New Cop Shop Still Flying Under The Radar


With a variety of other matters vying for the local spotlight, one thing that has pretty much escaped recent notice is the City’s ongoing quest for a big new police station.  Which is why you might have missed the small story on Page 4 of last week’s Herald-Advocate titled “Napleton’s Busse site is still on table for possible police station” (July 31, 2008).

As reported there, the City Council met in…you guessed it…yet another “closed session” on July 21 to discuss the acquisition of the former Napleton auto dealership property at 501 Busse Highway as the site of the new cop shop. 

Napleton is turning out to be Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark’s most favored campaign contributor, with the mayor trying a variety of ways to put taxpayer money in owner Bill Napleton’s pocket ever since the windfall $2.4 million tax and environmental clean-up deal (on which Frimark himself cast the tie-breaking vote) fell through because the Napleton dealerships closed.  Even after the closure nuked the clean-up contract, Frimark still pressed for Napleton to get the $400,000.

And just last week Bill Napleton himself shamelessly warned the neighbors of his former Cadillac dealership who want residential redevelopment of that site that commercial redevelopment could occur unless they asked the City to “assist” in – as in “provide cash to” – the residential redevelopment of that property. 

We can only hope that those neighbors are sharp enough to see Napleton’s appeal for what it was: Just another ploy by a greedy carpetbagger to wheedle more corporate welfare from compliant public officials and gullible taxpayers.  And the same goes for his attempts to sell his Busse Highway property to the City for a new cop shop, which remains high on his “to do” list.  And apparently high on Mayor Frimark’s list as well.

The only way we ordinary citizens even found out about this most recent closed session push to buy Napleton’s property is, not surprisingly, because 1st Ward Alderman Dave Schmidt once again did the right thing – and the perfectly legal thing – by first voting against the closed session and then letting the press know what went on during it.

We’re not quite sure whether we are more impressed with Schmidt’s honesty and integrity, or more depressed that not even one other member of the City Council seems capable of matching it – or even understanding it.  The eagerness with which they retreat into closed session suggests that Ald. DiPietro (2nd), Bach (3rd), Allegretti (4th), Ryan (5th), Carey (6th) and Wsol (7th) might prefer meeting exclusively in closed session, outside of the press’s and the public’s scrutiny.

Schmidt, alone, correctly pointed out that discussing sites for a new police station before the Council has made a final decision on how big a station it wants to build and how it’s going to afford it – without letting our basic infrastructure and city services erode even further, or raising taxes even higher – is putting the cart before the horse.  We heartily agree.

In just the past four years the City – without having a firm plan for the size, shape, kind and cost of the station it expects to build – has actively pursued the acquisition of 515 Busse (the Owen Hayes II fiasco), the parking lots bordering the AT&T building, 720 Garden, 164 South Prospect (School Dist. 64 headquarters), and now Napleton’s Busse property, to name just the ones we know about.  And that doesn’t include 229 S. Courtland, which the City actually bought in 2006 for approximately $660,000 and continues to hold for no apparent reason. 

As we’ve said many times before, the current police station definitely needs an overhaul but it doesn’t need the additional 30,000 square feet that the hired-gun consultants recommended just because that’s what they were hired to do.  By every objective measure we can find, the current station is still getting the job done, which probably is best explained by the late, great Vince Lombardi: “The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.”  In this case, that’s the police officers and support staff.

But, of course, if you’re trying to cut a sweetheart deal with a connected landowner, you sure don’t want to wait for cop shop plans and specs, or a proposed budget to get resolved.  After all, a big new cop shop pretty much ensures that not only is there land to be bought, but there are consultant, architect, engineer and construction contracts to give out.  And bond financing to obtain.  There’s probably even some insurance and performance bond coverage to be procured. 

And those are some of the things that Mayor Frimark loves best about being mayor.

18 comments so far

Thank you very much Watchdogs! You are so right, everyone is watching what happens with the more active topics. That leaves other things to “fly under the radar” as you put it.

Thank you for watching out for other issues and for the people of Park Ridge!

How legal are these closed door sessions. The public as a right to know what our elected officials are planning. What are the legal boundaries in these closed door sessions? Is it fair that we have to wait six months or more to see the minutes released from these sessions? six months is too late!

What are the chances that the city would put any decision on a new police station to referendum?

