It’s Time To De-Select Sotos Off The D-64 Board


A rule of thumb among trial lawyers is that selecting a jury is actually more about de-selecting those prospective jurors who might be hostile to your client. In a similar vein, today we suggest that one candidate for the Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 Board deserves to be de-selected because he not only is hostile to the very concept of “good” representative local government but, also, he is an incompetent public official to boot.

That dubious distinction goes to incumbent Athan “Tom” Sotos. And what follows is actually the short version of the many reasons for this recommendation.

Sotos may be a decent guy in his private life: The vast majority of local public officials over the past three decades this editor has lived in Park Ridge have been decent individuals in their private lives. Some of them have even led exemplary private lives. But as Abraham Lincoln so insightfully observed: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

Based on what Sotos has done with the power of his D-64 Board office these past four years, he hasn’t proved up to the test.

Sotos fancies himself a “politician” which, here in Crook County, means blabbing incessantly without actually saying anything meaningful, trying to be all things to all people no matter how many inconsistent or contradictory positions that requires you to take, and even lying when it suits one’s purpose.

Over the past four years we’ve watched countless D-64 Board meeting videos and read even more board packets and meeting minutes, all of which have revealed Sotos to be incapable of even comprehending, much less dealing effectively with, both the educational and the fiscal issues at the heart of Board service.

That was first observed only a few months into his term when he voted to give rookie Sup’t Laurie Heinz a one-year contract extension (on her remaining two-year deal) worth a whopping $250,000 before, only minutes later, voting against giving her a $4,200 raise. We wrote about that in our July 6, 2015 post, and you might find it interesting to hear how Sotos adopts the rationale of the subsequently-discredited Dathan Paterno – from 4:12:51 through 4:15:25 of that June 22, 2015 meeting video – in justifying $250,000 but not $4,200 more.

Our April 24, 2017 post addressed Sotos’ inability to grasp school finance issues – or his irresponsible stewardship of the District’s finances, if you prefer – based on his vote authorizing the District to issue $9.25 million of non-referendum, high-interest debt certificates even though the District was sitting on an operating fund balance of over $48 million, two times the District’s 30% fund balance target. Sotos’ most salient question during that colloquy: “How does using bonds differ from going to referendum?”

Yes, he actually asked that in response to a resident’s inquiry about D-64’s debt, starting at the 13:13 mark of the April 24, 2017 meeting video.

Our February 13, 2019 post discussed how Sotos, despite having been on the Board for almost 4 years, had to admit at the January candidates’ forum (as reported in a 01.28.2019 Herald-Advocate article) that he was unaware of the dysfunction of the District’s Special Education (“SPED”) program because he “didn’t see it happening” due to the fact that he was “not in that world” – a stunning admission of cluelessness from somebody who has pretended to be on top of all things D-64.

Worse yet, he lacks even a 5th Grade civics-level grasp of the basic principles of representative government – as he proved during the September 12, 2016 Board meeting that we wrote about in our September 19, 2016 post. That night, resident Jayne Reardon challenged the Board to publish the 2016-2020 teachers’ union (PREA) contract so that taxpayers could see and comment on it before the Board voted to approve it, and Sotos decided to challenge Ms. Reardon.

Big mistake.

In a span of just 9 minutes, Sotos was left on the canvass bleeding worse than Chuck Wepner after dancing almost 15 rounds with Ali back in 1975. We encourage you to watch the video of that colloquy (from 1:03:18 to 1:12:20) to understand what passes for “transparency” in Sotos’ parallel universe:

 “When you ask us to release [the contract], are you asking us to release it so that you and the public would have their opportunity to give their opinion on the contract, or is it so that you can just have it viewed prior to us making our, or voting on it?”

 “So if I get 6, or 10, or 50 people that come in and say I absolutely don’t like [the contract], am I then, as an elected official, am I then to take those 50 people and take their opinions and allow that to change the way I felt about the contract prior to them reviewing it?”

“Where is the number [of residents] that I have to wait to hear from the public to change my mind, the mind that was elected by the individuals to make this decision for them in the first place?”

Reardon’s responses to Sotos’ questions could have been excerpts from “Civics For Dummies” that Sotos probably doesn’t comprehend even now.

That video also provides an insight into Sotos’ duplicity when he tells Reardon: “I would love to publish [the contract].” Two weeks later at the September 26, 2016 Board meeting, however, Sotos – after issuing more pandering “thank yous” than a drunken Oscar recipient before being played off the stage – voted to approve that contract without even one word about publishing it first. If you have a strong stomach, you can find his bloviation from 1:03:22 to 1:08:34 of that meeting video.

