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Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

Screen Shot 2018-08-26 at 2.45.14 PMOnce again, supporters of former Village President Bob Abboud have taken to the social media networks to begin creating a false controversy to stir the pot prior to the 2019 Village Board Elections.

Recently, some Facebook pages have started publishing information about the proposed Plum Farms Development in Hoffman Estates. One of these pages is purportedly run by the same individual who publicly cast aspersions upon the character of the Village President and members of the Board of Trustees in April of 2017 (but was unwilling and unable to provide any corroboration of her ridiculous accusations). See April 24th Board meeting recordings released.

Long-time readers of the Observer will recognize the same tired tactics of the Abboud-o-philes: create a false controversy, then stir up resident sentiment against current leadership and against those whom they may support in the upcoming elections. Save 5 Acres! Save Horse Boarding! Ban the Bikes! Save Open Space! Save Polo!

The Plum Farms Development in Hoffman Estates was used as a major 2017 campaign issue by Trustees Paula Jacobsen and Robert Zubak, but both have been eerily silent on the issue for well over a year. As candidates, Jacobsen and Zubak were so adamant about the Village having legal standing, authority and ability to impact this development, and they vowed to be the voices to vigorously “oppose harmful development”.

Today, as it was then, they chose to remain ignorant to the simple fact that this issue was over in 2004 when Bob Abboud and former administrator Bob Kosin botched the chance to work with the landowner to come to a development compromise that would have kept the property within the village, and would have protected our community from the dangers of deannexation of the parcel into an adjacent town with an insatiable hunger for more tax dollars.

But in fact, the current administration has been working in concert with South Barrington and District 220 to slow the progress of this development.  Strange that this hasn’t been reported by any of the social media outlets managed by those folks who enjoy stirring the pot.  Accusations of inaction and mismanagement by President McLaughlin and others on the Board will be aired, but nary a word of criticism of Jacobsen or Zubak.

And speaking of Jacobsen, the more vocal of the less-than-dynamic duo, what has she personally done with regard to Plum Farms as a Trustee? Nothing.  She bemoaned the Longmeadow Parkway project as a candidate, but did she volunteer to be on the IDOT advisory board for Route 62?  Nope.

Does anyone remember the laundry list of issues that she & Zubak used as their campaign platform? We do.

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The only issue they are truly interested in is commercial horse boarding, which wasn’t in their campaign platform at all.  Strange…

And back to that lengthy list of issues — what have they accomplished from that list? Nothing. And why?  Because none of those “problems” actually existed.

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Paula Jacobsen with former trustee Fritz Gohl

However, Jacobsen, who has been absent from more than 26% of the fifteen Board Meetings held since she was elected as trustee, has had the opportunity to advocate for some other interesting issues.  As stated in our previous articles, May and June 2017 Board meeting recordings released  and July Board Meeting recordings released , she has found time to question the meeting minutes which characterized her friend’s public comments at the April 24thboard meeting as slanderous.  She has questioned why the Village couldn’t have employed a warmer and fuzzier process to inform a property owner of their violation of a cease and desist order with regard to illegal demolition of a residence and violation of the tree ordinance. It should be noted that the property owner in that case was a prominent donor to her trustee campaign.

Jacobsen has pondered the complexity of the Exterior Lighting Ordinance and wondered if it shouldn’t be revisited and revised, oblivious to the divisive history of the ordinance.  Coincidentally, her interest in lighting ordinance enforcement occurred only when another friend of hers had filed a complaint against a neighbor.

Paula has also suggested giving landmark status to historical homes in the village.  When asked to explain who would be the arbiter of this distinction and the mechanics of implementation or enforcement, she had no suggestion.

She also has given detailed reports of Arbor Day plans by the Heritage & Environs Committee at no fewer than three meetings. Let’s hear it for the oak sapling giveaway!!

And there has been advocacy for costly live video-streaming of Village Board meetings, which are only attended by a handful of the same residents each month.

It is not surprising that NONE of these issues were in the Jacobsen/Zubak campaign platform and that NONE of the issues in the platform have been pursued by the duo in any meaningful way in the past fifteen months.