Ms. Dietsch:

Unless a participant in those “closed sessions” is willing to report on what was discussed or file a complaint with the Ill. Atty. General for a violation of the Open Meetings Act, we never get to know whether what they did in closed session is legal or not because we don’t get to know what they did. That’s the twisted nature of the process.

And there is no obligation for them to release any closed session minutes to the public. Ever. Even though every single alderman, and even Mayor Frimark himself, has the legal right to report on everything that takes place in those closed sessions, assuming they want to. But of course they don’t, because it’s easier to govern in secret – without that pesky public or press to deal with.

Ask most of these alderpuppets why they run into closed session and you’ll get a variation on the punch line of an old and ribald joke about a male dog and his private parts:
“Because we can.”

Think “Star Chamber.”

Didn’t Alderman Schmidt get reprimanded by Howard for leaking closed door session activities? Was it not his right to talk about what was discussed in the meeting?

Closed session meeting are required to be tape recorded and the recordings are to be kept a minimum of 18 months. See the fact sheet below from the Attorney General’s web site. If the council voted to release the recordings, we could all find out what was said that required secrecy. So here are the rules:

FACT: Audio or video recording are required for all closed meetings

Section 2.06 of the Open Meetings Act (5 ILCS 120/2.06) currently requires that public bodies keep written minutes of all of their closed meetings. Effective January 1, 2004, Public Act 93-523 replaces this requirement with a requirement that public bodies keep a verbatim record of all their closed meetings in the form of an audio or video recording. As explained below, however, the tapes may not be destroyed unless minutes are approved.

FACT: This rule applies to all public bodies

The requirement to record all closed meetings applies to all public bodies. Thus, it applies not only to governing boards such as city councils, county boards, and boards of township trustees, but to all committees, subcommittees and other subsidiary bodies that are themselves subject to the Open Meetings Act.

FACT: Recordings are confidential unless the public body or a court determines otherwise

The verbatim recording of a closed meeting shall not be open for public inspection or subject to discovery unless:

• the public body determines that the recording no longer requires confidential treatment or otherwise consents to disclosure

• a court in a civil proceeding, after an in camera examination, determines that the meeting was unlawful and that all or portions of the recording must be made publicly available

• a court in a criminal proceeding, after an in camera examination, determines that certain portions of the recording should be made available to the parties for use as evidence in the prosecution.

FACT: Each recording of a closed meeting must be kept a minimum of 18 months

Although recordings may be destroyed after 18 months without the permission of the appropriate records commission, no recording may be destroyed unless the public body:

• approves destruction of the particular recording and

• approves minutes of the closed meeting, which minutes shall include, but need not be limited to:

• the date, time and place of the meeting

• the members of the public body recorded as present or absent

• a summary of discussion on all matters proposed, deliberated, or decided, and a record of any votes taken


1. Unless you intend to keep the recordings permanently, keep good minutes of closed meetings and have them approved on an ongoing basis.

2. Make sure the recording is labeled and includes a statement of the date, place, and times of beginning and ending of the closed session, and of the identity of those present. It may also be useful to include a statement of the purpose and basis for the meeting.

3. Procure recording equipment of good enough quality to make clear recordings of all meeting participants.

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Thank you, Mr. Baldi.

We concur that those are all “facts” about closed sessions under IOMA, all of which you presumably knew when you were on the Council and consistently voting to go into closed sessions over the objections of at least one of your council peers.

Did you ever vote to release closed session tapes or minutes to the public?

So now all the City Council needs to do is release either the tapes or the minutes (preferably not minutes that have been sanitized for our protection by City Clerk Betty Henneman or Deputy City Clerk Cheryl Peterson, as they tend to with the public City Council minutes).

With all due respect, we suggest that neither you nor any other of our readers hold their breath waiting for the Council to take any of these actions.

We did review closed session minutes on a periodic basis and vote to release minutes of those meetings when the purpose of the closed session was no longer an issue. I would think that closed session minutes regarding real estate transactions could be released once the property is purchased by the City at a minimum.

I may have voted against a closed session although I do not recall which one. There are reasons to have closed sessions and I believe my colleagues on the council tried to insure that we stayed within those exceptions. Remember, though, that no action can be taken in closed session. If Council action is required, the council has to go back to open session to pass any resolutions. So as soon as the council has decided what it is going to do on a closed session item, it is no longer a closed session item.

