Taste Inc.’s 3% Solution Raises More Questions Than It Answers


At last Monday’s (June 6) City Council meeting, local businessman Albert Galus, vice president of the private corporation Taste of Park Ridge NFP (“Taste Inc.”) that runs the annual event known as “Taste of Park Ridge” (“TOPR”), made a brief appearance to speak about the financial proposal contained in a “Memorandum of understanding” – and then hustled out the Council chambers door before any questions could be asked of him. 

Given that Taste Inc. has spent the last several years steadfastly refusing to reimburse the City for the tens of thousands of dollars in City services TOPR has utilized since Taste Inc. took over TOPR in 2005, had Mr. Galus stuck around to field a few questions about the “gift” of “3% (three percent) of the amount of Food Vendor Payout,” he might have heard one or more of the following: 

Question 1: Does “Food Vendor Payout” include beer sales?

Question 1a: If not, why not include beer sales in the 3% figure?

Question 2: Will that 3% come off the amount that the food vendors otherwise would get?

Question 3: Why “3%” instead of 2%, 4%, 5%, 10%, etc.?

Question 4: Why now, after all these years of stiffing the City?

Question 5: Why is it being offered only for the City’s “2011/2012 fiscal year”?

Anyone who reads this blog knows that we’ve never been shy in expressing our concerns and suspicions about Taste Inc., which was formed in June 2005 by Galus, Dave Iglow, and several other local businessmen recommended by then-mayor Howard Frimark as “volunteers” for a City TOPR committee that would run TOPR for the City’s benefit.

According to the minutes of the June 6, 2005 Council meeting at which Frimark proposed this new version of TOPR, the City gave that “committee” $23,000 of “seed money” and was going to receive all of TOPR’S profits:

“Mayor Frimark answered [that]…if there is a surplus of funds, it will come back to the City.”

And because that “committee” was going to be an arm of the City, its meetings and its operations would be subject to the Illinois Open Meetings Act:

“Ald. Cox asked if the City created an Ad Hoc Committee is it then subject to the Open Meetings Act.

City Attorney Hill answered if we create the committee it is.”

But according to the minutes of the September 27, 2005 City Council Finance & Budget Committee meeting, then-F&B chairman Ald. Don Crampton and then-F&B committee member Alds. Mark Anderson, Joe Baldi, Andrea Bateman, Jim Radermacher and Frank Wsol, after being advised that the private Taste Inc. had been formed instead of the City committee that Frimark promised and the Council approved in June, voted unanimously to hand over to Taste Inc. what should have been the City’s $20,058.36 in profits.  

Ever since that bait-and-switch was completed, Taste Inc. apparently has been pocketing all the TOPR profits.

How much have those profits been?  We can’t tell you, because it seems like “not for profit” Taste Inc. never filed IRS Form 990 (or Form 990-EZ) tax returns – the form of return legitimate not-for-profit entities file, and that posts online for all to see – for 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.  Which causes us to wonder whether Taste Inc. was a genuine not-for-profit during those four years.

But if Taste Inc.’s first-time IRS Form 990-EZ for 2009 – which it filed after it voluntarily dissolved itself in February 2009 and then reorganzied as a 501(c)(6) private corporation a few weeks later – is any indication, those first four years of profits may have totaled in excess of $200,000, even factoring in unexplained discrepancies between the $266,652 of “gross receipts” Taste Inc. disclosed for the 2009 TOPR on its “Recipe for Success” informational piece and the $163,391 of “total revenue” (and the $98,170 of “total expenses”) reported on that 2009 return.

Where did that estimated $200,000 go? 

Once again, we don’t know because Iglow, Galus and the rest of the Taste Inc. crew – who never miss an opportunity to toot their own horns about what they do for this community as “unpaid volunteers” running TOPR – mysteriously clam up whenever talk turns to those four years of profits and what happened to that money

Is Taste Inc.’s running of TOPR kinked-up?  We sure hope not. 

But the simplest and best way for Taste Inc. to prove it is not with this odd “Memorandum of understanding” and its one-time 3% solution, accompanied by a misguided and arrogant-sounding claim that Taste Inc. “has sole proprietorship” of TOPR.  Instead, Taste Inc. should produce its tax returns and underlying documentation for 2005-2008, along with the 2010 tax return that for some reason still does not appear on GuideStar.

And if Galus, Iglow and the rest of the Taste Inc. operators truly “possess affection for the community and seek to be of further assistance to the City” – as they claim in their Memorandum of understanding – they could prove it beyond the shadow of a doubt by closing down their private and secretive Taste Inc. corporation, turning Taste Inc.’s funds over to the City, and devoting all those same “volunteer” hours towards running TOPR exclusively for the City’s benefit, the way it was originally proposed by Frimark and approved by the City Council back in June, 2005: as an ad hoc committee of the City, subject to the Illinois Open Meetings Act?

After all, if they really are committed to volunteering rather than profiteering, shouldn’t they be able to derive the same (or even greater) satisfaction from by putting all their efforts into running the event exclusively for the City instead of for Taste Inc.?

Galus?  Iglow?  Bueller?

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