And why is that? Because a quiet village operating harmoniously is not something the Abboud-o-philes can tolerate.  They must have controversy and they will create controversy were none exists. And when faced with the reality that President McLaughlin & this Administration have delivered on each and every promise they have made to the community, they pivot back to the old worn-out talking points. The village is operating better than it ever has, spending has been slashed and services are more efficient.  And that makes some embittered people very unhappy.  Change is not easy for some. And they are desperate to regain control.

So the pot stirring will continue.  With a little eye of newt and toe of frog mixed in for good measure.  Here’s hoping that this bad spell will be broken soon.

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While things have been calm at the Barrington Hills Village Hall these days, it seems as though there is trouble brewing over at the Barrington Hills Park District. It has been reported to the Observer that at last Wednesday night’s meeting of the Park District Board, board members voted unanimously to impose a facility rental fee for this year’s Barrington Honor Ride & Run (BHRR) – the annual community event that raises funds for the national organization Project Hero/Ride to Recovery Charity.  Project Hero is a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization which benefits Veterans and First Responders impacted by bodily injuries, as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI).  Project Hero’s events help these heroes rehabilitate and regain physical and mental health through cycling, and they raise funds to provide participants with customized equipment and specially modified bicycles needed due to injuries, as well as medical and psychiatric care.

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Trustee Colleen Konicek, the event organizer for the BHRR, was out of town on business, but Village President McLaughlin, Trustee Brian Cecola and Equestrian Commission member Stephanie Cecola and Veteran and former South Barrington trustee Bob Crowther appeared on Konicek’s behalf before the Barrington Hills Park District (BHParkDist)Board to inquire whether the members would consider waiving the rental fee for the 2018 event which has applied for rental of a portion of the Park District facility on August 12.  BHParkDist had previously explained that because the BHRR is not “in-district” and it charges event participants a fee, they would be charged a rental fee of $550, but they could request a waiver of the fee from the Park Board.

BHParkDist Vice President Steve Allen stated that the group was out of District, thereby necessitating a rental fee, and that the national organization had reported raising over 3 million dollars in recent filings and that they “weren’t hurting for money”.

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Dennis Kelly

BHParkDist President Dennis Kelly mentioned that the participation fee charged by BHRR as one of the many reasons he was against waiving the fee for the group.

Village President McLaughlin reminded both board members that every dollar raised and saved goes to the Vets.  Further, he stated that the total amount raised per year locally by the BHRR was around $40,000. Stephanie Cecola said it was unfathomable that a group of individuals who have given so much to protect us would NOT be given consideration to have the fee waived.  Dennis Kelly stated that every 501(c) (3) would be treated the same and that he was “watching out for the taxpayers”.

McLaughlin (who rarely appears to speak at meetings of other public bodies) requested special consideration on behalf of our veterans.  He mentioned that this event is an example of how our community can put its best foot forward by hosting and supporting our military.  He also mentioned how much positive press and feedback the village receives from hosting this event.  He further asked that if the board was so compelled to charge a fee that perhaps park district board members might consider a personal donation to offset the fee.  Only board member Jessica Underwood was open to consider that idea, but Dennis Kelly quickly shut down her inquiry and called for a vote. The Park District Board, consisting of Dennis Kelly, Steve Allen, Jessica Underwood, John Rosene and Gigi Iacovelli voted unanimously to impose the rental fee for this public facility.

Brian Cecola along with McLaughlin and Crowther have donated hundreds of volunteer hours to this event over the years, and all three were equally disgusted by the intransigent position of the board.

McLaughlin said it was just disappointing to see a group of individuals misrepresent the generous nature of the vast majority of residents in Barrington Hills for some personal undisclosed agenda. He, along with Cecola, Crowther and Konicek were considering personally covering the rental fees so that the event could continue in Barrington Hills without cost to the charity.

The Barrington Honor Ride is a great event for a great cause. Quite frankly, we don’t understand how the Park District could ever consider imposing a fee on these heroes. If you have attended the event, you will never forget the sight of these warriors who have lost limbs and suffered life-altering injuries, saluting the flag as the National Anthem is performed before the event commences.

