Chief Z’s Still A Zoll Man


One agenda item for tonight’s Park Ridge City Council meeting is the Fire Department’s defibrillator replacement plan.   That’s the one we criticized in our post “Is It Fraud, Or Is It Negligence (03.04.13).

Just looking at Fire Chief Mike Zywanski’s Agenda Cover Memorandum, however, suggests that this replacement project is still a Chief Z goat rodeo, only with a few more goats.

Back in March the Council correctly nuked his first attempt to ignore the City’s competitive bidding process – behavior recently trending upward at City Hall – and give away a $150,000 replacement defibrillator contract to the current defibrillator vendor (Zoll Medical Corporation) under the guise of needing “emergency” replacement of the current units.  After Chief Z was forced to admit under Council questioning that the “emergency” was bogus, the Council (by a 6-0 vote – Ald. Maloney absent) ordered him to perform some actual due diligence before coming back to the Council with a recommendation on this purchase.

But even a cursory look at Chief Z’s “due diligence” reveals what appears to be, at best, a grudgingly superficial attempt at placating the Council.  And if you’re looking for an actual recommendation or any evaluation data in that memo or its attachments, you won’t find it – because it’s being saved for the November Public Safety Committee of the Whole meeting.

Public Safety chair Ald. Nick Milissis better plan on packing a gyros (with extra tzatziki) for that meeting.

It looks to us like Chief Z is employing one of many tactics used by government types to bamboozle the public and/or the public’s decision-makers (in this case, our aldermen) into making uninformed/under-informed decisions: withholding detailed information until the last possible moment so that the decision-makers don’t have enough time to study it and ask the tough questions bureaucrats hate to answer.

Like questions about the protocol for the “field tests” of the three competing brands of defibrillators that ostensibly were conducted by certain members of the Fire Dept. in response to the Council’s demand.

Seeing as how Chief Z seemingly has been trying to steer this contract to Zoll from Day One, we frankly expected the Fire Dept.’s “Cardiac Monitor Committee” (the “Committee”) to conduct the field testing without any identification or ranking of product criteria and features against which to benchmark each product’s performance in the field tests.  That’s because such benchmarking makes it a lot tougher to cook the test results and the recommendation.

But according to the Minutes of the Committee’s March 13 meeting, Batallion Chief Tim Norton DID prepare “a handout that detailed the criteria that would be evaluated on the cardiac monitors” – which supposedly was attached to the Minutes.  But guess what?  No such “handout” is included with Chief Z’s memo to the Council, so we can’t even comment on how good or lame the handout was; or whether the “criteria” were ranked in order of importance.

And while the memo indicates that the “field tests” of the three competing brands of defibrillators were completed by July 31st…SURPRISE!…none of that data or the specific results of those field tests are included with Chief Z’s memo.  Instead, he includes a separate blank “Monitor/Defibrillator Evaluation Form” for each of the three devices tested – perhaps to add some physical thickness and heft to what might otherwise look to be a lightweight effort at rubber-stamping a foreordained decision.

“Foreordained”?  You bet!

Despite the fact that Chief Z’s memo doesn’t contain the pre-test criteria handout, or any data compilations, or any actual filled-out evaluation forms, the Minutes of the Committee’s August 28 meeting identify the best-performing unit as…wait for it…drum roll please…THE ZOLL!  The one Chief Z tried to stampede the Council into purchasing on a fake “emergency” basis back in February-March.

And that Zoll recommendation comes notwithstanding the Committee’s bemoaning “so little feedback” from the Department personnel who allegedly answered a total of 220 advanced life support calls (at least 70 with each brand of monitor) during the field test periods, but apparently didn’t care enough to provide their evaluations of the respective machines for the vast majority of those calls.

So…the Committee reached its recommendation of the Zoll more than 6 weeks ago, but Chief Z is neither making a formal recommendation nor providing the Council with all the documentation allegedly supporting the Committee’s recommendation so that the aldermen can study and analyze that data between now and the November Public Safety meeting.

Sadly, we can’t say this kind of shell game surprises us.

