Sunday, November 30, 2008

Carjacking Warning

Warning..!!!! Whether this story is true or not, it's worth reading and considering.

Just last weekend on Friday night we parked in a public parking area. As we drove away I noticed a sticker on the rear window of the car. When I took it off after I got home, it was a receipt for gas. Luckily my friend told me not to stop as it could be someone waiting for me to get out of the car.

Then we received this email:


Heads up everyone! Please keep this circulating... You walk across the parking lot, unlock your car and get inside. You start the engine and shift into Reverse. When you look into the rearview mirror to back out of your parking space, you notice a piece of paper stuck to the middle of the rear window. So you shift into Park, unlock your doors, and jump out of your car to remove that paper (or whatever it is) that is obstructing your view.

When you reach the back of your car, that is when the carjackers appear out of nowhere, jump into your car and take off. They practically mow you down as they speed off in your car.

And guess what, ladies? I bet your purse is still in the car. So now the carjacker has your car, your home address, your money, and your keys. Your home and your whole identity are now compromised!

BEWARE OF THIS NEW SCHEME THAT IS NOW BEING USED. If you see a piece of paper stuck to your back window, just drive away. Remove the paper later. And be thankful that you read this e-mail. I hope you will forward this to friends and family, especially to women. A purse contains all kinds of personal information and identification documents, and you certainly do NOT want this to fall into the wrong hands.

If you want to forward this to anyone, use the function below this article. Just click on the "envelope" and insert the complete email address of anyone to whom you would like to send it.

Must-See Video

If you have any interest in historic preservation and in saving Grace Hall, you've got to see Courthouse Girls of Farmland. This video will be scheduled for a showing in Woodstock, probably in December but no later than in January.

What's it about? Go to

In 2005 the commissioners of Randolph County, Indiana, voted to demolish the courthouse and build a modern courthouse. Seven women, ages 77 to 94, spearheaded a plan to save the courthouse. And they did!

Proceeds from the sale of the Courthouse Girls of Farmland calendars raised more than $45,000!

Feel like a little drive? Head for Winchester, Indiana, county seat of Randolph County. It's in east central Indiana, about 7 miles from the Ohio state line and about 20 miles north of I-70. And while you are there, don't miss Farmland (just a little west of Winchester).

Can't wait for the showing of the video in Woodstock? Buy your own copy on their website for $22.45, including shipping. Just click on Store on their website.

Macy's - real Customer Service!

You may have read or heard the warnings about Gift Cards, as the holiday season approaches. If you purchase a gift card and the company goes out of business before the Gift Card is used, your money is gone.

And you've probably also heard about inactivity fees - those nasty, hidden charges that begin eating up your card's value after, say, six months.

And the worst? The expiration date of a gift card, after which a retailer just pockets your money. You snooze; you lose.

Illinois law changed a while back; I think cards no longer expire, but you might still have to watch for inactivity fees.

And then there is Macy's. Five-six years ago I gave my daughter a gift card for Hecht's, which I thought she had told me was one of her favorite stores in the area where she lives. It turns out that she never redeemed the gift card. When she showed it to me and explained there was no Hecht's store in her area and that Hecht's had been bought out by Macy's, we thought her money was gone. The gift card receipt was so faded that I couldn't read it, but she could. And one faded line informed her that the card had expired two years ago.

Upon calling the tollfree number on the back of the card, I found it was still a working number. And the gift card number was still active. AND the gift card still has its original value. The recorded message further informed me that there are no inactivity fees and now no expiration date.

Now THAT's Customer Service!

Grace Hall - Doomed?

According to the City Attorney's office, the November 10th Public Hearing of the Woodstock Historic Preservation Commission was a valid Public Hearing.

On November 12 I wrote about the questions in my mind surrounding this meeting.

You may remember that prior Public Hearings of the Woodstock Plan Commission were conducted in a different manner. Anyone wishing to speak at the Public Hearing was first sworn by an attorney from the City Attorney's office - sworn to tell the truth. As I recall, not sworn to "tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth"; just sworn to tell the truth. We who are picky about language will say there is no difference. You either tell the truth or you don't.

