Taste Inc. Proving To Be A Deceit, Wrapped In Propaganda, Inside An Absurdity


It was back in July 2008 that we first questioned the bona fides of Taste of Park Ridge NFP (“Taste Inc.”), the purported non-for-profit private corporation that was handed the Taste of Park Ridge event (“TOPR”) on a no-bid, no-contract basis in 2005 by then-mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark and a purple ribbon-distracted/intimidated City Council.

Our concerns about Taste Inc. included that it seemed to be making a lot of money with absolutely no transparency or accountability to the City, even though – as originally marketed to the Council by Frimark – the folks running TOPR were supposed to be members of a City committee rather than a private corporation.  Worse yet, Taste Inc. was stiffing the City for the tens of thousands of dollars worth of “free” City services (police, fire and public works) it was using. 

But because none of Taste Inc.’s tax returns were being posted on GuideStar, the Internet clearinghouse for information about not-for-profits, we also began asking whether Taste Inc. really was a not-for-profit. 

We got thumped by a number of Taste Inc. defenders and apologists, including Taste Inc.’s then-treasurer, Jim Bruno, and its then-new “committee” member Mel Thillens, for even asking such an “insulting” question about all these self-less “volunteers” who committed thousands of hours of their time to TOPR with no expectation of compensation or other rewards.

But guess what?  After 3 years of stonewalling, and confronted by a new array of aldermen who began talking about putting TOPR out to bid, Taste Inc. finally admitted that it actually had been a for profit corporation during those first four years when it was falsely advertising itself as a not-for-profit one.  In other words, for the past six years those self-less “volunteers” who run Taste Inc. had outright lied to the people of this community – even while sucking tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars out of the City treasury.

Let’s call that simple deceit.

And several weeks after that, just days before the Council’s vote on bidding out TOPR, Taste Inc. suddenly produced its 2005 through 2008 corporate tax returns, along with an offer to actually enter into a contract with the City for next year’s TOPR that would cover the City’s “direct costs for services provided…[to TOPR].”

We understand that the newly-released 2007 return reports $111,803 in gross receipts/sales and $18,308 of taxable income.  What’s especially interesting about those figures is that an article published in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate shortly after the 2007 TOPR (“Taste Committee reports record turnout,” July 19, 2007) reported that 2007 TOPR sales were “approximately $201,000.”  That’s a whopping $90,000 more than Taste Inc.’s 2007 tax return discloses. 

We’ll call that simple propaganda…if only because it sounds a little better than “intentionally under-reporting income.”

But the absurd manifested itself several weeks ago when – as reported in this week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“Complaint filed 2 years after alleged Park Ridge election incident,” Nov. 1) – deputy head-Tastee, Albert Galus, filed (a) a battery charge against Mayor Dave Schmidt for allegedly bumping him outside a polling place in April 2009; and (b) a “cyber-stalking” charge against the editor of this blog, claiming this blog posted “untrue” messages about him and Taste Inc.  

Hey, fatuous Albert!  Have you no shame?  You wait 2 years to file a complaint against Schmidt for allegedly battering you outside the Mary Seat of Wisdom polling place?  Seriously, Albert? 

And you file a “cyberstalking” complaint against the editor of this blog for writing about Taste Inc.’s lies and stonewalling?   Seriously, Albert? 

Not surprisingly, the Cook County States Attorney declined to prosecute either of Albert’s charges, presumably viewing them as the baseless political mush that they are.

Instead of making ridiculous charges against the mayor and this blog, maybe Galus should spend that time explaining why he and his Taste Inc. buddies lied to the taxpayers of Park Ridge for the past 6 years about Taste Inc.’s not-for-profit charade.  Or about how those same taxpayers enriched the Taste Inc. corporation to the tune of $70,000-$140,000 so that Albert and friends could walk around Uptown for a few days each summer in those orange polo shirts, acting important. 

Actually, we’ve got an even better idea: Why doesn’t Albert and his current Taste Inc. cronies – Dave Iglow, Sandy Svizzero, Barb Tyksinski, Dean Patras, John Warnimont, Jackie Mathews and Mel Thillens – actually start doing what they were supposed to be doing since 2005: volunteering to run TOPR for the City’s benefit, the way Frimark explained it to the City Council back on June 6, 2005?  That way, the Council doesn’t have to go through the hassle of sending TOPR out to bid.