We question the motivation of these members of the Park District Board to deny a waiver of the fee after being informed that every dollar saved goes to our vets.

This Park District receives roughly $210,000 of our tax dollars each year, and these board members are elected to represent our community. They may try to rationalize the imposition of the $550 fee as a fiscally responsible act, but keep in mind that this is the Park District that only charges private horse trainers $100 annually to use our Riding Center for conduct their personal for-profit lessons at our taxpayer funded Riding Center.  And one of those trainers happens to be Park District Board Member Jessica Underwood.

And, is it only coincidence that one of the Park District’s two paid administrative employees is Kim Keper, who happens to be the wife of BHParkDist VP Steve Allen?

Screen Shot 2018-04-13 at 3.59.16 PM Or consider board member John Rosene, who is notorious for playing fast and loose with facts when it comes to village politics. Rosene has been reprimanded by the Polo association for his inappropriate sending of political emails to the private email addresses of minors, and is no longer allowed to hold a leadership position in the polo club.

And, this same BHParkDist Board recently did away with the $70 rebate program that minimally reimbursed BH residents for a portion of out-of-district rates charged when they participated in other neighboring park districts’ programs — programs which our district doesn’t offer because of their single-minded obsession with equestrian sports.

And, this is the same Park District Board that is considering the feasibility of installing an outdoor polo arena at the Riding Center (see Minutes January 2018).  More polo!  Well, if that isn’t “watching out for the taxpayers”, we don’t know what is.

Now, with this shameful vote, this Park District has failed our vets and they have failed the taxpayers of this village. Be assured, the Observer will remind the community of this selfish action in 2019 when the next election for Park District Board is held.

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Tonight’s Board of Trustees meeting will be the first official meeting for the village’s new engineering firm, Trotter & Associates.  We look forward to seeing their approach to municipal engineering and we hope that taxpayers will benefit from lowered costs and fresh ideas.

GHAWhile researching future content for the Observer, we stumbled across some interesting correspondence regarding Barrington Hills Farm (BHFW LLC) and our village’s former engineering firm, Gewalt Hamilton.  What we found is shocking, but it certainly makes the Village’s decision last year to change engineering companies very wise indeed.

According to documents found on McHenry County’s website, in December 2015, BHFW’s Chairman J. R. Davis was applying to McHenry County to convert part of an existing wetland on the property into a recreational pond.  As a result, some mitigation of the wetlands was necessary.  The specifics of the mitigation and request for credits from the Wetland Restoration Fund are not important.

What is important is the engineering firm that BHFW had hired to create their Wetland Mitigation Plan was Gewalt Hamilton.  And not just Gewalt Hamilton, but Dan Strahan himself , who was Barrington Hills’ Village Engineer at the time, was personally involved in the project.

Strahan is cc’ed on the Gewalt Hamilton letter to McHenry County on behalf of BHFW and Strahan’s signature even appears with Davis’ signature on the Wetland Restoration Fund application as the Design Engineer.

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To be clear, this was a project undertaken by a private property owner in unincorporated McHenry County immediately adjacent to the Village, and Strahan and Gewalt Hamilton were hired by that individual.  All at the same time when Strahan and Gewalt Hamilton were also employed by the Village of Barrington Hills.

We find it shocking that Gewalt Hamilton and Dan Strahan did not decline employment by BHFW & Mr. Davis in 2015, seeing as the firm had been serving Barrington Hills for decades.  Gewalt Hamilton & Strahan were well aware of the history of the Davis property, and in all likelihood would be called up by the Village to consult on the property in the future. It would be bad enough for any engineer employed by Gewalt Hamilton to have taken this job, let alone Dan Strahan.

Not surprisingly, Strahan indeed did end up personally involved in discussions on behalf of the Village regarding new driveways and dedicated easements and right-of ways for the proposed HARPS facility on BHFW property in 2016 & 2017.  It certainly gives us pause to wonder about the quality of the service the village and taxpayers received on that assignment.

Did Strahan and Gewalt ever divulge to the Village of Barrington Hills that they had been previously employed by Davis?