And who can forget the phony/absurd display of sensitivity when Sotos, the owner of a Loop gin joint that we’ve described as “Braveheart with cleavage,” admonished women addressing the Board for using the word “vagina” because it was “not being used in a positive way.” Yes, he actually said that, too – which is why we wrote about it in our February 20, 2017 post; and why we started referring to him as “Tilted Kilt Tommy.”

All that was well before Sotos went into full campaign mode (“FCM”) and began fighting for one of three 4-year seats against a de facto slate of 3 women – Lisa Page, Denise Pearl and Carolina Sales – who, either directly or through supporters, have targeted him as unfit for further Board service due to his “Tilted Kilt” ownership.

FCM now has him insisting to Ingrid Groening Czech in a recent comment on the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group FB page that he “fought against [“secures” (sic) vestibules”] from day one” – a lie demonstrated by a March 8, 2016 H-A article reporting how Sotos actually supported the highest-cost not-really-secured vestibule at Lincoln Middle School, stating: “I don’t want to go to bed at night and say ‘I voted not to approve that one school’ and then something happens at that school.”

In another comment under that same FB string, FCM has Sotos bragging to Michelle Fiore-Cwiertniak about the $40 million of school renovations “without the need to raise taxes by way of referendum” – but failing to mention that part of that questionable achievement was made possible by the aforementioned issuance of over $9 million in high-interest, no-referendum debt certificates that will end up costing D-64 taxpayers an additional $3 million in interest.

And in that same comment to Fiore-Cwiertniak, Sotos reveals his most unprincipled nature by shamelessly offering to be a power-brokering “tiebreaker member” of the future Board with no allegiance to either “the 3 current members” of the Board, or to the “new candidates who are all running as a single voice.”  In other words, Sotos believes he has identified two separate Board factions and is already cynically starting to play them off, one against the other, with no regard whatsoever for any individual issues or policies that either faction, or any of the individual Board members, might espouse. That’s Crook County politics at its worst.

In our opinion, that makes Sotos the sleaziest local public official since Howard Frimark. And that’s why we believe Sotos needs to be de-selected from the D-64 Board this Tuesday, April 2nd.

To read or post comments, click on title.   


13 comments so far

Wow, this is heavy stuff. What did Sotos do to you, PW, that you have such hatred for him?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sotos has done nothing personally to this editor. Over the years, this editor has had a few pleasant conversations with him. albeit about non-District topics.

In this editor’s opinion, however, Sotos is totally unfit to be a School Board member – and probably unfit for any public office – because his dishonesty and incompetence in that role has significantly harmed individual students, irresponsibly wasted the taxpayers’ money, created and/or exacerbated a lack of trust between parents and the District, and failed to produce anything worthwhile enough to mitigate the damage he has caused.

He has GOT to go. Anyone who has watched those board meetings (ANY board meeting) can see he is not qualified and not competent. I would vote for a well-trained monkey over Sotos.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Agreed, although we’re not sure how “well-trained” the monkey would need to be.

Mr. Editor/Mr. Trizna:

You have consistently argued against public sector unions, especially the PREA. How then, sir, can you condemn Sotos when the women he is running against have been endorsed by the teacher assistants’ union and, I’ve heard, endorsed on the down low by the PREA? By condemning Sotos you are making it easier for the union-endorsed women candidates to take over the Board and roll over for the PREA in next year’s negotiations.

EDITOR’S NOTE: When it comes to grabbing one’s ankles for the PREA, Sotos has proven himself to be double-jointed; and a fraud.

First, he was in the PREA’s pocket in 2016, fully supporting keeping the new contract terms secret until after the he and the Board voted to approve it.

And as we pointed out in our 08.02.2016 post, Sotos proudly displayed his pro-PREA bias on the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group FB page when he insisted that: “It’s not fair to teachers to compare them to another profession”; and “I don’t think it is fair to bring in months worked [D-64 teachers, by current contract, work a maximum of only 185 days, or 37 weeks] as an argument in teachers [sic] salaries” because “teachers should never be questioned about hours worked or Summer’s offer [sic]. Ever.”

If Sotos were capable of being honest and transparent in his Board service, he would wear a jacket with “The PREA’s Bitch” stenciled on the back.