All those Tastees need to do is tell the Council they want to liquidate Taste Inc. and donate what’s it its treasury ($73,000 as of year-end 2010 – there should be more in there now, after such a successful 2011 TOPR) to the City, to be placed in a newly-created TOPR “enterprise fund” that will be managed by a TOPR City committee comprised of Albert and his fellow Tastees.  They can continue to run it exactly the same way they’ve been running it since 2005 (assuming, of course, that nobody’s been stuffing TOPR cash into their pockets), except that all the profits would go into the City treasury – and its books and records would be open to public scrutiny.   

Everything would be totally transparent and above-board – just the way Albert and his fellow Tastees claim it has been since 2005. 

How about it, Albert?

To read or post comments, click on title.

12 comments so far

I have a question, which is not germaine to the point you were making in your post, that I am curious about.

The actual event had many ‘true’ volunteers that sold tickets, ran events in the park, cleaned up, etc.. Shouldn’t they have been paid as employees or independant contractors if it was run by a for-profit corporation? Are the real volunteers performing a function for the City of Park Ridge or for Tastee, Inc.?

EDITOR’S NOTE: The “volunteers” were just that, not employees, irrespective of whether it was a for-profit or not-for-profit Taste Inc. So they didn’t need to be paid at all. And since the City wasn’t running TOPR, the “volunteers” were not “performing a function for the City.”

I am sitting here, popcorn at the ready, awaiting Albert’s reply to your question. It’s Friday night but I’m prepared to sit here and wait for that wonderful answer. Maybe I’ll whip up an AIDS benefit quilt or some such while I’m waiting…

EDITOR’S NOTE: Or several.

Who responded to the city’s rfp? That would shed some light on the true reason behind this salemesque witch hunt.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As we understand it, the City’s RFP hasn’t been finalized or issued yet. We’d prefer “exorcism” to “witch hunt,” but to each his/her own metaphor.

What you call propaganda has been explained here before. There is a huge portion of the event sales that goes directly to the vendors who sell the food. In 2007 it sounds like that number is roughly 90K. That’s one of the main purposes of the Taste, to allow the local businesses to showcase themselves, while doing a little business, and the attendees to enjoy the local wares.

Since the fact that large portions of the event sales goes right back to the food vendors has been repeatedly explained on this blog, what do we call your lack of understanding? Incomprehension or obfuscation?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ll call it: Distrust, but verify.

Nothing goes “directly to the vendors who sell the food” because the food is purchased with tickets sold by Taste Inc. – i.e., Taste Inc. receives all that revenue which (we believe) is supposed to be reported as “gross receipts” on Line 1 of IRS Form 1120. So if Taste Inc. had $207,000 in revenues, the $90,000 that it purportedly paid the food vendors would properly have been “cost of good sold” on Line 2. But Line 2 of the 2007 return shows only $67,502 of “cost of goods sold” – so your answer appears to be as weak as all the other explanations Taste Inc. and its apologists have ginned up until now.

Call it “obfuscation”…by Taste Inc., of course.

You have no idea what you are talking about, and your petty personality clash with Albert Galus is jeapordizing the way a universally enjoyed event is run. That rfp is a joke.

My favorite part of this whole charade was when, after months or years of suggesting that an rfp be put out for this event, the mayor finally sees one and asks if this is what they normally look like. Mr Mayor, don’t you know what a municipal rfp looks like?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Of course we do – it’s just math. And we don’t even know Galus to have “personality clashes” with him, other than when he publicly pats himself on the back, gets caught in his lies, and then makes false criminal charges against those who caught him.

But again we ask: if the Tastees aren’t stuffing their pockets, why don’t they offer to run TOPR the way they have been running it, only with all the expenses covered by the City and all the profits going to the City?

If you have proof of stuffing pockets, show it. If you have a real accusation to make, make it. I’m sick of hearing backhanded allegations of illegal activity. You’ve seen the financials you have been asking for. I would imagine you have some case to make, for all the carping. But obviously not, except that you don’t like Alber Galus

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ve made our case – or, actually, Taste Inc. made it for us, when they finally admitted, 6 years after the fact, that they weren’t a not-for-profit corporation for the first four years of their existence.

If they’ve got nothing to hide, they should offer to run TOPR for the City and its taxpayers as a committee of the City, rather than for their own private corporation. End of story, Albert Galus’ juvenile criminal complaints notwithstanding.

