Good Riddance To Greedy Geezers


Last week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate reported that Park Ridge Senior Services, Inc. (“SSI” or “Seniors Inc.”), the private corporation that the Park Ridge Recreation and Park District permitted to effectively run the Park Ridge Senior Center on Western Avenue for the past 30 years, may be setting up operations in the former Our Lady of Ranson School on Greenwood Avenue in Niles (“Park Ridge senior group eyes move to Niles,” May 6).

Bon voyage and good riddance, greedy geezers.

We won’t re-hash all the reasons why we think self-imposed exile in Niles constitutes addition by subtraction.  Those can be found in our posts of 01.27.11, 07.29.11, 08.02.11, 12.12.11, 04.16.12 and 07.16.12, among others.

From the sound of the H-A article, new Park Commissioner James Phillips – as he indicated he would do during his recent successful election campaign – did his best to get the Park Board to relent and try to make nice with SSI.  But we prefer the approach of re-elected Commissioner Richard Brandt: “If they want to go, let them go.”

How many Senior Center members join the approximately one dozen malcontents who make up the SSI leadership and/or the self-importantly named “Senior Senate” (assuming they aren’t one in the same) in the move to Niles remains to be seen.  It also remains to be seen how much of the personal property (e.g., folding chairs and tables, a piano, pool tables, several TVs, bocce ball sets, etc.) currently in the Senior Center they will take with them – although we hope they take all of it to further underscore their pettiness.

Given all the acrimony infecting this situation, however, we question why the Park District seems to be coddling SSI while it conducts its search for a new clubhouse.  Rather than giving SSI until June 1 to decide what property it will be taking with it, and giving SSI until August 1 to remove it, the District should have told SSI in no uncertain terms that such a decision needs to be made NOW…and the stuff moved out NOW.  No need to let that toxic situation continue to infect the Park District.

Irrespective of how many folding chairs and TVs the SSI malcontents take with them, however, they also will be taking with them a whopping $330,000 from the Betty Kemnitz Trust that probably belongs to the Park District and its taxpayers – the results of the settlement of Grodsky v. Park Ridge Recreation and Park District, Case No. 2012 CH 2032, the lawsuit that was filed by former Park District Senior Center supervisor Teresa Grodsky after she was challenged by the Park District for handing over the Kemnitz Trust money to SSI even as she was drawing a Park District paycheck.  Maybe SSI can use some of that ill-gotten Kemnitz cash to hire Grodsky to run their senior “clubhouse” in exile.

With SSI leaving, the burden now shifts to the Park District to make good on running the Senior Center in a more cost-effective way – and for the benefit of more than the 700 or so seniors, a good number of whom weren’t even District residents and taxpayers.  Having left all that in the hands of SSI and Grodsky for so many years, it will be interesting to see if the District is up to that task.

Meanwhile, it will also be interesting to see whether the Park Board and District administration learn anything from this Senior Center debacle.

In a sense, the community should be grateful to the greedy geezers of SSI for providing a clear object lesson in what happens when a governmental body that is supposed to be the steward of the taxpayers’ money abdicates responsibility for both that money and the related taxpayer-owned facility, effectively encouraging the inmates to run the asylum.  In this case, those inmates ran up $150,000 a year in operating deficits while charging their “members” a paltry $43 in annual membership “dues.”  And the Park Board and staff let them do it without objection.

Can the lesson of SSI and the Senior Center be applied to the District’s actual affiliates, several of which are also private corporations like SSI which traditionally received (and still receive?) the same kind of wink-and-nod oversight that SSI and the Senior Center used to receive.  Is anybody over at Park District HQ paying close attenti0n to how those affiliates are operating, as well as to their finances and how those finances are being managed?  Although we understand each affiliate is supposed to file with the District an annual financial statement and tax return (if it files such returns), we couldn’t find any such statements or returns on the District’s website.

Frankly, that’s not an encouraging sign.

The Park District was fooled once by SSI, so shame on SSI.  Hopefully, the District won’t get fooled again.

If it does, that shame will be all on the District, its staff and the Park Board.

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2 comments so far

Never have understood how the seniors got away with such low membership dues. Wonder how much it’ll cost if they go to Niles? And you are right, tell ’em to get their stuff out sooner than later and let the park district get on with reorganizing and revitalizing the senior center.

EDITOR’S NOTE: SSI was allowed to have the best of both worlds: It was given all the rights of a Park District affiliate but without any of the accountability. Hence the “semi-private clubhouse” attitude of SSI toward that publicly-supported facility managed by a Park District employee who “went native” – leading to a stagnation/decline in membership due in part to what we heard described as a “clique-ish” atmosphere.

You will be relieved to know that the Park District has been “reorganizing and revitalizing” the Senior Center for the past several years and the process continues. (And yes, of course, it should have happened more quickly, but after nearly 30 years of malign neglect, a couple of years full speed ahead to remedy the sitch is not too shabby. And neither is the facility, at this point.) Check it out at 100 S. Western.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ll believe it when we see it. We understand from some of our “stringers” that the facility itself is cleaner and more attractive, but we also understand that the membership “dues” are still the same – so we wonder how the tide of red ink that the Senior Center had been generating annually is being stanched.

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