budget to the ISBE.

So, holding a discussion of the budget in executive session (closed session) would violate the Open Meetings Act. While Welch and Johnson may have preferred not to discuss Johnson leaving to work at a smaller elementary school district in open session, it seems to me Illinois law prohibits discussing it as a budget issue in closed session.

Labels: , , , , ,

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.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Thursday, February 07, 2008

sources of E-Day volunteers

Has anyone heard stories about people who have been sentenced to community service being assigned to a government office and then the supervisors have the people do election work as part of their "community service"?

Also, is it possible probation officers are soliciting their parolees to do political work? I knew a woman who was a juvenile probation officer and she was connected. Her dad was a judge who got his son a job with the Forest Preserve District too. So, if parole officers are political appointees I could see them encouraging their parolees to work elections. Is this being done, or am I overly suspicious?

Labels: ,

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

congrats to Eugene Moore

Moore defeated challenger Alderman Ed Smith. Congratulations to Moore. I'd still like him to stop being involved in District 209 (Proviso Township High Schools).

However, the defeat of Karen Yarbrough's proxy candidate means Yarbrough has been on the losing side in 1 1/2 elections after a couple of solid victories (defeating Moore for Dem committeeman) and having Charles Flowers elected Regional Superintendent of Education.

The April, 2007 school board losses were only half a defeat b/c Yarbrough and her husband consolidated power in the Village of Maywood.

Labels: , , ,

congrats to Anita Alvarez

Last I saw the TV stations had declared Anita Alvarez the victor in the Democratic Primary for Cook County State's Attorney.

Alvarez lives in Old Proviso (aka River Forest).

Labels: ,

media weirdness in Obama speech

I was watching the election results with Bill Dwyer, a Forest Park neighbor.

We noticed that there was a difference between the WGN coverage of Obama's speech and MSNBC's coverage.

In WGN's coverage Obama's background included 2-4 African-Americans pictured with a large number of people who looked "White". In the MSNBC coverage the background was almost entirely African-American.

Bill and I went back and forth between channels. I concluded that there was no way different camera angles could account for the difference. Either WGN or MSNBC was doing something to alter who appeared behind the candidate on television.

WGN is a local outlet. MSNBC is a national outlet.

I'm going to avoid making explicit allegations, but I'd like some media experts to examine the difference and get the explanations from the two networks for the differences.

Labels: , , , ,

your partner is annoying? it will get worse...

New research suggests couples view one another as even more irritating and demanding the longer they are together....

The study results could be a consequence of accumulated contact with a spouse, such that the nitpicking or frequent demands that once triggered just a mild chafe develops into a major pain. But accumulated irritation has its silver lining....

Rather than breeding unhappy couples and ill health, the increase in negativity could be a normal part of relationships.

"Because we found that pattern was overall among the participants, it appears to be normative. It's not something unusual that happens," Birditt said.

Am I reading this right? Long-term monogamous relationships are supposed to suck?

In Against Love: A Polemic Laura Kipnis, a Norwestern U. academic, argues that our culture uses marriage and monogamy as a device to control individual behavior. And that people who cheat on their partners are at least subconsciously subversives challenging the dominant paradigm.

Based on seeing Kipnis at a book fair and interviewing her, I got the impression she took her ideas less than seriously. She probably would have been happy to be in a monogamous relationship with her man preferably staying faithful.

That said, the author can be inconsistent with her ideas and still her ideas embody some truth.

I did like that Kipnis questioned the ideology that relationships are supposed to be work. She asked the question, how much work is reasonable for something that's supposed to be enjoyable and a refuge from work?

Back to the research discussed in the MSNBC article: it seems like the journalist and perhaps the researcher approached the issue with a pro-monogamy bias.

"Yeah, many relationships get worse over time, but I believe that monogamous relationships are supposed to last forever so I'm going to construct an explanation that reconciles the facts (relationships get worse) with my ideology (the gold standard for the quality of a relationship is that it lasts for a long time)."


Labels: , ,

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

it's Election Day

I voted in Proviso 74 this morning. The judges were having trouble getting the touch screen machines to work, so everyone was voting on paper. Proviso 73 wasn't allowing people to vote at 6:30 because the judges were unable to open the metal box with the voting materials.

I was foggy enough at 6:30 that I almost voted for Howard Brookins when I meant to vote for Tommy Brewer. See Carl Nyberg (Prairie State Blue) for my reasoning.

There was only one yard sign at the poll. It belonged to the David Latham for judge campaign and was probably too close to the entrance of the polling place.

On the way out one guy had arrived to pass literature. He was passing for Jim Capparelli.

If you want some help figuring the best qualified judges try VoteForJudges.org.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, February 03, 2008

"Yes We Can" music video & other videos

This video was created by will.i.am of Black Eyed Peas and Jesse Dylan, son of Bob Dylan. See ABC. h/t Archpundit.

Remember to vote Tuesday.

Here's some more video if you are among the undecideds.

That's Michelle Obama. Her husband is one of the candidates running on Tuesday.

And here's a couple endorsements Senator Barack Obama received.

Lorna Brett Howard, former President Chicago NOW.

Helen Halpin, a California academic.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Friday, February 01, 2008

Vicenik and Yarbrough use taxpayer resources for political work

West Suburban Journal-News (L. Nicole Trottie with Kevin Williams contributing) covers the criticism Broadview Village President Henry Vicenik took over letting Rep. Karen Yarbrough and U.S. Rep Danny Davis use a village-owned property rent free.
Vicenik said the board’s decision to offer the space rent free was never a board agenda item....

Vicenik counters, the decision by the board is justified as providing a service to Broadview residents.

“I thought it would be good for the village and residents to have a state representative and congressman here as a resource for the people of Broadview,” Vicenik said Tuesday.

Having a village subsidize constituent services is at least an unusual arrangement. And unusual arrangements need more specific contracts. And contracts need to be approved by the governing boards, or they formally delegate this power.

Broadview has been in financial trouble for years. Why wouldn't it ask its tenants to pay for using village property?

IMO, Yarbrough and Vicenik are in some legal trouble, or should be, for using public resources for political activities. I assumed that Yarbrough and her organization were paying rent and that there was a contract which separated the political portion of the premises from the government part of the premises. I'm pretty sure my assumption was based on this being claimed or implied by Yarbrough. Maybe I'm misremembering.

If Yarbrough and Vicenik knew that the space was provided gratis by the Village of Broadview they both know that there should be no political activity being done there. I made a formal complaint to the Cook County State's Attorney against Eugene Moore and District 209 for a comparatively minor transgression.

h/t Proviso Insider

BTW, there is something of a back story to Trottie's interest in this building. Trottie sought to acquire use of the property for free from Vicenik. Trottie mentioned the arrangement to Yarbrough. Apparently Vicenik decided it was more advantageous to him to give the property to Yarbrough and Davis than to Trottie's newspaper which was brand new at the time.

However, whether Trottie has an ax to grind with Vicenik and Yarbrough over this property, it doesn't mitigate the wrongdoing by Vicenik and Yarbrough.

Labels: , , , ,