Grau Needs Secrecy To “Talk Honestly” About Janak’s Replacement


Back in our July 7, 2014 post we criticized the Board of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 for hiding its deliberations on the appointment of a new Board member in closed session – “where the horse-trading and deal-making will go on” – because such closed session deliberations concealed from taxpayers not only the other Board members’ “reasons for and against each candidate” voiced during those deliberations but, also, “which reasons came from which of the six board members.”

Since then, the City of Park Ridge has held open deliberations on replacing two aldermen (Dan Knight and Bob Wilkening). Even D-64 changed its ways, conducting an open-session vetting and deliberation process this past November in appointing Bob Johnson as the short-term replacement for Eastman Tiu.

So it was good to see, at the January 17 meeting of the Park Ridge Park District Board, that a 3-1 majority of the commissioners present (O’Brien and O’Donnell MIA) expressed their desire to conduct the vetting and deliberations about the applicants to fill the Board seat of the late Commissioner Jim Janak in open session.

That commissioners Harmony Harrington and Rob Leach would support open-session vetting and deliberations was expected. But after watching Board president Mel Thillens spend his first 7-2/3 years on the Board running into closed session and hiding from the taxpayers every chance he got, it was refreshing to see him finally take a stand for transparency and accountability, even if he only has a mere 4 months left on what is his final term.

He even got the rationale right, noting that because “the public doesn’t get a chance to vote” on the applicant it deserves to hear the commissioners’ reasons for choosing one applicant over the others.

Better late than never, although much better early than late.

The one commissioner saying “no” to transparency and accountability was, not surprisingly, Commissioner Cynthia “Cindy” Grau, who wanted to discuss the merits of the various applicants away from the public’s eyes and ears. Her argument: She didn’t want the successful applicant to know which, if any, commissioners may not have supported the appointment, or made critical comments about that applicant.

“I don’t know that we could talk honestly in public,” Grau objected. “You couldn’t say what’s truly on your mind.”

Yes, Grau actually said that.

Since her election almost four years ago she has been a steady voice for the “Ubi est mea?” (A Latin phrase meaning “Where’s mine?” coined by the legendary Mike Royko as the unofficial motto of Chicago) special-interest crowd that wants their Park District amenities free of charge; or, failing that, with a heavy subsidy from all those non-user taxpayers who already pay to build and maintain the District’s parks and facilities.

SIDEBAR: That “Ubi est mea?” crowd consists of those people we have labeled “freeloaders” as shorthand for: “those residents who are always looking to leverage maximum benefits for themselves, their families and their friends by shifting the costs of those benefits onto the backs of their fellow taxpayers.” But if you prefer the Merriam-Webster online definition of “freeloader” – “a person who is supported by or seeks support from another without making an adequate return” – you also get synonyms like “bloodsucker,” “leech,” “moocher,” “sponger” and “parasite,” the last of which we use to describe vagabonds from lower-taxed places like Chicago who come to Park Ridge to use our better and/or free and discounted facilities and programs.

Grau has practiced “Ubi est mea” for her own benefit as well, supporting free use of facilities and programs for commissioners as a “perk” (short for perquisite) of being a commissioner, even though the office of commissioner is one that, by law, is unpaid.

We remind our readers that the policy of the State of Illinois is that The People’s business should be done openly and transparently, for maximum honesty and accountability. That’s why we have the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“IOMA”).

Although IOMA permits a limited number of exempted matters to be discussed in closed session, it does not require it. To the contrary, IOMA permits all matters, including those certain exemptions, to be discussed in open session. So whenever our public officials choose to go into closed session, you can bet dollars to donuts that it’s because they are trying to conceal what they are saying and doing from us taxpayers.

Since 2011 the de facto leader of the Park Board’s closed-session brigade has been Thillens. Now that he finally appears to have discovered H.I.T.A. (“Honesty,” “Integrity,” “Transparency” and “Accountability”), however, Grau looks like the Park Board’s new hide-and-seek leader who’s afraid to “talk honestly in public.”

Somehow we doubt that quote will make it onto her yard signs or flyers between now and Election Day, April 2, 2019.

So you’ll just need to remember it when you go to the polls to vote for Park Board candidates.

To read or post comments, click on title.



11 comments so far

It’s about time Thillens finally woke up, although you are right that 7 years and change is too long of a nap to mean much anymore.

It sounds to me that Grau is afraid of not being able to hide her gender politics behind closed doors.

Listen at 1:01 in the video for the comment that I changed my mind after talking to Jim O’Donnell. Convenient to isolate me.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I did. But since O’Donnell was not there to speak for himself, your hearsay is not something we choose to rely on.

But if it makes you feel any better, had he said the same thing you did we would write the same thing about him – because it would be equally anti-H.I.T.A. and equally disrespectful of the taxpayers. And if you can persuade him to do so at the next Park Board meeting we’ll prove it.

Ms. Grau, did you say what Watchdog (and the Herald-Advocate reporter) said you said? If so, can you give us your spin on that statement?

