Mutual respect’ training canceled
Mokena Park District Board members leave before meeting starts
By Susan DeMar Lafferty Daily Southtown
A mutual-respect training seminar for Mokena Park District Board members was canceled Tuesday night due to a lack of participants.
Recent meetings have been chaotic, with commissioners calling for resignations and hurling accusations at each other, and the public demanding answers.
The seminar — offered at the suggestion of the park district’s attorney, Gina Madden, for free — was the only agenda item listed in a workshop session following the board’s regular monthly meeting.
All six commissioners attended the regular session, but when three left before the workshop began, Madden advised board President George McJimpsey to cancel it due to a lack of a quorum.
Madden said she was being cautious not to violate the Open Meetings Act, noting that the workshop session and its agenda were posted as public meetings.
“Technically it is board business, even though no action would have been taken by the board,” she said.
Commissioner Dennis Bagdon left immediately and without comment after the regular session adjourned. Commissioner Kevin Brogan said he had a prior commitment but would read through the materials circulated.
Commissioner Steve Curran appeared to be willing to attend but left abruptly just as the session was about to start. He became upset when a resident, John Olivieri, implied that there may have been an open-meetings violation and photographed Commissioners Curran, Mike Bartos and McJimpsey out in the hall, where they said they were taking a break between the two sessions.
Curran said they were “talking about other stuff” and were not violating the act.
“I’m not putting up with this,” he said as he left.
Olivieri said he did not hear what the commissioners were discussing in the hallway.
According to the Open Meetings Act, if a majority of a quorum of board members — in this case three — come together and discuss public business, it is considered an open public meeting. Members cannot discuss business privately, either in person or electronically.
Olivieri recently filed a complaint now being reviewed by the Illinois Attorney General’s office, claiming the board violated the act when it held a special meeting in November because it was not held in a venue large enough for the public, and the board did not follow its agenda.
Bagdon said Wednesday he told Madden and his fellow board members in advance that he would not participate in the mutual respect training “for several reasons.”
However, he said the board is “out of control” and its members “do not respect one another.”
Former board President Lana Graser and Olivieri both asked commissioners to explain their recent statements and actions.
They asked why McJimpsey, Bartos and Curran denied that they wanted to fire Romanek, when according to the minutes of the November special meeting, they all voted to give the director 180 days’ notice to terminate his contract.
Olivieri said the public also needs to know why Bartos and Curran abstained in a vote last month to require criminal background checks for Park District Board members. The requirement passed with three voting for it — McJimpsey, Brogan and Bagdon. The policy is still being reviewed by the attorney.