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Archive for the ‘FOIA’ Category

PotholeWe’ve all heard the expression “Robbing Peter to pay Paul”.  It dates back to the fourteenth century and basically refers to paying one debt while incurring another.  This is essentially what has happened in Barrington Hills for nearly a decade now, until recently.

Adequate budgeting and spending for a ten-year plan of Village road repair and resurfacing represent Peter, and exorbitant legal expenses play the role of Paul, despite repeated spins about balanced budgets and flat levy’s which we’ve all heard.  Let’s address roads before looking at the legal fees which we cannot recoup.

During the August Village Board meeting, Dan Strahan, Village Engineer, presented a report showing that our Village is a year and a half behind schedule in maintaining our roads, based on a metric that was set years ago.

If you struck or swerved to avoid a pothole this winter (or still this spring or summer) you’ve seen this up close and in person.  According to the report, our Village should historically have maintained (or resurfaced) 3.2 miles of roads, per year, since the plan inception, in order to adequately maintain Village owned roads.

Strahan’s report demonstrated the planned road maintenance schedule has suffered dramatically (due to other expenses) by a cumulative backlog now of 4.8 miles since 2006, as depicted below:

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

Readers should note the entire length of County Line Rd in Barrington Hills is less than half a mile shy of the total backlog Strahan reported two months ago, after he was finally asked to report the facts.

Since a simple calculation for valid budgetary purposes year after year should have kept our Village current with road maintenance for nearly a decade, we must ask how and why such an unreasonable backlog was allowed to aggregate.  That’s where “Paul” factor enters into the equation – excessive legal spending for too many years.

Nearly two years ago, The Observer reported that Barrington Hills budgeted and spent more than Barrington and South Barrington combined in legal fees (see “Now that you mention it…”).  Now, a longtime resident has taken the time to expose where our tax dollars have gone in lieu of road maintenance since 2005.

The following graphic is taken from a document presented to our Village Board last month as it relates to only one Village law firm.  More detail based on documents uncovered via FOIA requests can also be viewed here.

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

The recent disclosure of this data confirms what many have suspected for some time.   The years of irresponsible legal spending in the last administration has put our Village in a financial bind.  We now have to find a way out.

Clearly, this was not news to some of our current and past Village Board members, since the shortfall in road maintenance was a long time in the making.  Indeed, in 2009 only 1.55 miles of roadways were addressed.

At some point, around 2012, a quick fix for the situation was hatched, in the form of outside funding in return for the resurfacing and road widening of Haegers Bend Road.  After being denied federal funding for the project from McHenry County in September 2012, the Roads & Bridges Chair, Trustee Patty Meroni, along with Village Administrator Bob Kosin & the Village Engineer had to dig still deeper to find some way to make up for the deficit.

In early 2013, they eventually developed a plan to add bike lanes to the Haegers Bend project to improve the Village’s chances of receiving a funding grant in the next application period.  Tens of thousands of dollars were spent developing new engineering plans and paying for a bike plan study to justify the project.

However, that strategy fell apart when residents got wind of the impending project plans, which would have required, at the very minimum, temporary grants of construction easements by individual property owners along the road, or at worst, the use of eminent domain to obtain those easements.  Sensing defeat in July 2014, Meroni backpedaled and withdrew the bike plan, but not before trying to place the responsibility on the McLaughlin administration.

So, here we sit today, with Haegers Bend continuing to deteriorate, requiring at least $1.2 million to reconstruct and the road maintenance schedule with a 4.79 mile backlog.  Considering the snow plowing contract with Cuba Township represents only a fraction of the $1.3 million budgeted this year for Roads and Bridges, we have a serious problem.  And why?

That’s a very good question, but neither Peter nor Paul can answer it.  Perhaps Patty can.

–     The Observer

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Our Village Hall staff have recently updated the ePacket agenda for this evening’s special Village Board meeting to include the three law firms allowed to present their capabilities for consideration by the board for Village attorneys going forward.  The firms chosen were base on input from trustees based on a majority vote.

Those firms are:

A copy of the packet can be viewed here.  The board meeting begins at 6:30 PM at Village Hall.

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The Village has posted a link to the ePacket agenda for this evening’s Village Board meeting.  That agenda can be viewed here.