The opinion of the City Attorney's office about the November 10th Public Hearing, as relayed to me via a member of the Historic Preservation Commission, was "...Rich Flood's office has said that while sworn testimony before HPC would have been preferable it is not legally required nor does it render the proceedings defective. ... he cited a legal precedent that since neither WCLS nor HPC objected during the public hearing to the failure to administer oaths the issue is effectively waived..."

Why was sworn testimony on the Woodstock Christian Life Service's request for Special Use Permit taken by the Plan Commission, but not taken by the Historic Preservation Commission when a Petitioner submitted a request for Landmark status of Grace Hall? At two meetings this past summer an attorney representing the City attended Plan Commission meetings and was available to advise the Plan Commission on the conduct of the public hearings.

Yet at the first Public Hearing of the HPC on the Landmark issue, a younger member of the City Attorney's staff was sent as messenger to advise the HPC to concur with the Objector's (WCLS) request for continuance. And that he did. With the result that the HPC took a nap for a month, in spite of the fact that WCLS would ask the City Council on the very next night to approve its plan - which the City Council did!

And then, on November 10, when the Public Hearing resumed, no legal representative of the City was present.

So, on these points:

1. sworn testimony before HPC would have been preferable
2. it is not legally required
3. nor does it render the proceedings defective.
4. ... a legal precedent that since neither WCLS nor HPC objected during the public hearing to the failure to administer oaths the issue is effectively waived

If sworn testimony would have been preferable, then why wasn't the Public Hearing of the HPC conducted in the "preferred" manner? Obviously, the City saved money by not having to pay for an attorney to attend and advise the HPC. The City also skipped the expense of audio-recording the Public Hearing, and it skipped the expense of a court recorder to record and transcribe the Public Hearing.

Does this oversight (or disregard) actually result in converting the November 10 Public Hearing to a "public meeting" with no legal effect whatsoever?

Is sworn testimony really not "legally required" at a Public Hearing? If it is not, then why were the Plan Commission Public Hearings conducted with sworn testimony. It was at the second Plan Commission Public Hearing, when I realized that testimony was sworn testimony, that I raised the issue that the Plan Commission had very likely heard sworn but untrue testimony at its first Public Hearing of the summer on the WCLS matter. I have seen no evidence that the City has made any effort to ascertain whether, in fact, untrue testimony was presented.

Could the proceedings of the HPC be defective without sworn testimony? Not being a lawyer I am not prepared to comment as to whether the Klaeren case in Illinois law is considered applicable to the HPC Public Hearings. Some municipal law firms believe its impact is broader than just to that case.

It's the fourth point that causes me to hesitate the longest before I would consider agreeing that the Public Hearing of November 10 is valid.

" ... a legal precedent that since neither WCLS nor HPC objected during the public hearing to the failure to administer oaths the issue is effectively waived..."

Since the HPC planned the meeting, it certainly would not have objected to the failure to administer oaths. It would not even have known to do so.

And counsel for WCLS? You can bet he knows whether the administration of oaths is required. And why would he object? My guess is that he sat there (sort of like the
Cheshire cat), knowing that the Public Hearing was invalid without sworn testimony, and that the wise course of action was not to object then, but to wait until later - perhaps at the second April 2009 meeting of the City Council. And then he will object to the Council's consideration of the recommendation of the HPC, saying that there was, in fact, no (valid) Public Hearing and, therefore, there is no valid recommendation that the Council can consider.

Is the legal precedent referred to by the City Attorney applicable in this particular matter? Can such an important factor as truthful testimony be waived by either or both parties just by remaining silent (or ignorant, in the case of the HPC)? I doubt it.

Well, maybe I'm just crying "Wolf!" At the second April 2009 meeting of the City Council, perhaps it will accept the recommendation of the HPC, grant Landmark status to Grace Hall and withhold the Demolition Permit. Wanna bet?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Traffic Violation Survey Results

Many thanks to the 33 readers who participated in this survey:

The last time you were stopped for a traffic violation, did you get a

Ticket? 16 (48%)

Written Warning? 5 (15%)

Neither? 12 (36%)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Grace Hall - What's Up?

A notable omission from the December 2 Woodstock City Council Agenda is the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) recommendation for Landmark status of the building known as Grace Hall.

