Are They Lies, Or Is It Memorex?


Early in this past Monday night’s City Council meeting, two Park Ridge children walked to the podium in the “well” of the City Council chambers and successfully implored Mayor Dave Schmidt to restore an hour of trick-or-treating that had mistakenly been cut by executive order.

The kids addressed the mayor with a childlike earnestness that more than made up for their amateurish “legal” arguments. 

Moments later, prominent local attorney Jack “Mr. Insider” Owens strode to that same podium to make his professional legal arguments, with far less childlike earnestness, in defense of former Park Ridge mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark, who may have engaged in unethical conduct as an insurance agent for the Uptown mixed-use development, in violation of Section 2-5-3 of the City’s ethics ordinance.

According to Owens – as captured on videotape, courtesy of residents George Kirkland and Charles Melidosian (using the videocamera donated by Mayor Dave Schmidt from his mayoral salary) – Frimark had no idea that the City had any role in the insurance of the Uptown development when he intially bound the coverage several weeks ago.  To hear Owens tell it, Frimark was like Inspector Renault in “Casablanca” – except that instead of being “shocked” to discover that gambling was going on in Rick’s Café, Frimark was surprised to find out that the City had a stake in the Uptown development that made it an additional insured under the policy that he had bound for the developer, PRC Partners, and the Uptown Condominium Homeowners Association. 

But as Owens later admitted, even after Frimark found out about the City’s role, he went ahead and also bound the City to the insurance coverage. 

Trick and treat!

The “treat,” of course, is for Frimark, who wants to pocket the commission on what we understand to be over $42,000 of total insurance premiums on this deal that he is “absolutely prohibited” from doing under the ethics ordinance.  The “trick” – or at least one of them – was Owens’ effort to soft-peddle Frimark’s gain on the deal by pointing out that his commission on the City’s portion of the premium was a measly $365. 

Exactly what will happen in this continuing saga is anybody’s guess. 

Under one scenario, the City Attorney will refer the matter to the City Council to decide whether or not Frimark will be prosecuted and subjected to a fine of from $1,000 to $5,000.  Under another scenario, the matter could be referred to an independent investigator to determine whether the prosecution will go forward. 

Or maybe both things could occur, especially if the first scenario plays out and the Council majority (Allegretti, Bach, Carey, DiPietro and Ryan) whose members collectively gave $3,829.51 to Frimark’s re-election campaign can’t bring themselves to enforce the ethics ordinance against their mentor.  But that’s a question for another day. 

What we just discovered, however, is something that calls into question the truthfulness of Frimark’s “ignorance-is-bliss” defense: the “First Amendment to Easement and Operating Agreement for Uptown Phase III, Park Ridge, Illinois” [pdf]which confirms that the City is responsible for 21.28% of the Uptown underground parking garage, the same 21.28% of the garage’s air handling equipment, and 34.84% of the garage’s elevators (see Amendment, at page 2); and 21.28% of the insurance premiums (see Amendment, at page 4).

And guess what?  The person who signed onto this Amendment for the City on January 19, 2009, was none other than “Howard P. Frimark, Mayor” – whose signature (at page 8 of the Amendment) was attested to by City Clerk Betty W. Henneman, with both of their signatures notarized by City employee Cheryl Peterson.

A very quick search through the City Council meeting minutes for November 2008 through January 2009 revealed no mention of City Council approval of this Amendment.  That raises a question of exactly where Frimark got the authority to lawfully bind the City to such an arrangement.

So unless Frimark is going to change his plea from ignorance-is-bliss to Alzheimer’s (or perhaps only Half-heimer’s) memory loss about what he signed or why he signed it, this Amendment makes it pretty darn clear that the former mayor actually knew, or should have known, of the City’s stake in the parking garage and the insurance coverage that he was selling to the Uptown development…before he even started his sales pitch!

Oh, the twisted web he weaves….