Public Watchdog.org

Grodsky’s Statements Debunk Conspiracy Theories

12.28.11

Will articles in the on-line Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“Park Ridge Senior Center manager plans own retirement,” Dec. 26) and today’s Park Ridge Journal (“Outgoing Director Grew Senior Center,” Dec. 28) finally debunk the rumors being spread by certain Park Ridge Senior Center members ab0ut the imminent departure of Senior Center manager Teresa Grodsky after 35 years on the job?

According to those articles, Grodsky is denying that she is leaving her employment by the Park Ridge Recreation and Park District against her will.  “It’s not true at all,” she said, adding: “Thirty-five years is a good career, a very good career.”

Both articles also report that Grodsky’s retirement is coinciding with that of her husband, Richard Grodsky, from his position as executive director of the Elmhurst Park District.

“We’re looking forward to traveling,” she explained.

That all makes Grodsky’s departure sound like a “retirement” to us, although we doubt even her own public statements will satisfy the small group of Senior Center whiners and conspiracy theorists – Barbara Ingolia and Helen Roppel being two of the most vocal – who contend Grodsky’s being forced out because she wouldn’t go along with the Park District’s plans for changing how the Senior Center is operated. 

And let’s not forget Millie O’Brien, who grandly claims in an article in the Park Ridge Journal (“Wills Spark Fight Between PR Seniors, Parks Over Donations,” Dec. 26) that a private corporation, Park Ridge Senior Services, Inc. (“Seniors Inc.” or “SSI”) is “the board that oversees the senior center” and “handles all the financial issues” – comments that brought a strong rebuke from the Park District’s public relations manager, Kathie Hahn.

“[Seniors Inc.] does not run the Senior Center,” Hahn responded.

Sorry, Ms. Hahn, but you sure could have fooled us – at least until a few months ago when the current Park Board finally told Seniors Inc. it would not renew the lapsed contract by which Seniors Inc. had asserted its decades-long control over the Senior Center.  Prior to that time, the Park District acted like the “tail” to the Seniors Inc. “dog” despite Seniors Inc.’s not even holding “affiliate” status like the other organizations to whom the District has delegated the operations of certain of its programs and activities, such as the youth sports programs. 

As a result, Seniors Inc. was able to keep Senior Center annual membership “dues” at $45 even as it was building up a nice fat private bankroll ($241,000, according to its 2010 IRS Form 990-EZ), and at the same time the Senior Center was ringing up $160,000+ annual deficits that the District’s taxpayers were subsidizing in order to maintain the semi-private clubhouse for about 800 Park Ridge seniors.

Now Seniors Inc. is rumored to be fighting the Park District tooth and nail for control of a big bucks bequest by a deceased Senior Center member, Betty Kenmetz.  According to the Journal “Wills” article, O’Brien “felt the deceased would have wanted the money to go to [Seniors Inc.] to benefit the [Senior Center].”  If that’s truly what Ms. Kenmetz wanted, however, she could have been spelled it out in her will or trust document along the lines of:  “I, Betty Kenmetz, bequeathe $X to Park Ridge Senior Services, Inc., to be used solely and exclusively for the benefit of the Park Ridge Senior Center facility.”  But did she?

We can’t wait to hear how this one comes out.

Meanwhile, we wish Ms. Grodsky a long, healthy and enjoyable retirement. 

And we hope that the Park District will finally bring an end to Seniors Inc.’s taxpayer-funded entitlements – and any other special-interest entitlements that pick the taxpayers’ pockets without a compelling reason.

To read or post comments, click on title.

14 comments so far

You should utilize sources to find out what is occurring behind the scenes. What you have indicated above is only a portion of the story. All I can indicate to you is that you may have to wait until the closed meeting minutes become public.

EDITOR’S NOTE: From our years of experience, waiting for closed session meeting minutes to become public is like Waiting for Godot: it doesn’t happen very frequently. People like to talk “transparency” a lot more than they like to be transparent.

Everybody knows Grodsky is lying to protect the Park District, just ask Ingolia, Roppel and O’Brien. Without SSI the Senior Center would be nothing.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Okay, but if Grodsky is lying, what does that prove – and why should anybody care?