Section D Minutes & Reports is where the Minutes of the HPC would be transmitted to the City Council. Plenty of time has passed for the Minutes to be prepared and submitted. What's the hold-up? Are there any Minutes?

On November 21st several people met at Woodstock Christian Life Services to tour the building. The meeting was attended by Terry Egan (WCLS), City Councilman RB Thompson, Christina Morris (National Trust for Historic Preservation–Midwest Office), Lisa DiChiera (Landmarks Illinois), Anthony Rubano (Illinois Historic Preservation Agency), Kathleen Spaltro and Allen Stebbins.

Where was the Petitioner for the Landmark status - the Lemanskis? Working, probably. Others had requested notice of the meeting, which was not forthcoming. Where was the press? Where were other concerned community members?

The meeting was described as "very positive and productive" and supposedly "resulted in some possibilities for saving Grace Hall."

I'll tell you one possibility. The Landmark status that was approved by the HPC and which the Northwest Herald reported as not to be considered by the Woodstock City Council until the second meeting in April.

That meeting will be shortly before the wrecking ball arrives on the "campus" of WCLS.

Those at the meeting are to reconvene via teleconference in about two weeks (first week in December? was a date set?). Other interested parties who wish to participate should contact Allen Stebbins and any other member of the HPC to learn the date, time and location of the public meeting to be held by teleconference.

And the public should demand that the recommendation of the HPC for Landmark status be considered at the second December meeting of the City Council (if there is one) or at the first January meeting of the City Council.

Unless the people of Woodstock want to see a pile of rubble at the end of May where Grace Hall used to stand, they'd better get organized, meaning with a first-class, out-of-McHenry County attorney with the smarts to stop the demolition and a key independent historic preservation expert who works solely for the Petitioner. Otherwise, buy your face masks early to protect yourselves against all the brick dust that will fly, when the walls come tumbling down.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Day

A day to be thankful, and a day to give.

One of my best Thanksgivings was in Denver in the early 1980s, when a number of us volunteered to serve Thanksgiving dinner at Daddy Bruce's BBQ restaurant. Daddy Bruce provided free meals to all comers, and come they did.

Many from the neighborhood, many homeless from under the bridges along Cherry Creek and the shelters, and anyone else who showed up. Usually a few who were not in need showed up, and many of them offered money to support the free meals to all, but it was never accepted.

Daddy Bruce served thousands over the years, and a Thanksgiving Day does not pass that I don't remember his generosity.

So, between a meal on your table that will feed many more than those who sit there and the noise all day on the TV, pause for a few moments and give thanks for the real gifts in your life.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Open Letter from Zane Seipler

To the Deputies at the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department,

On July 28th, 2007 we were given a departmental questionnaire asking us to assess the climate of the department. (At this time my career was everything I wanted it to be. I was advancing rapidly and earning special assignments and duties. Yet, something was bothering me. Statistics were being pushed by our supervisors, plaques about “…owning the night” were being erected, less mature deputies were bragging about how arrest were easy and fun and a couple of them made negative comments about African-Americans and Latinos.) I filled out the questionnaire honestly. I wrote things about civil rights violations, racial profiling and poor supervision. I also wrote that people I consider sub-standard deputies were getting recognition for their statistics while superior deputies (the vast majority of you) were being marginalized.

Immediately I was called in to the office by a certain Captain. This Captain asked me what was going on and I told that I believe three or four deputies may be racially profiling in order to raise their stats. The Captain told me to give him names, I refused. I told the Captain that if he made a general statement at roll call condemning such behavior that would probably solve the problem.
I also stated that we should try to operate like more “progressive” departments and have some kind of “sensitivity” training every year instead of every decade. Again the Captain told me to give him names, I refused. He then gave me three names, I replied “ If you know this you don’t need me to give names.” The conversation continued and one year, dozens of memos, countless closed door meetings, several yelling sessions, several internal investigations, numerous secret supervisor phone calls, a trumped up warrant, dozens of threats of arrest, supervisory scare tactics used against my children and wife, outlandish rumors and pathetic pleas for my resignation, I was terminated. (Oh yes, four months of paid administrative leave at the tax payers expense.) Why did I endure all of this? Because it was the right thing to do.