There are reasons to have closed sessions…

such as?

Hi Joe, I understand what you are saying, but here is the problem with that logic. You are correct that no action can be taken in closed session. But you also highlighted why that provides no comfort to the residents. ALL of the most important discussions can and usually do take place in closed session. Then the Council goes into open session and acts on the matter frequently without any discussion. The public has no idea what the basis for the decision was, except what is spoon-fed to it by the mayor and the aldermen. It just happens, and then the politicians say that the secrecy was for our own benefit. Hogwash.


The problem I always had with real estate matters was that the City could not negotiate at arms length unless they could initially authorize the City Manager to negotiate within a range that was not a matter of public record. Once Napleton knows we are interested and at what price, do you think he will take less because Mr. Hock makes an initial offer at the low end of his authority?

The same was true for litigation when we had Chuck suing us. We could not effectively negotiate a settlement if we had to state what our position and offer range were in advance.

Personnel decisions on individuals can also be better left to closed session. And for all those who criticize closed sessions, I can only comment that they usually so as anonymous bloggers. If they get protection for their privacy, shouldn’t city personnel have the same?

Anyways, back to Napleton. I also think it is a terrible idea to buy that site. It is a premier commercial site at one of the busiest corners in Park Ridge and you want to take it off the tax rolls? Talk about short term gain for the insiders and long term pain for the taxpayers. We have a perfectly good site (or as good as this one) at the old public works garage, which we can take back on I believe 6 months notice. We could squeeze a police station on the City Hall site if we use the vacant house we bought a few years ago. Even the parking lot across the street from the dealership would be preferable and it is right next to the public works garage. That site, though, gets into the chicken/egg debate of how big the station must be and where it will fit. That can and should be discussed in open session and should be decided first, as you have pointed out on many occasions. I suppose you are having a hard time getting your fellow aldermen to have that debate.

Finally, perhaps you could make a motion to release the tape recordings of meeting involving real estate for properties that have not been bought. Seems they don’t need protection anymore since those properties are not being pursued. The motion may also generate debate on when and how that information is made available to the public. Good luck.

Hi Joe-
I understand the need for closed sessions in limited situations involving ongoing litigation or personnel matters. Real estate purchases are a different story. In this case, if Napleton wants to hold up the City for more than the market value of the property, the City can exercise its right of eminent domain. While I personally am not a big fan of eminent domain, it is a tool at the City’s disposal. However, I am glad you seem to agree with me that discussions about where, how big and how much to spend on a police facility should be conducted in open session. My point all along has been that those discussions should be held, and the decisions made, BEFORE we talk about buying any piece of property.

Mr. Baldi:

We have done a random check of some old meeting minutes and cannot find one instance in which you either voted against going into closed session or voted to release closed session minutes. So unless you’re blowing smoke, please provide some credible evidence for your claims.

Similarly, your belief that you and your colleagues “stayed within those [permissible closed session] exceptions” to IOMA does us no good, either, because there’s no proof for that. And frankly it is expecting a lot from us to trust you on this when you seem to be such an ardent supporter of closed sessions – it’s like trusting an alcoholic when he tells you he was in a tavern but didn’t imbibe.

Your bias toward closed session and keeping secrets from the voters/residents is further displayed by your attempt at justifying closed sessions for city personnel decisions by comparing city employees’ privacy with that of anonymous bloggers. That is simply, in a word, ridiculous. City employees aren’t entitled to the same anonymity as bloggers because city employees are paid by the taxpayers and, therefore, must be accountable to those taxpayers. While there are times when sensitive matters might argue for some degree of privacy, the very fact that the Open Meetings Act does not REQUIRE a closed session for ANY discussion or matter means that the law of Illinois does not consider there to be a RIGHT to “privacy” for any person or any matter that comes before a public body.

But as a member of the “Culture of Secrecy” when you were on the Council and a defender of it to this day, you provided pretty much what we expected.

As for the Council releasing the audiotapes of closed session discussions about the City’s abandoned real estate acquisitions, we think that request would sound great coming from a former alderman and Mayor Frimark ally like yourself. When can we expect to see you at City Hall making that request?