We lost a ton of confidence in Chief Z when he proposed a ridiculous set of “Ground Rules” for the firefighters union contract negotiations, then sat stonily silent during a Council meeting while Mayor Dave Schmidt repeatedly asked who locked the City into such rules.  Since that display of cowardly dishonesty, his fingerprints have covered the rejected faux-emergency no-bid defibrillator purchase and then on the rejected giveaway of the $3,000+ used SUV to MTEMP.

But his latest defibrillator memo and its attachments (or lack thereof) suggest that either he is intentionally screwing with the Mayor and the Council over the due diligence they demanded he perform, or he lacks the basic competence to do it properly.  Either way, don’t the taxpayers of Park Ridge deserve better from their fire chief?

Similarly, is City Mgr. Shawn Hamilton asleep at the wheel in letting Chief Z get away with this kind of nonsense?  As the City’s CEO, he should be riding herd on his department heads and making sure the Council’s time and effort isn’t wasted on half-baked memos that invite deferrals of Council action.  Unless, of course, this is the way Hamilton likes to do business, too.

All in all, this defibrillator deal sounded kinked back in March; and it sounds no less kinked six months later.

The question is whether the Council will let Chief Z get away with it.

To read or post comments, click on title.

13 comments so far

This makes me think of that Casey Stengel quote you like to use: “Can’t anybody here play this game?”

I have to agree with you that this Zoll deal has smelled since you first wrote about it on January 24, and again on February 18. And from the agenda memo you published in today’s post the smell has turned into a stench that Chief Z should be ashamed of and CM Hamilton should not begin to tolerate.

So now it is left to the $12,000 a year mayor and the $1,200 a year aldermen to do the job of the guys making 10 and 100 times that.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Bnonymous, you whacked that nail square on the noggin.

And if those low-paid (which is fine, because that’s what they signed up for) elected officials don’t control these highly-paid bureaucrats (the job the former are supposed to do to the latter), it’s the elected officials who will get barbecued. Which is fine, too, except when the barbecuers are the same folks who whine about those poor bureaucrats (and teachers, and administrators) getting no respect and needing more and more money.

But you agree with Mayor Dave that the elected officials should just keep firing key staff rather than meddle in their day-to-day misdeeds and misadventures, right?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Step One is: Tell City Mangager to wake up and do his job. Step Two is: Meddle. Step Three is: Fire City Manager.

That’s how they got rid of the last underperforming economic development director and the last underperforming director of community planning and development. Oh yeah, and the last underperforming city manager.

In this case does Meddle mean tell City Manager to fire Z or City Manager will be fired?


You could not be more wrong about the economic development director. It’s an insult to even link her name with the likes of former City Manager Skanky and the aptly named Hock. And as for community planning and development, what’s that?

EDITOR’S NOTE: The economic development director was a pleasant enough person but we saw very little economic development in return for her six-figure salary – other than letting PRC have its way with the Reservoir Block and the Bredemann property.

Sorry, we meant Community PRESERVATION & Development, whose director Hock refused to sack despite that direction from the Council, then gave her an unauthorized and exessive severance package.

It is discouraging to see what borders on incompetent or childish behavior by adults making six figures at the taxpayers’ expense.

The work product that Chief Zywanski has turned out so far on this defibrillator project would not be accepted from even a rookie manager in my company. If that is because he is incompetent, then he is really incompetent. And if I understand the sequence of events, he wanted to dispense with all this months ago and just buy the Zoll.

If this type of evaluation is the best he can do, I can see why he did not want to do it and humiliate himself.

EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s the way it looks to us, too.

Why not posting my comments?

EDITOR’S NOTE: What comments?

I had sent two posts in yesterday that never posted. Guess it’s technology at its best.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Try submitting them again and we’ll be on the lookout for them.

2nd Time:

No wonder why it’s so difficult for any city department to purchase something as small as a stamp with the amount of scrutiny department heads go through to make a purchase around here.

I suggest a tour be taken of the fire stations. High mileage ambulances, 2 fire engines with over 100,000 miles and firehouses approaching 45 years old. You can learn a lot from just a short visit with the men and women who put their lives on the line every day.