Thank you for linking to portions of the meeting videos where Sotos is talking. If the guy had one ounce of sense he would have sat mute (like Eggemann) and let people merely think he is a fool instead of speaking and proving that he is.

I hear that he was encouraged to run by Char, Mel, and other local Republicans. I don’t care if local Republicans or Democrats encourage people to run in non-partisan races, but the optics might not be very good.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Unfortunately, Char let herself get hoodwinked into what passes for “leadership” withing the Republican/Stupid Party of Illinois. We hope and believe that she now realizes how she has been used by manipulated by the Stupid Party management, and that she will extricate herself shortly.

Mel, on the other hand, is so lost in the funhouse that he still thinks the Illinois Republican Party is legit.

Assuming I find your post to be persuasive, HOW, exactly, can I vote Sotos off the Board?? It is not possible to vote against Sotos. It’s necessary to vote for other candidates. But WHIS “other candidates” ought citizens to vote for.? PW, you have not made that clear nor have you offered meaningful suggestions.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We operate under the political equivalent of the common (but erroneous) understanding of the Hippocratic Oath: “First do no harm.” So warning the voters about Sotos was job one.

For the past two days this editor has been reading, analyzing and cross-referencing all the remaining candidates’ campaign materials (including their answers to the SPED and Go Green questionnaires) and listening, twice, to the 1 hour, 41 minute audio recording of the Action Ridge candidates’ forum (Sotos MIA). We’re hoping to have more insight into who might be worthy of our endorsement in the next day or so.

He is alleged to have asked at school meeting: “what if parents do not want their normal child in an inclusive classroom.” If true, this person has no business being on a school board. Unfortunately he is first on ballot. Bullet voting another candidate one way to counter that.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Unfortunately (for administrative purposes), children with special needs run the gamut from kids with modest learning disabilities to kids with ADD, to kids with ADHD, to kids on the autism spectrum, to kids with significant physical or emotional issues. From a practical standpoint, that could be the difference between a kid who just needs extra time on tests to a kid who actually disrupts the classroom and threatens the physical well-being of his/her fellow students.

If Sotos was actually thinking of these most extreme disparities between a “regular” student and a SPED student, the comment you complain about may actually have been one of the more thoughtful ones he’s ever uttered. But we’re not betting on it.

You are a despicable man to write garbage like this. Why don’t you have the nerve to post your garbage on the Concerned Homeowners page where you would have to defend your sick ideas against Ginger Lee, Lauren Hall, and the other strong progressive women who comment there?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Opinions vary.

We would LOVE to post and comment on the Concerned HOs FB page. But its lead admin, freeloader/snowflake extraordinaire Kathy (Panattoni) Meade, not only continues to refuse membership to this editor but she actually blocks him from seeing her posts and comments – even though we understand that she has availed herself of this blog’s “anonymous” comment posting to take shots at this editor and this blog’s views.

I like how you back up your opinions with provable facts, like giving meeting video references and identifying newspaper articles. I assume that’s your legal training.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks, we try our best. And, yes, that is a function of our legal training, although we’ve seen attorneys post comments on other social media (e.g., the Concerned HOs FB page) with no supporting record references, so legal training may not be the whole explanation.

Char is not going to be happy with you!

EDITOR’S NOTE: It won’t be the first time, and likely not the last.

Good for you to de-selecting a sexist fool like Sotos. BUt are you going to endorse our wonderful women candidates who will bring independent change to D-64?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check back later today and see.

If Sotos gets re-elected and the “MOMS” get elected, there will be a board majority that will roll over for the PREA and the TAs, because Sotos is a PREA toady and the MOMS have already pledged their support in return for endorsements by the PREA and the TAs. It will be a disaster.

Whoever the joker is who claims “the MOMS” pledged their support in return for endorsements …. Any actual facts to back up that ridiculous claim? Didn’t think so.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you don’t believe that union (and most business) endorsements don’t come with a quid pro quo, you must already own swampland in Florida. Wanna buy some more?

GG Sotos got that dub

EDITOR’S NOTE: Indeed he did. And bully for him!

That doesn’t mean that he’s not still the horse’s ass we wrote about in our pre-election post, and that he won’t continue to be so for another four years.

But engagement in local politics and government is like a third marriage: A triumph of optimism over experience. So, once Borrelli and Heinz are gone, we’ll see whether he can become anything better than the sock puppet he’s been for the past four years.

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