I am not against you, the vast majority of you are outstanding, honorable deputies. Deputies that have been conditioned to accept the totalitarian atmosphere that is the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department. You know as well as I do if you’re not one of the “good ole boys” you’re on the “dark side”. (PBPA vs. FOP)

I decided long ago that I wouldn’t let bad things happen to good people if I could help it. I’ve seen a Lieutenant make grown men and women cry as he screamed at them in the confines of his cushy office (or the interrogation room of Huntley P.D.). I’ve seen experienced, hardworking, senior deputies get passed up for the K-9 unit for a deputy who specializes in arresting Hispanics and beating up elderly women. I have seen good deputies internally investigated by a couple of Lieutenants that should have lost their jobs long ago for the numerous General Order infractions they committed during the course of their careers. (Makes me wonder exactly what do these people have on each other.) I have seen fear. Fear, that if you were to speak out and voice your opinion or your concerns you will be treated like I was. Believe me when I tell you the supervisors know that this is the case. They bank on it. Fear is what you work under, it is how you are controlled.

You don’t need to fear me. Some of you have secrets and I have kept those. No amount of fear would ever make me turn on good deputies. But the deputies that aren’t so good, who are taking the short cuts to make arrests, who are using unnecessary force to subdue citizens, who are writing a reports about altercations in groups so that the reports all sound alike, you should worry. The rest should keep doing the job as you have always done it, honorably.

I have chosen this fight and I will see it through. So when you look at that giant Stat Board in roll call and you begin to see a certain three or four deputies arrest numbers dropping, remember. When those same deputies are now handling their service calls instead of transporting a Hispanic driver to the jail every forty five minutes, remember. When you are no longer going to a domestic altercation alone because everyone is in their area and not at the jail or waiting for a tow, remember. When you’re no longer writing an obscene number of reports a night because certain deputies are writing their own reports, remember. When you sit in roll call and listen to a afternoon shift Sergeant and Lieutenant tell you how evil I am or how racist I am, remember. (These guys were all under federal investigation long before I was under McHenry County Sheriff’s Department investigation.) When they formulate new daily evaluation standards to make you more “aggressive”, remember. And when they threaten to terminate you when you don’t conform, remember, I have chosen to fight for you also.

Don’t let the changes and unwanted scrutiny that is bound to arise because of this change the way you do your job. If you’ve never done anything that deserves scrutiny, you’ll be just fine.

Zane Seipler

P.S. I plan on winning the arbitration, so I’ll see you soon.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

$1.55/gal. - Monday

Eat your heart out. As I headed off the S.C. for Thanksgiving, I gassed up near Lafayette, Indiana - $1.55/gal. for unleaded regular!

Next tank was $1.67/gal. I saw a guy with a Blazer who was filling six 5-gallon gas cans there!

When I got into South Carolina today, I saw gas for $1.77/gal. and felt that was a rip-off. Five miles down the road and I paid $1.66/gal.

How loooooowwwwww can it go?

Armed Robbery in Woodstock

Yesterday three men robbed Manriquez Jewelry, on S. Eastwood Dr. near Gus's (no relation) Roadhouse.

For more information, see

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Property Taxes Staying High

If you are having trouble figuring out why your property taxes aren't dropping as sharply as your home's value, read Brian Slupski's column in today's Northwest Herald on Page 10A. Or read it online at Search for "Jagla" on the paper's website to find Brian's column quickly.

Don't miss the final sentence. "The only thing taxpayers could do would be to demand that local taxing districts - schools, parks, fire, library - control spending better and not ask for the maximum revenue increase every year."

Add municipalities to that list.

Screening Job Applicants

It's not so hard as Gene Goeglein said in this morning's Northwest Herald to uncover unfavorable employment history or problems with the law of a former employee of a school district or any other employer. Mr. Goeglein is the Regional Superintendent of the McHenry County Regional Office of Education.

It definitely should not be the end of a conversation, after the caller is given only the start and ending dates of employment for the former person.

"Is s/he eligible for re-hire?" This is the killer question. This is the show-stopper. If I call a past employer and am told that my applicant is not eligible for re-hire, I am definitely raising the bar.
Now my applicant might not be eligible for that employer, and I might indeed find him an excellent, qualified, honest, no-problems-with-the-law employee.