I don’t know why I feel compelled to respond to your arrogant pontifications about what former city officials did or did not do. I always have a hard time with this blog since I don’t really know who is behind it. Some people involved with CRG were also on the council with me, and if they are part of the editorial process at this blog, then your random check is pretty lame. You can check with Crampton, Anderson, Wsol, Cox, Markesh and Rademacher who were all present and voted with me to release minutes of closed sessions of both the finance committee and the council. Similarily, you could talk with Crampton, Wsol, Anderson, Cox and Jim Rademacher and they would tell you that there were times when the discussion strayed off the topic of the closed session and we then terminated the closed session. I don’t know if you trust them any more than you trust anyone else. If you trust but verify, does that mean you have to confirm it from more than one source? Just curious.

I also like your use of perjorative labels and generalizations. I am obviously have voted to go into closed session so you could say that I was in favor of them for some purposes. I am not in favor of them for other purposes. If you think that makes me part of the Culture of Secrecy, so be it. Seems Ald Dave has on some occasions voted to go into closed session and he “recognizes the need for closed sessions for some purposes” so that would also make him a part of your so called “Culture”. Just goes to show how good those generalizations of yours hold up. It can be hard to view the world as black and white, without the grays infringing on occasion.

I also don’t know what you don’t get about my “support” for Frimark. Let me make it clear. I would work long and hard for anyone who runs against him. He has turned out to be disaster as a mayor, being devious, divisive and vindictive. I had much more in common with Mark Anderson and Jeff Cox than with Howard. On several occasions I have talked to him and told him I don’t agree with his positions or his methods. But you, prone to labels and generalizations, continue to label me as a “Frimark ally”. Your statement couldn’t be farther from the truth. But then I suppose you feel you need proof of that. When you or whoever find an opponent who will run against Howard, call me and I will send them a check for their campaign fund. Maybe you should run, whoever you are (unless you are Chuck B, in which case the financial support is not available. Some things are worse than Howard).

Mr. Baldi:

Don’t blame us for any obsessive/compulsive disorder you may suffer from.

The only “arrogant pontifications” seem to be yours about closed sessions and how you view them. You make claims about what you did on the Council but provide no support for those claims, then criticize us for not finding that support for you – and then tell us to ask your former Council colleagues to corroborate your alibis.

You made those claims, not any of those other people. If you feel the need to defend yourself, you can go talk to them and see if they can provide you with the factual support of your own conduct you seem to lack.

And when it comes to “trust” about whether a wrong (i.e., a violation of the IOMA) was committed, we just can’t put a lot of stock in what people who may well have been your co-perpetrators would say about it. Of course, the questions might be answered if we could check those closed session minutes. But because you and your compadres chose to hide in closed session and then not release the minutes, no can do. Can you say “Catch 22”?

Dissemble all you wish, Mr. Baldi, but until you can direct us specifically to any of YOUR votes NOT to go into closed session, your assertion that you are not in favor of closed sessions “for other purposes” is more smoke, with or without the mirrors.

As for your attempt to avoid accountability by questioning whether Ald. Schmidt belongs to the “Culture of Secrecy” because he, too, has voted to go into closed session on occasion, nice try but that dog don’t hunt. While Ald. Schmidt has voted to go into closed session on occasion, he has been (as best as we can tell) the ONLY member of the current City Council to vote against going into closed session, as well as the only one to make public what went on in closed sessions – something which is perfectly legal to do under IOMA, but which you consistently chose not to do.

So riddle us this, Mr. Baldi: Did you ever vote against going into closed session, or publicly disclose what transpired there? Or do you want us to consult with Crampton, et al. to find that out for you?

Finally, as to your protestations about your dislike for the mayor and your willingness to write a check to his challenger, we guess that it’s always possible you have had an “epiphany” since you enjoyed Frimark’s favor in your race against Bruce Gilpin in 2005; or since you voted so consistently for what the mayor wanted while you were on the Council.

Coincidentally, your aldermanic successor, Frimark Alderpuppet Robert Ryan, recently displayed what may be an epiphany of his own when he acted like he was actually listening to his constituents about their opposition to a CenTrust Bank or a CVS Pharmacy on the Napleton Cadillac site, as we noted in last Friday’s post. Considering that Ryan was your campaign chairman, we have to ask: Did you guys get a “two-fer” on epiphanies?

If so, we would recommend that you try for a “three-fer” – and include your former campaign treasurer, Owen Hayes, so that he might finally figure out what’s wrong with secret land deals with the City involving our tax dollars.