The only business before the board is the discussion and possible approval of a “Procedure for Soliciting Qualifications for Office of Village Attorney.”   A copy of the document outlining that proposed procedure can be downloaded here.

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A copy of the recently posted July 28 Village Board meeting minutes can be downloaded here.

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Sometime after The Observer published a link to the ePacket agenda yesterday for Wednesday evening’s Village Board meeting, another topic for recommendation was added to the agenda under Building & Zoning.

Item 5.5 on the agenda is now “[Recommendation] ZBA Text Amendment Re: Horse Boarding.”

The updated ePacket agenda can be viewed here.

Related article: Appellate court decision sends local commercial horse boarding complaint back to lower court for further proceedings

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New VB Start TimeThe April meeting of our Village Board will take place Wednesday evening beginning at 6:30 PM, and for the first time, the ePacket agenda the board members have access to prior to meetings has now been made available in advance to residents.

These ePacket agendas include:

  • Unapproved minutes drafts from prior board meetings
  • Monthly financial reports and bills for approval
  • Monthly police reports
  • Building department activity
  • Ordinances and resolutions to be voted on
  • Administrative reports

The Observer applauds this landmark in transparency and appreciates the efforts of all who took part in making this significant enhancement to Village communications.

The April Village Board ePacket including links to document downloads can be viewed here.

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Friday FlashbackFollowing are some of the articles published by The Observer in January 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.

End of Barrington Hills light debate coming Monday? – 2011

Barrington Hills’ long-controversial outdoor lighting ordinance could be up for its final vote on Monday, but even its most ardent opponents are at peace.

Read the Daily Herald story here.

Law needed to halt FOIA abuses – 2012

FOIA, the Freedom of Information Act, is an enhancement of governmental transparency. FOIA provides access to information, including the village budget, costs, procedures, and the like. FOIAs are legitimately used by the media.

Read the original post with comments here.

Barrington Hills may host meeting on auto auction site – 2013

Because East Dundee won’t hold a fifth hearing to discuss the merits of an auto auction business coming to town, neighboring Barrington Hills, which opposes the project, wants to host a town-hall meeting on the issue.

Revisit the original post with comments here.

Longmeadow Parkway fate may go to voters – 2013

If Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen gets his way, Kane County residents may be asked whether the county should proceed with long-planned improvement of transportation on the county’s north end.

Lauzen told County Board members Wednesday he would be reluctant to support further work on the proposed Longmeadow Parkway project without a demonstration of public support for the large, regional road project.

Read the Northwest Herald story here.

–     The Observer

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Selman 15The most recent Village Newsletter was delivered at the peak of the holiday rush, just a day or two before Christmas, in mailboxes crammed with holiday cards and gifts.  As a result, many residents may have missed out on what can only be described as the most self-serving and insulting gaffe any elected official ever published in a Barrington Hills newsletter.  Trustee Selman, in her finance and 2014 budget update, buried on page 5, wrote the following:

“The 2014 Budget is lean, with a reduction in legal expenditures and over contributions to the police pension fund that combined equal a total of over $200,000.  It will work, as long as everyone behaves.”

We assume from her obtuse writing style that the $200,000 referenced represents savings to taxpayers as a result of efforts she personally had little or nothing to do with, but we’ll give her a pass on that.  As for the caveat she used regarding everyone behaving, that’s another matter.

Karen Selman is the last person on the board to preach about behavior to residents based on her own misbehavior in the last three years.  Though it’s a matter of record, we believe some of her acts of misbehavior warrant repeating.

MessMerSelIn her 2011 campaign for office, Selman accepted a $5,000 campaign donation check made out to her personally, and then donated the money to her campaign committee under her own name as though she was the contributor.  As a result of her actions and those of her fellow candidates running as “Save 5 Acres” that year, the Illinois State Board of Elections penalized their committee with a two-year probation period that ended just last October.

Upon election to the Village Board in 2011, she was ironically appointed to the position of overseeing and reporting Village finances to the board and residents.  That hasn’t worked out well either.

At numerous Village Board meetings, Selman is routinely incapable of answering some very rudimentary questions regarding bills for approval.  Her utterance of “I’ll have to get back to you on that” has become an all too frequent response.  Clearly, Selman enjoys the position, but does not do her homework before meetings, or at other times when it matters, and that’s clearly poor behavior.