You ask, why should anybody care? An interesting question coming from a servant of the court. Why should anybody care indeed? What did that just say about you? Did it not just confirm your prejudice in favor of those who would, if the allegation is true, destroy the livelihood and reputation of another? It is a queer situation you’ be placed yourself in sir. Bob, you and those whose water you still carry continue to act badly. How is it you guy’s never seem to know when you’ve won and it’s time to quit!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ken:

I carry nobody’s water but my own. As one of the vast majority of Park Ridge “seniors” who don’t belong to the Senior Center, my only interest in that facility is as one of the taxpayers who has helped cover the almost $1 million in subsidies to the Senior Center over the past 6 years. Consequently, Ken, the only people who have “won” all these years are you and your fellow Senior Center members who have enjoyed their semi-private clubhouse while paying a paltry $45 in annual “dues”; and Seniors Inc., which has been able to stockpile close to a quarter of a million dollars with virtually no accountability.

I have seen not one shred of evidence that anybody has “destroy[ed] the livelihood and reputation” of Ms. Grodsky. To the contrary, like most public employees she has been well-compensated all these years in a secure position and is retiring at a relatively young age with a taxpayer-guaranteed defined-benefit pension. That’s why I’m willing to take her at her word that she is voluntarily retiring, rather than buy into the rumors and innuendo being spread by what appears to be a small group of shameless, self-serving individuals who can’t even be satisfied with the special “welfare” they’ve been receiving.

Why should anyone care if Teresa Grodsky is lying, you ask. Well the truth is very important to most of us, even if you just throw it away as though it were nothing.

Teresa Grodsky most certainly is under a gag order and almost everyone realizes that. She has a child who is a freshman in college. Doesn’t everything rush into retirement when they have a child starting college. When asked a short time ago if she would leave because of all the controversy at the center, she explained that was an impossibility. Outside of her family, the senior center was her whole life and she loved each member as though they were a member of her own family. Doesn’t sound like someone preparing for retirement. “Three” days before the announcement of her retirment, she had discussions with several different people about all the plans she was going to implement next year. Sure doesn’t sound like someone who planned to announce her retirment three days later. Sounds to me like someone who planned to be there after the first of the year. Also, at the Park Board meeting, the Board retired into closed session to discuss the termination of a Park District employee. There are only a handful of people who would warrant that type of discussion and Teresa Grodsky is at that level. Also, no one else at that level, in the employ of the Park Distrct, has been fired.

Those who know Teresa well have said, that she needed another year to put her into another bracket for a higher salary in retirement. If you were told you were going to be fired but if you say you’re retiring, we’ll give you that extra year and make life a lot more comfortable for you in that retirement, just what would you do? I think anyone with a brain would say, I’m going to get fired but I can really benefit tremendously from saying I’m retiring. The price for the Park District sweetening her retirement, is her agreement to a gag order.

EDITOR’S NOTE: An entertaining story but, not surprisingly, totally lacking in evidence.

If the Park District had legitimate grounds to fire Ms. Grodsky but offered her the kind of pension “deal” you describe to buy her silence, however, then the people running the Park District have sold out the taxpayers.

Thank you for that comment about public employment, Watchdog. Ms. Grodsky got 35 years of steady employment and will now enjoy a publicly funded pension for the rest of her life. She has nothing to complain about and neither do the Senior Center members.

EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s the way we see it, which is why we wished Ms. Grodsky bon voyage and see no reason for us or anybody else to wring their hands over this.

I suppose the Park Ridge Park District had a hand in the retirement of Teresa’s husband as well? Wow, PRPD certainly has a wide influence! Seniors in PR need to get a new hobby and quit taking my tax dollars for the club house.. It’s PRPD property and should be used for ALL residents. Sure, seniors should have first crack at the facilities but when they aren’t using it, let others use it.. How about the teen center move from uptown to the senior center? We could then give the teen center $160k a year for activities!

EDITOR’S NOTE: At $160/year for the next 1,000 years?

Employees come and go and life goes on; it’s the nature of things. What is important is that seniors in Park Ridge keep on having access to programs that support their overall wellbeing and their continued positive involvement in society. Anyone concerned about “now what?” should give the Park District a chance to show it plans to continue senior programming and activities as well as offering a place to socialize. If it doesn’t do that, there’s plenty of time to freak out then.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Agreed, generally. But when did we get to the point where seniors – or anyone else, for that matter – are so fragile/inept/clueless/dependent that we need government-sponsored programs to “support their overall wellbeing and their continued positive involvement in society.” That sounds like a lot of psycho/socio-babble that, in our opinion, demeans seniors.

There are groups of “seniors” all over this community that make their own social networks. They meet for coffee at Starbucks, go to local government meetings, volunteer in the schools, etc. without expecting the taxpayers to babysit them. Sorry, geezers, but it’s time to get off your asses and live whatever’s left of your lives, instead of expecting the government to nanny you. If you want a handout, go to Denny’s before 5:00 p.m.