The best H.R. question I ever heard, though, came from a young office manager of a law firm in Denver. His question? "Was there a great sigh of relief when so-and-so left?"

Just because an organization fires an employee does not automatically make that employee a high-risk applicant.

Check out what is happening right now at the McHenry County Sheriff's Department. Sheriff Nygren fired Deputy Zane Seipler. Just wait until the rest of the stories come out.

And what about the Woodstock Police Chief's efforts to fire Sgt. Steve Gorski? Should coercion be used by an employer to force an employee to sign an unfair employment agreement without time to confer with his attorney and physician?

What was unfair about the agreement? As I understand it, the Woodstock Police Department virtually forced Gorski to sign a statement that he would not take two medications for pain control of his two back injuries, yet the same document said he could take any medications prescribed by his physician, which those two were! Talk about Catch 22!

What is the real reason that the Woodstock P.D. wants to get rid of Gorski? That part of the story hasn't come out yet, but I'll venture a guess that the employees there know about it and are very reluctant to talk about it.

Law enforcement officers are not supposed to air their dirty laundry in public. In fact, the sheriff's department has a policy that deputies will not do so. Is that a prohibition of free speech? If you see rules broken and laws violated - and tolerated, should you lose your job because you take it to the public after the problems don't get cleaned up by the bosses?

Both Deputy Seipler and Sgt. Gorski will get their jobs back. It will take a while and cost a lot of money.

Minor League Ballfield in Woodstock?

What's that old saying? If you can't sell it in Crystal Lake, you can always peddle it in Woodstock?

Here come the ballfield proponents. The welcome mat got yanked in Crystal Lake, so they came out a little farther west and think they can peddle it here.

It's a good thing I am not a City Planner. I know that, for sure, I am not a futurist. And I've been to only one Kane County Cougars game (which was great - it's a very family-friendly team and ballpark) and never to the Schaumburg Flyers. I'm not likely to be a regular at any minor league games out this way. Maybe there are people who would be.

"If you build it, they will come." Well, the ballfield of the movie Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa is still there - a somewhat popular tourist spot. But will they come to Woodstock? And in sufficient numbers to keep the lights on for years to come? Is a recession the right time to build an entertainment or large recreational venue?

Traffic patterns can be created so that U.S. 14 doesn't not become a bottleneck and impassable on game nights; just pour lots of concrete. Worse would be for the ballfield to be built (or partially built) and then abandoned. The City should require a bond for its demolition, if it fails, and restoration to the cornfields there now.

How's that for progressive thinking?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ill. State Police - New Driving Rules

On Friday the Illinois State Police issued new, more restrictive driving rules for its troopers. These changes come one year after a trooper lost control of his car at 126MPH, while responding on an emergency call near Collinsville, Ill. The trooper crossed the median and hit a car, killing two sisters.

Basically, these are the new rules:
1. Specific criteria for call responses. No more free-for-all. And it sounds like troopers might even be expected to obey speed limits for Level One responses. What a novel idea.
2. Troopers must use hands-free cell phones.
3. Troopers are not to operate technology during emergency calls (in-car computers, texting equipment, cell phones).
4. In-car video-cameras are not to be turned off during emergency responses.

You can read the news release at

For the trooper performing his duty in a lawful manner, these rules won't be a problem at all.

We could use these same rules in McHenry County. Will the sheriff and police chiefs be forward-thinking enough to follow Director Trent's lead and implement similar rules without a lot of arm-twisting by the public?

Whistleblowers - how viewed?

In many organizations, when an employee blows the whistle and complains outside the organization about things that are wrong (more than "wrong"), that person often ends up on the outs with his former colleagues.

This seems to be especially true in the world of law enforcement. When the dirt gets aired, everyone runs for cover. Counter-attacks are often launched; smears begin; getting the "spin" right is important to the organization.

I suspect that many colleagues of the whistleblower are silently applauding his bravery in challenging the system.

In the case in this week's news, Deputy Zane Seipler was fired by the McHenry County Sheriff's Department. This occurred less than a month after the October 21st McHenry County Merit Commission convened briefly in what I believe was a failed attempt to hold a Special Meeting entirely by teleconference. At that meeting they merely continued the hearing to February.