I’m glad I’m not a friend of yours, Trizna. You have no loyalty to anyone. You endorsed Thillens and O’Donell, but now you are throwing them under the bus just to serve your personal interests. How can you sleep at night?

EDITOR’S NOTE: My “loyalty” is to H.I.T.A. and to the taxpayers, the vast majority of whom seem to be voiceless because so many of our elected and appointed officials treat them like mushrooms: Kept in the dark and covered in manure.

PW endorsed Thillens (and Jim O’Brien and Mary Wynn Ryan) in 2011 because they were running against a slate of candidates fielded by Local 73 of the Service Employees International Union (“SEIU”), the union that represents some of the Park District’s workers. And we didn’t endorse Thillens, O’Brien or Ryan in 2015.

In 2017 we did endorse O’Donnell – along with Harmony Harrington, Jim Janak and Rob Leach – over incumbents Joan Bende and Jim Phillips, and their unofficial running mates Carol Becker and Laurie Pegler Mallin; and all four of our endorsees won. Unfortunately, O’Donnell appears to be the weakest of that foursome so far; and, if Grau is right about his support for closed-session deliberations about the appointee to fill the late Jim Janak’s seat, he will slide even further down our “transparency” and “accountability” scale.

Is Grau trying to throw O’Donnell under the bus on this? I agree with you, ‘Dog, that if he believes what Grau said he believes, he deserves the same treatment as you gave her.

Closed sessions seem to be the root of most of the problems we have with local government. Why do our friends, acquaintances and neighbors who we elect to public office insist on hiding what they are doing in their official capacities from us? There is something wrong with that.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We try to treat public officials equally both on individual issues and on body of work.

Too many of our public officials are “pleasers” who lack strong principles and policy positions and, instead, try to make people happy (especially their family and friends, and/or the bureaucrats whom they are supposed to be overseeing) using the taxpayers’ money. So hiding in closed session reduces the risk that they might say something on the record that displeases the folks they’re obsessed with pleasing.

Will we ever find out what O’Donnell told Grau that changed her mind to favoring closed session deliberations?

EDITOR’S NOTE: That would appear to be up to O’Donnell.

Since we voters who elected Jim Janak don’t get to vote for his replacement, we at least should have the right to hear the BOard members discuss who they will be appointing as his replacement. Hard to understand what Grau and O’Donnell are thinking.

Of course on the rare occasion he actually gets it right he runs to post it on facebook so all his followers know how good he is….”Look at me!! HITA. HITA. HITA!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hey, when you regularly strike out, finally hitting a single is something to celebrate.

Grau is part of an organized radical leftist gender (female)-centric political party that calls itself the Park Ridge Professional Moms, although it claims to be a social organization that doesn’t have to register as a political party. They are having a “meet the (only women) candidates” even at Harp & Fiddle this Sunday afternoon. They beat up Mel Thillens pretty well when he questioned the women-only aspect of it on Facebook.

I have heard Grau and a couple of the women candidates scheduled to appear at that event criticize “tribalism” so this looks like the pots calling the kettles black.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ve seen that Grau is listed among the women-only candidates on the event notice, but we have no hard evidence that she actually is a “member” of PRPM, or that PRPM is a “radical leftist” organization

We saw that poor Mel was pummeled into admitting stupidity and ignorance, and offering an apology; and we also understand that Alex Hanba, a Park Ridge woman, was pressured out of the Park District race because her candidacy apparently didn’t fit within the “agendas of various parties and groups” (per her 01/21/2019 FB post) – one of which we suspect is PRPM because she might have been viewed as potentially drawing votes away from Grau and Jennifer LaDuke.

Pots and kettles? Of course!

Folks love to talk about local elections being non-partisan (you included) but that is a bunch of crap. Official and non official partisan groups have been involved in local elections for along time. It is my understanding that women/leaders with RWOPR were instrumental in recruiting a candidate for D64 school board (allegedly) who later resigned. There are also allegations of financial support from partisan groups. 7:28, your first sentence comes directly off the Alex Jones show.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Since this editor holds both political parties in roughly equal contempt, he is not a member of either and endures them as one might endure a painful chronic illness.

That being said, just because local elections are “non-partisan” doesn’t mean that everyone who participates – candidates, their petition circulators, their contributors and/or their supporters – must be registered or avowed “Independents,” or certify that they’ve been politically spayed or neutered.

You say you hold both political parties in contempt, but a couple of years ago you were the featured speaker at the Park Ridge Republican Women’s meeting. Who do you think your kidding?

EDITOR’S NOTE: This editor was asked to speak to the Republican Women of Park Ridge about local, non-partisan politics and government, and about this blog. And that’s what he did, along with telling the attendees to turn OFF Fox News and, instead, watch MSNBC because partisan Republicans need to hear the other side of the debate. Had he been asked to speak to any Democratic organization about the same topics, he would have told those attendees to turn OFF MSNBC and, instead, watch Fox for the same reasons.

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