How could Strahan and Gewalt maintain any impartiality when they had been paid by both the Village and Davis?

Are there other projects that Gewalt has worked on for Davis and BHFW?

Did Strahan and Gewalt ever divulge this conflict of interest while they were applying for retention as the Village’s engineering firm?

Right now, we have more questions than answers.  We’ll leave it to our readers to draw their own conclusions.  We think the documents speak for themselves.

Click on the following links to  view the complete PDFs of the documents BHFarm_Gewalt_Wetland_1 and BHFarm_Gewalt_Wetland_2.

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Four seats on the Barrington Hills Board of Trustees are up for election in the April 4, 2017 Consolidated Elections, and the Riding Club of Barrington Hills seems to be aiming for all four now that candidates have filed with the Village Clerk on Monday.

Running for the office of President are:

  • Martin J. McLaughlin* (Independent)
  • Louis Iacovelli (Riding Club)

Those running for three Trustee positions are:

  • Colleen Konicek Hannigan* (Independent)
  • Paula Jacobsen (Riding Club)
  • Elaine M. Ramesh (Riding Club)
  • Matthew P. Vondra (Independent)
  • Robert M. Zubak (Riding Club)
  • Ralph Sesso (Independent)
  • Linda H. Cools (Independent)

Incumbent Trustees Fritz Gohl and Mike Harrington are not running for re-election in April, however Gohl will be running unopposed for trustee to the Barrington Township Board of Directors.

*Incumbent

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Audio recordings from the November 17th meeting of the Board of Trustees are available on the Village website.  To access the menu of recordings, click here.

The meeting began with a public hearing regarding some minor adjustments to the 2016 Annual Appropriation Ordinance related to telephone equipment leases.  No one from the public spoke, and the board later approved the changes.

Three residents made remarks during public comment encouraging the board to continue their efforts in opposing the Longmeadow Parkway Project.

The preliminary budget for 2017 was discussed during the finance reports, and expenses are once again forecasted to be down for the third year in a row.  The recording of that discussion can be heard here.

The Building and Zoning report revealed that a run-down home on Steeplechase Road that has been the subject of board discussions dating back for many years has finally been demolished.

With regard to other ZBA matters, it was explained that the reason the board was not taking up the November 9th recommendation of the Zoning Board of Appeals regarding boarding codes was that the transcript and “finding of facts” report provided by counsel had not been prepared yet.  Since that time, a special meeting of the Village Board has been scheduled for December 7th for this purpose.

The discussion then turned to an agenda topic titled, “Unincorporated & Boundary Properties Discussion,” and the subject became clear once Trustee Konicek began to provide background on why it was included.

It seems “rumors and fear-mongering” are being spread through the community regarding a developer’s plans to build a facility for HARPS in unincorporated McHenry County adjacent to Barrington Hills.  Apparently, people are being told the Village Board had taken an opposing stance towards the facility being built or that permits have been denied.

None of this is true, of course, but apparently these rumors and more stemmed from, among other communications, a recent letter sent to the Village by the developer. Konicek asked Trustee Cecola, Dan Strahan and Bob Kosin, all of whom have met with the developer, to join in the discussion to set the record straight, as can be heard here.

We’ll see about obtaining a copy of the letter, but it’s senseless how this pettiness continues to obstruct the forward momentum for our community our Village officials have strived to generate.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Trustees is scheduled for December 19th.

 

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Friday FlashbackFollowing are some of the articles published by The Observer in November in the last few years. These articles, gathered from various publications and editorials, are noteworthy for residents in that they remind us of where we’ve been as a community.

Despite changes, horse boarding controversy continues – 2011

Embattled horse farm owners say they have been complying with the Village of Barrington Hills zoning code and its president agreed, though neighbors still insist the farm is operating illegally and should be shut down.

Benjamin and Cathleen LeCompte, owners of Oakwood Farms in Barrington Hills, and Village President Robert Abboud said the farm has changed a few operation standards, and has been in compliance with the village’s Home Occupation Zoning Ordinance since February.

Read the TribLocal article published five years ago here.