But in conclusion, we do agree with you on one thing: Your assessment that Mayor Frimark “has turned out to be disaster as a mayor, being devious, divisive and vindictive.” Even if it took an epiphany for you to figure that out, better late than never.

You really are more intent on ripping me than finding facts. For your information, there are three sets of closed session minutes posted on the Park Ridge web site under “closed session minutes” They were releases pursuant to a resolution adopted by the council on 9/5/06 which I voted for. On March 20, 2006 the City Manager requested we go into closed session to discuss litigation related to the proposed LaSalle Bank guarantee. After some debate, that request was defeated. I voted against the motion to go into closed session. If you need anything further, you will have to do the work yourself. I don’t owe you any further explanation of my actions. If you also check, you will find that during my term a good many of the motions to go to closed session were approved 14-0, including the votes of Markesh and Crampton, who were opponents of closed sessions unless justified. Several of those minutes are also posted, see the minutes for December 2005 through March 2006.

Now maybe you will get back to the issue, which is whether we should buy property for a police station, how much we should spend and how much we should spend building the station.


You are a real piece of work.

First of all, you are the one who turned the discussion away from the police station with your “FACTs” about IOMA. And then you don’t even accurately recount what it is you were doing on the Council when you were doing it. Amazing!

That March 20, 2006 vote you cast against going into closed session (is that the only “no” vote of that kind you ever cast?) was likely not because you opposed the closed session as a matter of principle but because the Illinois Attorney General’s office warned the council against going into closed session on that particular matter, based on a complaint the AG received from an alderman other than yourself.

And contrary to your contention, that closed session was not proposed to “discuss litigation related to the proposed LaSalle Bank guarantee” but, instead, to discuss whether to give LaSalle a THIRD guarantee on its loan to PRC developers, as the City Attorney acknowledged when questioned by the Ill. Attorney General’s Access Counselor, Terry Muchler. Worse yet, the closed session agenda item was falsely listed as: (2) “The setting of a price for sale or lease of property owned by the public body” 5 ILCS 120/2(c)(6) by then-City Mgr. Tim Schuenke.

Admittedly, many of the votes to go into closed session during our term on the Council were unanimous. But I do not recall you ever being one of the “no” votes when such actions were not unanimous. Did I miss some?

That you end your comment with “Now maybe you will get back to the issue, which is whether we should buy property for a police station, how much we should spend and how much we should spend building the station” is hilarious, given how little you have to actually say about that topic. Oh, that’s right, you don’t “owe anybody an explanation of your actions”…such as your vote to approve a $20 million dollar “action plan” to build a new police station.

Or is that another one of those things you can’t seem to recall yourself doing?

Mr. Baldi:

Either stop whining or find a more “sensitive” site.  We’re not “ripping” you, just your performance as an alderman and your lame attempts at avoiding accountability for them. 

We looked at those three sets of closed session minutes to which you refer and can’t help but wonder if you all weren’t guilty of IOMA violations for what was discussed in all three of those closed sessions.

For example, on 2/20/06 the Council discussed purchasing 229 S. Courtland even though it had no specific purpose in mind for buying it, as evidenced by the query in the minutes: “Should this residence be purchased with a new police station in mind?” The horse goes before the cart, Mr. Baldi, which is why that question should have been answered BEFORE you voted to go into closed session.

Worse yet, the City had a right of first refusal on that property, so you should not even have been talking about purchasing it until the owner had a firm offer from another buyer that the City could match. But from the looks of things, we have to wonder whether you folks got snookered into paying asking price instead of market price for that parcel, which continues to sit idle and has almost certainly depreciated. Who do you want to blame for that boneheaded deal?

And the closed session minutes of 4/17/06 and 6/19/06 are filled with policy discussions related to the process and procedures for employee evaluations, which are clearly not proper closed session topics despite what fill-in City Attorney Kathy Henn might have opined…something you (or Ms. Henn) would have been told had you checked with the Ill. Atty. General’s IOMA compliance office.

And just so you know, the minutes of that 9/5/06 meeting at which the Council voted to release these three sets of closed session minutes provides no evidence that you voted to release them – because it reports a voice vote rather than roll call, with no indication of who said “Yea” or that the vote was unanimous.

So even the City’s “open” meetings appear to have their little secrets.

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