Appreciate our public service people and Chief Z for trying to make this a better place.

I know it’s hard to change from the Park Ridge way of beating everyone down, but try it, you might smile once in a while.

EDITOR’S NOTE: OMG!!!! A 45-year old fire station!!!! Most Park Ridge taxpayers live in houses older than that. “High-mileage” fire trucks and ambulances!!!! Many of those taxpayers drive cars with higher mileage, and far more wear-and-tear than the ambulances and fire trucks get on their 10-block runs. And if being a public employee – of any stripe – doesn’t work for somebody, there’s always barber college.

We’d love not to have to write these posts critical of Chief Z, but he just won’t let us with his clown car approach to administration.

The “Park Ridge way” traditionally was to close one’s eyes, put one’s hands over one’s ears, and hum “Kumbaya” anytime something unpleasant was seen or heard. That’s why so many problems got neglected for so long, and so many other things got botched.

You always have good rebuttals on people’s posts. I am not here to argue, however you personally need to visit the City fire stations and research the average lifespan and mileage for emergency vehicles. I did. Park Ridge has not purchased a new emergency vehicle in 7 years. PWD, that is a long time.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Emergency vehicles tend to have longer useful lives than regular vehicles, especially in towns like ours where there simply aren’t that many “emergencies.” Do the research and you’ll find that fire trucks commonly have more than 100,000 mile – and 15-20 year – useful lives.

Trust me, I know. Two of the engines protecting our community are 17 & 18 years old. Average lifespan for a fire engine is 10 years front line and 5 years in reserve.

PWD, how long have you been in the fire service?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sorry, Slick, but we don’t trust anonymous folks who claim to have (but never prove it) special knowledge or expertises, drop a couple of technical terms, and then talk through their hats. If we wanted to do that, we could just accept everything the career bureaucrats tell us.

This editor never has been in the fire service. Now, prove that you’ve been.

Law Abiding sounds like somebody who wants some new toys to play with.

I did about 20 minutes of Google research and the consensus of articles indicated that fire trucks had an “average” useful life of 10 – 20 years, but that varied greatly from one location to another depending on amount of use, size of area serviced, type of services required, and diligence in maintenance against corrosion, metal fatigue and crystallization, especially in concealed areas. Not unlike most vehicles.

So long as the taxpayers are footing the bill, new trucks are always better than old ones, the newer the better.

EDITOR’S NOTE: That sounds a lot like what our own Googling found. Plus, if the current equipment presents any danger to its users or our residents, we would expect Chief Z and his staff to be making their cases to the City Manager and the City Council…just like they did for the emergency replacement defibrillators.

Just advocating for the men and women who protect us. Over the years the appreciation for them has declined. They are often blamed for financial burdens actually caused by over paid under educated politicians.

We could disagree all day on what knowledge we may or may not posses or obtain from google.

Just sharing my take on it.

Good day.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The “men and women who protect us” already have an advocate: it’s called their union – the same one that keeps demanding higher and higher wages and benefits from the taxpayers, many of whom are NOT getting commensurately higher wages and who almost certainly don’t have constitutionally-guaranteed defined benefit pensions.

And “good day” to you, too – it’s always fun to watch anonymous commentators spewing knowledge and bluster cut and run the moment they are challenged to put up or shut up.

LAC at 9:26am

Overpaid politicians?? Are you talking about in Park Ridge? You do realize you speak of $100 per month (part-time) Alderman and $1000 per month (part-time) Mayor as opposed to ++$100,000 annual (full-time) Fire Chief and City Manager… and many other staff.

That something like this is a part of their JOB, for which they are very well compensated, can’t seem to get done right or rationally without the overpaid politicians asking many logical questions is appalling.

Your under appreciated men and women who serve us need to step it up a few notches.


We’ve gotten to the point where too many public officials want a six-figure salary, no accountability, and a testimonial parade; and/or constant raises and a guaranteed pension, no accountability, and air kisses and rose petals.

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>


(optional and not displayed)