Public Watchdog.org

The Golden Girl

12.03.07

Most of you probably have never heard of Linda Szczepanski.  Until recently, neither had we. 

But “Linda Ski,” as she is known in some quarters, might be one of the bigger “players” in Park Ridge politics by virtue of being the political hired-gun not only to Mayor Howard Frimark but also to two of his wing-men: Ald. Jim Allegretti (4th Ward) and Ald. Tom Carey (6th Ward).

We found out about her in researching “Hello, Kalo?” (”Kibbles and Bits,” November 26), where we questioned the wisdom of any local government body spending tax dollars on privately-owned special interests – like the City is considering doing for the Kalo Foundation, albeit at a relatively paltry $5,000.  We noted the potential for undue influence where members of such special interests have close ties to the government body from whom the funds are sought. 

Although the marquee names on the Kalo Foundation board of directors may be Vice-President Nancy Frimark, the mayor’s wife, and Secretary Sharon Curcio, the long-time executive director of the semi-secretive but now-disbanded Economic Development Corporation under several prominent chairmen (including Howard Frimark), we found it interesting that Szczepanski’s name also appeared there.

Why?  First of all, because Linda Ski is a Niles resident.  But more importantly, because she is a public relations professional and political operative who has been Mayor Frimark’s political “go to” gal since at least February 2005.  He paid her almost $28,000 during his 2005 mayoral campaign, before loaning her earlier this year to Allegretti and Carey for their aldermanic campaigns – which, in turn, paid her at least $4,000 and $4,300, respectively, for her services.

Or did they?  Actually, we’re not quite sure how much money Linda Ski got from the Allegretti and Carey campaigns because it’s not clear who was really paying her bills.  Schedule B of the “Allegretti for Alderman” D-2 campaign disclosure form [pdf] reports that Allegretti’s fund paid “LMS Political Solutions” (which stands for “Linda M. Szczepanski” and also goes by “LMS”) $4,008.05 this year; and Schedule B of the “Citizens for Carey” D-2 [pdf] shows payments totaling $3,581.29 to LMS and a payment of $709.65 to Linda Ski directly.

But while the Illinois State Board of Elections Campaign Disclosure website shows LMS [pdf] receiving five (5) separate payments in 2007 totaling over $2,300 and Linda Szczepanski [pdf] receiving six (6) separate payments totaling over $4,100, all of those payments are shown as having come from “Friends for Frimark for Mayor.”  Carey’s D-2 also reveals that “Friends for Frimark” provided $3,127.73 of the $7,025 in total contributions the Carey campaign took in.

And just to complete the circle, the “Friends for Frimark for Mayor” D-2 for 2007 [pdf] discloses those contributions to “Citizens for Carey,” shows no contributions going to “Allegretti for Alderman,” but does show a $750.36 contribution to “Friends of Robert Kristy,” the campaign fund for the Frimark ally who lost his 7th Ward aldermanic race to incumbent Frank Wsol.

One additional point of interest: Szczepanski is currently employed as Vice President of Empower Public Relations (www.empowerpublicrelations.com), the p.r. firm that just so happens to be representing Maine Twp. Trustee and Republican candidate for a 12th Judicial Subcircuit judgeship, Laura Morask.  So it looks like Linda Ski’s reach also may extend into Maine Twp. government.

What’s the bottom line on all this – other than perhaps somebody needs to be a bit more diligent with their paperwork?  Maybe it’s that if Allegretti and Carey want to be taken seriously as “independent” voices for their constituents rather than Mayor Frimark’s puppets, they have to overcome at least an inference that they owe their political souls to Frimark.  Or maybe it’s that we just need to pay a bit more attention to the “who knows whom” of Park Ridge government, and to a certain paid political propagandist with the cozy relationship to City Hall.

But one thing is certain:  If you’re looking for someone who moves in the “right” circles of the current City of Park Ridge administration to put in a good word for you or your organization, Linda Ski is somebody you should know.

9 comments so far

Whether any of this matters or not, she has been around since Brian Kidd and I ran against Howard in 2003. She was working his campaign on Election Day that April.

Looks like Linda made some decent cash from FFF in the past two years. Is she Howard’s political brain?

Dear Public Watchdog;

I am the 12th Judicial Subcirucit candidate to whom you refer and I want to make clear that I had been referred to Empower Inc. , the company that apparently you make some inferences with respect to one of their employees’ ties to certain alderman and the Mayor. I hired the FIRM without having ever any contact with any of the public officials mentioned in your blog and certainly no referral from them to Empower INC, a Chicago based company. I hired this group based on their pitch as an all inclusive PR group solely for a trial run of a month period ending 12-8-07. The agent who does my campaign work is Jayne Spottswood. I am in the process of interviewing numerous campaign managers/PR people for the next cycle and I certainly do not want to be included in any negative inference you make with respect to paperwork as The Committee to Elect Laura Morask has and always will continue to file the appropriate paperwork. I hold myself, my Committee and my volunteers to the highest of ethical standards and I do not want to be tarnished with the brush of whatever you have uncovered with respect to the past clients of this firm and their respective paperwork.
I am always available to be reached for any comments or inquiries and would appreciate if that were done prior to publishing an inference such as this. You can reach me at the email address or the Campaign website of http://www.electlaura.net Thank you for your time.
Laura J. Morask
Candidate for Judge
12th Judicial Subcircuit

I just wanted to add that your group and I share the same website designer, Dave Kaufman. Dave actually has been doing the lion’s share of the “PR” work as well and does offer that full range of services. In fact, he is one of the people I am in discussions with about taking over the entire job of Operations Manager which includes web site operation, PR work and mail services. I am sure you agree he has the most impeccably ethical standards and credentials and I am glad to see your group and Committee share those same standards and values. I aim to have Campaign vendors, and volunteers who meet these standards of conduct.
Thank you again,

Laura J. Morask

Ms. Morask,

We did not state nor suggest that you have any relationship with Howard Frimark, James Allegretti, Thomas Carey, or Robert Kristy. We simply noted the fact that your campaign is using the services of Empower Public Relations, of which Ms. Szczepanski is the vice-president. Have you not met Ms. Szczepanski, the vice-president of the FIRM you hired to provide p.r. for your campaign?

Your identification of Jayne Spottswood as the agent at Empower doing your campaign work does not, in and of itself, foreclose the existence of any personal acquaintanceship or friendship you may have with Ms. Szczepanski; or of any involvement by her in either your committee’s initial contact with Empower or in Empower’s “pitch.” Additionally, her work for the Illinois Republican Party and, more recently, for Republican state senate candidate Cheryl Axley and known Republicans Frimark, Allegretti and Carey, fairly suggests the possibility of a tie between Linda Ski and a Republican judicial candidate from the same geographical area.

Accordingly, while we appreciate your comments and concerns, we stand behind our statement.

Finally, we acknowledge that we share the same website designer and note that we have used the services of dkworld for a number of years.

No one really believes that a 20-something campaign staffer is secretly running Park Ridge and Maine Township do they? This barely worth a comment. Do they just hand out degrees at John Marshall or do you actually have to study law?

The PRU Crew found this article to be very interesting, but we didn’t come away with the idea Linda Ski is running anything, just that she’s a gal who gets around and makes money doing it.

Anonymous on 12.05.07 2:58:

We wrote that Linda Ski was a political “player,” not that she was “running” any local gov’t. You might want to try reading the article again, only slower and while moving your lips.

Who goes to John Marshall?

Just curious-referring to anonymous’ comment
on 12-3-07



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