An economic proposal to control horse boarding businesses – 2011

This Monday evening, November 14, 2011, the Zoning Board of Appeals will again take up the controversial subject of large-scale commercial horse boarding in our Village.  Numerous proposals have been floated, rejected, and then floated again in recent memory.  Who knows what will come out of Village Hall after Monday’s meeting.  Here is an idea: If large horse boarding businesses are going to be allowed in our Village, at the expense of our quiet residential character, they should pay fees and taxes as businesses.

Read the original Observer editorial here.

Barrington Hills 2012 Resident Survey Results – 2012

On October 22, 2012, The Observer published the Barrington Hills 2012 Resident Survey.  Readers and subscribers participated, as did many of the more than eight hundred residents who received an invitation to take the survey via email.  By the time the survey period closed on Sunday October 28, two hundred twenty-six residents had completed the survey, and eighty-four of them chose to provide their own personal comments and insightful observations based on their years living in the Village.

Revisit the Village survey results from four years ago here.

Better safe than sorry – 2014

Last month during a special Village Board meeting, the Board of Trustees had the opportunity to ask questions of three law firms who were invited to present their qualifications to serve Barrington Hills.  Board members asked representatives of Zukowski, Rogers, Flood & McArdle their opinion on whether the Village should undertake legislation changing our Village Code related to horse boarding [Anderson II] when there is active litigation occurring between two private parties if such legislation might affect one party over the other.

David McArdle, a partner with the firm, responded, “We wouldn’t recommend that you pass a rule, pass a law, that favors one party over another.”  When asked again in a different way, he stated, “We wouldn’t recommend that.” (A link to the recording of that discussion can be accessed here).

Read more here.

Season’s first snow is Chicago’s largest November snowfall in 120 years – 2015

The season’s first snowfall dropped as much as 17 inches across Chicago’s northern suburbs, and the total of 11.2 inches at O’Hare International Airport made it the largest November snowfall in 120 years.

Read more from the Chicago Tribune here.

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On October 31st, the Board of Trustees held a special meeting to discuss a zoning enforcement matter.  The menu of recordings by agenda topic can be viewed here.

The sole agenda item for this board meeting was to discuss, and vote on, “Authorizing the Execution of a Settlement Agreement of a Zoning Enforcement Action Against Operation of a Business at 3 Saville Road.”

Records dating back as far as 2012 refer to resident complaints over a homeowner operating an HVAC business from the subject residence, ostensibly under the Home Occupation Ordinance (HOO).  The Code Enforcement Officer eventually issued a cease operation letter.  The homeowner filed an appeal with the Zoning Board of Appeals, which was denied, and eventually the Village had to file suit in court since the homeowner apparently refused to comply.

Despite the fact the business operations were eventually ceased or scaled back sufficiently to comply with Village code, a judge recommended the Village fine the resident for the period of time they were not in compliance of Village ordinances recommending a settlement fine of $25,000.

Prior to voting on this settlement, trustees bought up parallels to a similar situation that occurred with Oakwood Farms where no fines were assessed, even for the period of time Oakwood was not in compliance with Village Code.

The Village issued a cease and desist letter to Oakwood Farm after neighbor complaints, which the owner ignored, and a lawsuit was filed and won costing Barrington Hills taxpayers a purported $180,000. The law firm representing the Village at that time continues to provide their summary of the matter in a February 1, 2010 press release on their website, which can be viewed here.

Politics at that time seemed to supersede, however, and the home business operator made modifications to their operations, resulting in the issuance of a letter from the then Building Enforcement Officer, Don Shuman, on March 15th of 2011, declaring the Oakwood operation compliant with HOO (for more background, click here).

Back to the present, the five board members in attendance at the October 31st meeting voted 4-1 (Trustee Gohl voted no) to settle with the Saville Row homeowner for the amount of $25,000, which at least covered the legal expenses incurred to taxpayers.  It should be noted this appears to be the highest amount ever assessed to a homeowner in violation for a period of time of the HOO.

The question is, shall or should the owners of Oakwood Farm have been assessed fines for the period of time they were not in compliance with Village codes?  We think so.

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