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Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

Federal and local officials have gotten thousands of fraud complaints. Stimulus checks will create another tidal wave of fraud, authorities warn.

As opportunists and scam artists look to make a quick buck off the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of Chicagoans are inundating City Hall with complaints: $80 toilet paper, $50 hand sanitizer bottles and $15 jugs of vinegar.

And while price gouging is the most prevalent complaint, experts are sounding the alarm on bogus cures, fake deals on protective gear and con artists posing as government officials.

“This is the worst I’ve seen, and I’ve been doing this for 32 years,” said Steve Bernas, CEO of Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois. “I’ve never seen a calamity that would affect so many.”

Through Monday, the Federal Trade Commission fielded more than 540 fraud complaints related to the outbreak in Illinois, according to the agency. The Illinois attorney general’s office has reported handling almost 1,300 price-gouging reports.

And in Chicago, city officials have issued two civil citations for price gouging out of more than 400 complaints filed in March through mid-April, according to a spokesman for the city’s business affairs department. In 2019, there were only two complaints of price gouging the entire year, he said.

Read more from the Better Government Association here.

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The Barrington Hills Bulletin Board claims to be, “AN ALTERNATE RESOURCE OUTLET FOR LOCAL BARRINGTON HILLS RESIDENTS TO READ, COMMENT AND REACT TO NEWS AND TOPICS WITH THE INTENT TO EDUCATE, PROVIDE AWARENESS, TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY TO RESIDENTS IN A UNCENSORED FORMAT.”

The Barrington Hills Bulletin Board posts fabrications, typo-ridden incoherent ramblings and now offers a new feature to their minimally followed blog; censorship of comments that are posted on Facebook (“…some comments may have been filtered out”).

As for the offensive comment that was, “filtered out”?

“Paragraphs and proper grammar and punctuation would be nice.”

So much for transparency.

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A flyer advertising the rental home at 346 Old Sutton Road in Barrington Hills is pictured March 10, 2020 outside the business where Cook County treasurer’s office records show the property’s tax bills are sent. The home became a crime scene after a Chicago man was shot and killed there March 7.(Pioneer Press / Pioneer Press)

Less than two weeks before a Chicago man was shot and killed at an Airbnb rental home in Barrington Hills, village officials discussed at a meeting the issue of short-term rentals.

Village officials discussed the issue at the Feb. 24 Village Board meeting, according to an audio recording of the meeting.

They mentioned nearby Lake Barrington’s decision a few years back to ban short-term rental after an early-morning shooting in April 2016 that left two people injured.

Ultimately, the Barrington Hills Village Board decided to wait for more information and research on what other communities have done.

According to village attorney Mary Dickson, the village code does not explicitly address short-term rentals, but it says that property in the residential district is only allowed for residential use, not commercial use. She said the fact that the owner did not live in the house and was only going to use it as a rental violates the code.

Dickson said the property owners were made aware of this violation prior to March 6.

Read more from the Chicago Tribune here.

Related:NEW! Solitude Ranch w/Indoor Pool, Event Friendly! $599 per night

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Cook County Democratic State’s Attorney candidates, from left, Bill Conway, Bob Fioretti, Donna More and incumbent Kim Foxx meet with the Sun-Times Editorial Board in early February. (Rich Hein/Sun-Times)

On March 17, Democratic primary voters in Illinois can choose between Kim Foxx, Bill Conway, Donna More and Bob Fioretti for Cook County State’s Attorney. The winner will be the Democratic Party’s nominee for the general election Nov. 3.

The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues. Here are their responses:

The civil division of the U.S. attorney’s office collects judgments that return to taxpayers three times more money than the budget of the office. The Cook County state’s attorney’s civil division recovers far less money. Why is that? What would you do about it?

Bill Conway: In her first year alone, our current State’s Attorney approved nearly $80 million in property tax appeals, millions of which went to clients of her donors and allies. That money doesn’t just come out of nowhere — it’s drained from local governments. When she approved nearly $2 million in refunds to Ed Burke’s client, more than half came out of the budget for Barrington schools. I am open to evaluating the finances of our civil division, but first we need to stop funneling taxpayer dollars to the politically connected.