Made your case that what, it was a corporate entity other than what you thought it was? I still haven’t seen any proof that anyone “stuffed their pockets”. You have the information that you wanted in the tax forms they handed to the council weeks ago. So what do you see? Nothing that says anything about what you’ve been alledging for years.

You are constantly railing that if anyone doesn’t do things the way you think they should be done, they must be up to no good. Forget what the council wants, forget the city manager. People should all act the way some guy who writes a blog wants, or they are probably breaking the law. Talk about wanting to feel important.

Now go get some proof of wrongdoing or leave these people alone. Mr Galus’ supposition of your wrongdoing notwithstanding.

EDITOR’S NOTE: No, Zippy, it’s that it was an entity very different from what they advertised it to be. Under Illinois law, that might constitute consumer fraud, Zippy.

But we’ll stick with our position that whether they’ve been stuffing their pockets or not would stop being an issue, going forward, if they just started running TOPR for the City rather than for their own private corporation. What’s the big problem with them doing that, Zip – assuming they’ve got nothing to hide?

So, just to be clear, you don’t have any fact that shows that they have been doing what you have been accusing them of doing, “stuffing their pockets? In spite of the fact that they gave you the tax forms. Your sole basis for accusation is the concept that they should run the thing as some construct the writer of some blog decided upon, not what the council, or the mayor or the city staff designed, otherwise they must “have something to hide”.

EDITOR’S NOTE: So, just to be clear, Zippy, we haven’t “been accusing them of doing” anything other than: (a) misrepresenting themselves as a not-for-profit when they weren’t one; (b) stiffing the City for between $70,000 and $140,000 of free police, fire and public works services while building a bankroll that reached $70,000 after the 2010 TOPR; (c) stonewalling the furnishing of the tax returns from those four “for-profit” years; (d) setting up a misleading “committee” of their corporation, presumably to create the appearance that they really were a City committee; (e) providing what appears to be inaccurate/incomplete/inconsistent information about their revenues and expenses; and (f) operating as a private corporation when there appears to be no good reason for it, other than to escape the scrutiny, transparency and accountability that would have been required of them if they operated TOPR as a committee of the City.

And the concept of a City committee isn’t our “construct” but that of then-mayor Frimark when he sold the idea to the Council on June 6, 2005.

Gee, Zippy, considering how touchy you are about this, you sound like you could be a Tastee.

I guess I’m just a guy you like to call Zippy for some reason.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We didn’t know if you were a “guy” or a “gal” – but if you would prefer “Tastee” to Zippy, that can be arranged.

The Dog’s suggestion sounds like the perfect compromise. The Tastees can continue to volunteer and be the big cheeses at Taste of Park Ridge, but the City gets the profits that the Tastees say they aren’t interested in, anyway. All good.

I agree with 8:25 AM. If the Tastees have been holding the Taste as a public service, then they won’t mind doing it as a city committee with the profits going to the city. If they were doing it for the money, then they’ll find a reason to avoid managing the Taste again. Either way, we’ll know where they stand.

Mr Mayor:

Whenever I want to smile related to some of the current hot button issues of PR, all I have to do is revisit your website and look at some of the things you said during the campaign.

Here is and oldie but a goodie!! You stated the following related to a very hot issue in PR…..”Finally, if I had been mayor the past two years, the homeless shelter would not have been turned into a political football that divided our community and even some of our church congregations. I would have used my leadership position to help strike a balance between the positive aspects of helping the homeless and ensuring the safety and security of all involved. Unfortunately, that was not the tack taken by the current mayor, and the result is now history”.

So how exactly does that statement work related to TOPR Mr. Mayor??? Where is the leadership you promised on this issue Mr Mayor??? I can guess your answer is going to be to point the council, right??? Now there is leadership. The truth is in your leadership role you have done nothing to find any balance on this issue. If anything you have only fanned (or is that poured gas) on the flames. TOPR is a prefect example of a political football.

On the one hand you see to claim that, as Mayor, you would have somehow waded into the PADS mess and, like Moses, parted the anger and through your leadership healed PR. In real world applications you cannot even make progress on TOPR!!!

In the area of creating political footballs, you are just as bad as the prior Mayor…..I know…I know …it is the council’s fault!!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Exactly what kind of “balance on this issue” are you suggesting? Let us guess: Taste Inc. keeps its non-transparent, no-bid monopoly of TOPR but finally (after 7 years) starts paying the City for some of the City services it uses?

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