In a communication with Zane after he was fired, he shared this with me. He said, "The vast majority of Sheriff's deputies are good people and the reason for this lawsuit is so good people no longer have to be afraid of the Sheriff's Department."

There are some who will stand up to an organization. Zane is one of these men. By doing so, he is not only looking out for his own interests, but he is paving the way for wrongdoings to be corrected. It'll take a while. The best support he can have is for his friends to stand with him.

When you see something going south while you are on duty, stand up and speak out. Complain that you cannot, you will not, break the law to enforce it. Re-read your oath of office, especially the part about "protect and serve."

If you are asked to write something into a report that is not true, refuse. No discussion. No "ifs, ands or buts." OK, so you want to avoid being charged with insubordination for refused to follow an order. I understand that. So, when you write your report, then write it the way you are told to write it and add a sentence that "This report has been written under the guidance and at the direction of my supervisor, Sgt. ______, who told me specifically to write that ."

There are good deputies and good officers at work in McHenry County. They need our support.

'tis the season

Now's the time to ring that bell, and the next time you hear that bell? Drop in a few dollars.

Outside area businesses for the next month will be the bellringers for the Salvation Army. You'll hear that familiar bell often. Dig down for those coins and, when you open your wallet or purse, let the moths escape and reach for those $1 and $5 bills.

When you make a donation to the Salvation Army, you help others. It's a good feeling!

And you - yes, YOU - can be a bellringer. Call the Salvation Army on Monday to sign up for a two-hour shift. Or longer. Or more than one. In this area call the SA in Crystal Lake at (815) 455-2769.

You may see a red stand and empty bell hook outside a store. This means that no one signed up for that slot. Come on, McHenry County. We can do better than that.

And just because you gave once, does not mean that you cannot give again. Got one of those Gold Coins collecting dust in a bottom drawer. Surprise us all and drop it in.

How much would you like to donate this year? $100? $50? $25? Five bucks in five buckets will be your $25. Or how about $5 in ten buckets AND a check for $50 in #11?

Start today...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Election Day Survey Results

Thanks to the 25 readers who voted on the question, “Did you vote in the General Election?”

The results were
18 (72%) Yes, on Nov. 4
4 (16%) Yes, by Early Voting
0 (0%) Yes, by Absentee Voting
3 (12%) No

Fellow Blogger Writes about Seipler's Lawsuit

Be sure to reach Cal Skinner's excellent article about Zane Seipler's Federal lawsuit against the McHenry County Sheriff's Department. Former State Representative Skinner is well-known in McHenry County.

Looking back, I'd say now that I was pretty lucky never to get hired during the few times I applied for employment as a police officer or a state patrolman. On the first day I would have been telling them everything that was wrong in the department, and then I would have been washing patrol cars, not driving them!

Ticket "Quota"?

People used to laugh when a deputy was asked if he had a ticket quota and he replied, "Nah. They let me write as many as I want."

Only it may not be a joke here in McHenry County.

Frequently, you'll see a name in the Crime Reports published in the Northwest Herald or the Woodstock Independent and a long list of traffic charges for one traffic stop. Why would a deputy write 4-5-6-8 tickets to a driver for one traffic stop?

One of the reasons might be related to mud. If you throw enough mud on the wall, some of it will stick. When the driver gets to court and is facing eight tickets (possibility of eight convictions at, let's say, $100 each, plus $100-150 in court costs on EACH conviction), he might just be willing to accept about any plea bargain offered by the prosecutor (City Attorney or State's Attorney). You may even know the routine: "Plead guilty to two of them and we'll drop the rest."

The court costs in McHenry County are a rip-off. I've thought about sitting in traffic court with a calculator (a silent one, of course) and adding up the estimated court costs for a session's convictions. And the judges know that the court costs are a rip-off. They caution those in court right up front, before the first case is even called, that court costs are HIGH. They urge defendants not to get mad at them (the judges) or at the women at the Payment Counter. They just work there.

Who sets the high court costs? The State Legislature (gripe to Jack Franks, Mike Tryon, Pam Althoff) and the McHenry County Board. Look up your elected County Board member and gripe to him or her!