This is funny in a pathetic way. The Editor claims to be defending seniors and accuses someone else of demeaning seniors. Then goes on to call seniors geezers who sit on their ass because they expect government to be a nanny. No, calling seniors lazy geezers isn’t demeaning to seniors at all. Pathetic.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Just calling a spade a spade.

Fortunately, most Park Ridge seniors don’t display the entitlement mentality. Then again, most Park Ridge seniors don’t belong to the Senior Center, either.

You keep complaining about the $45.00 membership fee at the Senior Center. That is the second highest membership fee in the whole Chicagoland area. DesPlaines Frisbee Center charges $60.00 and is a privately owned center. The Northshore Senior Center also charges $60.00 and the place is unbelievably beautiful. Their programming is also fabulous. How are all these other suburbs supporting their seniors?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We don’t know and we don’t care. Why? Because we can’t think of any good reason why taxpayers should be “supporting their seniors” – just like we can’t think of any good reason why taxpayers should be “supporting” kids sports, or the garden club, or any other amenity.

If the Northshore Senior Center is “unbelievably beautiful” and only charges $60.oo per year, by all means join there and knock your socks off. Or demand that our Park District shows you why it is losing $160,000+ per year with $45 annual dues. Or ask Seniors Inc. to contribute some of its $240,000 treasury to close that deficit.

Whether or not one agrees that it’s not the government’s business to help citizens achieve or maintain a quality of life (altho it is funny that these right-wingers who hate gub-mint and entitlements are the first to screech when theirs appear imperiled) it is a fact: Park Ridge can’t afford what other towns can. We are too affluent to get the hand-outs DesPlaines and Niles get, but not affluent enough to buy it ourselves as the North Shore communities do. And then there’s the little matter of how we have no shopping malls, factories, casinos, and other commercial revenue-generators of bigger tax pots (you know, taxes; that stuff that the gub-mint uses to do things for the public) — generators Des Plaines, Glenview and all those other towns have a lot of. Park Ridge is a bedroom community BY DESIGN. That means homeowners pay most of the bills. We are Bedford Falls, surrounded by happy Pottersvilles. Deal.

EDITOR’S NOTE: What Park Ridge government can and cannot “afford” is pretty subjective, and in most cases involves prioritization for which we don’t always have a consensus; e.g., Mayor Schmidt thinks infrastructure is more important than funding private community group corporations, but most of the aldermen heretofore have disagreed and given money to those groups over Schmidt’s veto. And then there are people like John Kerin and Jim Radermacher whose enthusiasm for their favorite charity (Center of Concern) inspires them to call for tax increases expressly to fund CofC – an idea which didn’t seem to generate a groundswell of support, by the way.

I’m not sure we’re Bedford Falls, but one of the METRA conductors does announce our stop as “Pleasantville.”

If I understand your logic, that would mean that the Mayor (and Aldermen) believes the Spokesmen is more important then infrastructure.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Or perhaps they believe that the information provided by The Spokesman is part of the community’s “infrastructure” – as suggested in the Jefferson quote incorporated in our banner: “Information is the currency of democracy.”

And, in case you’re interested, We definitely rank it higher than giving tax dollars to private corporations for arbitrary undocumented “services” to people who don’t even live in Park Ridge.

You keep complaining about this $160,000 deficit that the Park District is incurring from the Senior Center. They presently have budgeted 4% of their $12,000,000+ budget for the Senior Center. They spend millions on kids programs, parks, ice skating rink, etc. The seniors probably cover that 4% in their own taxes.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We do our best to complain about everything that loses that kind of money and serves such a small segment of the community. The only “seniors” that matter to this discussion are the ones who are members of the Senior Center – approximately 800 – who reap all the benefits of that $160,000 in taxpayer-funded welfare, much of which, ironically, is paid by their fellow “seniors” who have never set foot in the Senior Center and have no intention of doing so.

Hey ‘Dog. It’s been 5 days. Lots of good stuff to write about. Get crackin’.

EDITOR”S NOTE: Okay, you shamed us into cutting our New Year’s weekend short and published a new post today.

…….According to those articles, Grodsky is denying that she is leaving her employment by the Park Ridge Recreation and Park District against her will. “It’s not true at all,” she said, adding: “Thirty-five years is a good career, a very good career.”

Yet Biagi states…..

Q. Did the Executive Director induce Teresa Grodsky to retire?
A. Yes, to the extent that Ms. Grodsky was made aware of certain issues relating to her performance and was strongly encouraged to retire in light of the alleged transgressions

So much for the debunking. At the very least it appears to be a “retire or else”.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Apparently it was retire or be fired – with cause. Go figure.



Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>