Read the entire Chicago Sun-Times question and answer session here.

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Barrington Area Unit District 220 will seek voter approval next month to borrow $147 million for building projects, including safety and security upgrades at all its schools.

Regardless of the outcome of the March 17 referendum vote, district residents will see a reduction in their property tax bills. How much depends on voters.

Former school board President Brian Battle said the decision to pare the proposed borrowing by $38 million shows officials listened to voters.

Battle, now part of a residents’ group called Yes for Barrington 220’s Future, said the timing is right to support the request. That’s in part because of historically low interest rates.

However, some like Barrington resident Willard “Bill” Bishop are questioning the district’s request, saying that after extensive study, he’s concluded too little annual spending on building maintenance has led to the $147 million proposal.

Over the years, Bishop contends, the school board elected to “fully support spending on personnel in each year’s budget” while not devoting enough to facility maintenance.

Read more here.

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Just after returning to his Chicago home, Rod Blagojevich peeks from his window early Feb. 19, 2020. President Trump commuted his sentence on Tuesday. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)

With 20 minutes to spare, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich landed in Chicago the same day his 14-year prison sentence was commuted by President Donald Trump, warmly welcoming other people at O’Hare International Airport who approached with hand waves and autograph requests.

Repeating the phrase, “There’s no place like home,” Blagojevich stepped off the jetway bridge and thanked Trump.

“I’m profoundly grateful to President Trump, and I will be for as long as I live,” Blagojevich told reporters. “He didn’t have to do this. He’s a Republican president. I was a Democratic governor. But he’s a man who’s not only tough and outspoken, strong, but he has a kind heart. And I’ll be forever grateful.”

The abrupt journey home began when the president announced Tuesday the notorious Chicago Democrat would be freed from federal prison following years of imploring from Blagojevich and his wife. Now 63, Blagojevich was scheduled to be released in March 2024 after being convicted of trying to sell former President Barack Obama’s Senate seat as well as shaking down the executives of a children’s hospital and the horse-racing industry for campaign contributions.

Read more here (if you can stomach more).

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Illinois’ 4th congressional district was named one of the nation’s most gerrymandered by the Washington Post in 2014. (Wikipedia/Flickr photo. Illustration by Ben Orner.)

Lawmakers want Fair Maps Amendment on November ballot

SPRINGFIELD — A bipartisan coalition of state lawmakers and advocacy groups announced an effort in both chambers Thursday to overhaul the way Illinois’ legislative districts are drawn.

Legislators from Chicago, its suburbs and downstate are backing a state constitutional amendment — twin measures in the Senate and House — shifting district mapmaking power from politicians to a 17-person commission whose members would be representative of state demographics.

In three news events across Illinois on Thursday, backers of the plan said the measure they call the “Fair Maps Amendment,” more than any of the other redistricting reform proposals, is “comprehensive,” “equitable, transparent, representative, and provides meaningful participation.”

The amendment is backed by the same group that attempted to reform the redistricting process in the past three elections, CHANGE Illinois — the Coalition for Honest and New Government Ethics.

“As a sprawling federal corruption investigation continues, we should start to end corruption by ending gerrymandering where it begins when maps are drawn,” Madeleine Doubek, the group’s executive director, said. “Politicians picking their voters clearly is the epitome of a conflict of interest.”

Read more from Capitol News Illinois here.

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The Barrington 220 school board has scheduled five community “information” meetings and three open houses in coming weeks to inform the community about the school district referendum question on the March 17 primary election ballot. 

The district is seeking voter approval to borrow $147 million for improvements at all schools in areas such as safety and security, plumbing, electrical, roofing and heating, ventilation and air conditioning. Proposed work also includes construction of a physical education and wellness center at Barrington High School, additional classrooms at the district’s two middle schools, and new classroom space at all elementary buildings for science, technology, engineering and mathematics classes, as well as students with special needs.

The community information meetings are scheduled for:

Open houses are set for:

We will be publishing copies of their draft presentations when they become available once the paid consultants (seeDistrict 220 hires former state lawmaker’s firm to help with referendum”) finish honing their spin. 