Most recently, besides the newsletter gaffe, in October, Selman stood alone in voting against approving an overdue agreement with our sworn police officers after years of very costly losing litigation.  Had her peers sided with her, our Village would have continued to hemorrhage legal fees and accrue more back pay due to our police force.  More on this can be read in “Oh no she didn’t!

Based on her history, many may wonder why Selman would even discuss behavior in her newsletter message.  It’s hard to tell, but we think we have the answer.

A handful of residents exercise their lawful right, sometimes frequently, to file FOIA requests seeking answers to what occurs behind the scenes in our Village government.  Fulfillment of some of these requests becomes costly due to what many believe is unnecessary reliance on Village counsel and inefficiencies with Village Hall staff.

Regardless of the costs, Selman chose to advise thousands of residents via the newsletter to behave themselves for the sake of budgets.  This was another ill-advised, obdurate move on her part, and frankly, it was downright dumb.

Selman 09In his book Timequake, Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “If your brains were dynamite, there wouldn’t be enough to blow your hat off.”

Based on everything we know now, Selman is clearly safe to wear hats anytime she wants.  The bigger question, however, is if the ignition has already occurred, or when it will occur between now and when her term ends in fifteen months?

In the title of this editorial we asked, what was she thinking? Sadly, the answer seems to be, once again, she wasn’t thinking.

–     The Observer

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2013ReviewInPics

The Observer takes a look back at the year gone by and presents our most frequently read editorials and news stories for 2013.  Click on any title to read or revisit stories from this past year.

Editorials:

It’s morning again

In May, the Observer anticipated the swearing-in of newly elected Village President Martin McLaughlin, and presented readers with a message of healing and reconciliation.

September Board recordings released and our observations

This was our most commented story of the year, and focused on the efforts of Trustee Patty Meroni to block the Inaugural Hills are Alive Fall Heritage Festival.

Time to step aside

This editorial from August discussed the ongoing difficulties that Village Board member Karen Selman seems to have with her duties chairing the Finance Committee.

The IAA Battle: Why it was over before it began

After East Dundee approved the proposed IAA auto auction facility in July, the Observer reflected upon a multitude of reasons that Bob Abboud’s strategy was doomed to fail.

It’s all about the money

This editorial, leading up to the April Village Election, highlighted the financial issues which faced the Village, including exorbitant legal spending and high FOIA costs.

McLaughlin for Village President, Konicek Hannigan and Stieper for Trustee

This opinion piece featured The Observer’s endorsements for Village Board seats in the April 9 election. 

News Stories:

McLaughlin Looks Ahead to Barrington Hills Presidency

The day after Martin J. McLaughlin’s surprise election victory over incumbent Robert G. Abboud, the Daily Herald interviewed the President-Elect, and discussed the challenges which lay ahead.

2013 Survey Report

As was the case in 2012, the compilation of the results of this year’s annual resident survey was one of the Observer’s top five stories of the year.

Hills are Alive Heritage Festival draws big crowd

The first-ever Hills Are Alive Fall Heritage Festival drew a large crowd of over 800 residents, who enjoyed many activities at the Barrington Hills Park District Riding Center.

AG’s office reviews ex-mayor’s Barrington Hills appointments

Shortly before leaving office, and with little if any prior notice, the former Village President made over thirty nominations or renominations to nearly every Village non-elected board, commission and committee. 

Ex-Barrington Hills mayor admits talking to ComEd about auto auction plan

Former Village President Robert Abboud admitted in July that he had contacted ComEd president and CEO Anne Pramaggiore and had urged her to deny Insurance Auto Auctions’ request to allow access to their East Dundee business using a ComEd easement.


2014 New Year

Once again, we at The Observer would like to express our heartfelt thanks to our readers and subscribers.  We wish you all           

Happy New Year!

–     The Observer

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Illinois residents have the benefit of new laws aimed at opening up more government records — and when they don’t get the information they want, they’re raising a stink about it.

Appeals to the Illinois attorney general’s office for denied Freedom of Information Act requests jumped 22 percent last year. Most of those came from members of the public.

Read more here.

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