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Paula Jacobsen

The latest Village newsletter came out recently, and it mentions the results of the latest Village annual audit among other things. The sound financial position of our Village is noted, but what is absent of any narrative is how earlier this year, first term trustee Paula Jacobsen caused a potentially damaging accusation that caused the auditor to investigate that accusation.

One question Jacobson was asked to answer during the audit was:

“In your opinion, are there any areas of operation of the Village that do not receive enough oversight of management or board, or any particular weaknesses in internal controls?” 

Jacobsen checked off “Yes.” As a Trustee, she could have taken the opportunity beforehand to gather specific information and to offer a detailed explanation or perhaps even actual facts, but instead submitted her vague audit questionnaire on March 17, 2019 (perhaps hoping to disrupt the April 2 election?).

Jacobson had a wealth of resources at her disposal for weeks before if she had any questions whatsoever on completing her forms from the audit firm. She could have easily gathered information from the Village Treasurer, Director of Administration, Clerk or even the Trustee assigned to Finance, but she did not avail herself of those ample opportunities according to recordings. She could have provided an answer to the question she was asked instead of repeating an anonymous rumor told to her by some residents.

Instead, when asked why she answered “Yes” to the audit question, her initial answer was:

“While I don’t know that it is considered fraud, but some residents have claimed that contracts are being given to certain members of family of the Board, however, that is not evidence of guilt. I don’t know that we have a clear process to evaluate this if in fact this is happening.   I’m not aware of any contract awarded to a Board member.” 

The first thought that came to our minds upon hearing this was that of an immature four-year-old who answers the question “why did you eat those cookies?” with, “Someone said I could.”

Though asked repeatedly, Jacobson would not, or more probably could not offer any specificity to her unsubstantiated allegation, and at times her answers to Trustees questions on her inexplicable answer changed from one minute or meeting month to another.

For example, before the auditor was asked to read back her answer to the question in the presence of the Board, Jacobsen denied checking the “Yes” box repeatedly. She also denied making any claim or charge of process or fraud issues, and she only began to recant her statements once the village president asked the auditor to read them into the record.

Jacobson also stated on more than one occasion that she understood that her responses to all audit questions were private and would be kept anonymous.   Those wishing to listen to the recording of this exchange can do so by clicking here.

She followed up at the June Board of Trustees meeting by reading a written statement that actually reversed her position in May. She stated she believes that fraud and processes have been violated at the Village, and further she made a secondary allegation that the auditing firm was not independent thereby impugning the reputation of the village treasurer, the independent auditor and the finance chairman Mr. Croll and the Village board.

If this sounds pathetic, it is, and it goes on (and on). Rather than continue with what is basically transcribing her lunacy from recordings, we have a better solution for all involved.

The solution to this problem will be for the village to spend further taxpayer dollars to “investigate” the rumor that someone repeated to Jacobson, and then hopefully follow that by providing educational information to Jacobson on the importance and serious nature of the annual financial audit so that in the future she may confidently answer the audit questionnaire with facts instead of vague, unfounded rumor.

-The Observer

Related: Flip, Flop: What changed your minds Trustees Messer, Meroni, and Selman?  (August 30, 2011)

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With spots already awarded to the first wave of nearly 60 applicants, Barrington is continuing to sell newly created “premium” parking spaces located closest to the village’s Metra station.

Applications became available in late May for the premium commuter parking permit that will cost $1,200 a year per space. The reserved parking program will start Oct. 1.

“Fifty-nine spots are now sold, and all original applicants have been assigned their zones and their particular spot in that zone through a lottery system,” said Patty Dowd Schmitz, Barrington’s director of communications, marketing and events. “We are continuing to sell spots as they come in, assigning them on a first-come, first-served basis.”

Barrington also is offering commuters an opportunity for a discount from the daily rate starting Oct. 1, with a prepaid quarterly permit for a first-come, first-serve space for $200, or $800 a year. Also on Oct. 1, the daily fee will rise 50 cents to $3.50.

Read more here.

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