Where does all that money go? What's the split between the State and the County on the hundreds of thousands of dollars of court costs collected in McHenry County?

But who else benefits from all the tickets written? I've been hearing more and more about the Statistics Board at the sheriff's department, where a deputy's productivity is posted. Write a lot of tickets? Go to the head of the class.

It may not matter how many convictions result from the tickets. What counts is how many tickets are issued! And are there really extra points if the driver has a Hispanic last name?

Are promotions and transfers to elite assignments (SWAT, detectives, Gangs unit) based, at least in part, on the number of tickets written? Perhaps there needs to be another column on the Stats Board that records the number of convictions or Guilty pleas (and even those are suspect) for the number of tickets.

If a deputy writes three traffic tickets to a driver (starting with one for the high school graduation tassle hanging from the inside rearview mirror), and there is one conviction (and that one results in Supervision) and two get dropped, should a deputy really get a Gold Star for that work?

The tassle may just be a hassle. If the object does not really obstruct a driver's view of the roadway, is such an object really the cause for a traffic stop and citation? The Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/12-503(b) reads that such an object must "materially" obstruct the driver's view, but I'll venture that most drivers do not know this important word.

The judges do but, if a driver or his attorney doesn't bring it up, then the judge will rule based on testimony presented by the deputy and the prosecuting attorney.

You must know the law and know your rights.

But back to the Stats Board. The Public must know what occurs in the Training Room at its law enforcement agency. Find out. Next time you see a deputy having coffee or a meal, politely ask him about the Stats Board. Let me know what you find out.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Handling Foreign Languages

A reader raised an interesting issue with me this week. When a law enforcement agency such as the McHenry County Sheriff's Department or the Woodstock Police Department receives a call for help and cannot understand the caller (because the dispatcher/telecommunicator is mono-lingual (English only)), what happens next?

Is the caller transferred over to an automated system - Press 1 for Spanish; press 2 for Polish; press 3 for Russian? Of course, those prompts had better be in the language spoken if the number is pressed; right?

Or does the caller sit on Hold, while the dispatcher tries to figure something out or radios a deputy to phone in and talk to the caller?

At a past Coffee with the Chief in Woodstock, one of the telecommunicators explained that the WPD subscribes to an interpreter service. I guess you have to be able to guess at least the right continent and to reach an operator at the subscription service who can then quickly locate a person who can communicate with the caller.

Does the sheriff's department also have this service?

What percent of law enforcement officers, firefighters and paramedics speak the most prevalent languages in McHenry County? Who even knows what they are, besides English, Spanish, Russian and Polish?

The cops and paramedics should be required to learn Spanish. The percentage of Spanish-speaking residents in McHenry County could be as high as 30%. Even firefighters need to be bilingual. If a mother is screaming that her child is still in the burning house, firefighters needs to be able to understand that; likewise, if she is screaming that no one else is in the house, they need to know that, too!

It seems to me there were drownings off Kishwaukee Valley Road several years ago, and there was quite a delay in finding a deputy who could understand the distraught caller. The public wants to know just how quickly aid is dispatched, when every minute counts, not just how long the rescuers were at the scene.

Does the McHenry County Sheriff's Department now have the radio equipment to zero in on a cell phone's location? Remember the motorcyclist who crashed in the middle of the night and didn't know where he was? He couldn't be found by tracking his cell phone. Many cell phones now can be found using GPS-type equipment. If you have a cell phone (is there anyone who doesn't?), dig out your manual or call your service provider and figure out how to turn on the GPS function.

Dispatchers' communication techniques should be constantly reviewed by properly-trained supervisors, and immediate correction and additional training should be provided when service is sub-standard. I remember phoning in a complaint about a reckless motorcyclist who had nearly hit me head-on one night between Woodstock and Huntley.

I was driving from Huntley to Woodstock, and the guy was coming at me at about 90MPH in my lane, passing southbound cars. At first, I thought it was a car with one headlight out and farther away. Then I realized it was a motorcycle! I headed for the shoulder, and fortunately so did the car he was passing.

I called the sheriff's department to register my complaint and to ask if a deputy could get him stopped. I offered to turn around and drive back to Huntley, if a deputy could stop him. The dispatcher wanted to know what color the motorcycle was and if I saw the license plate. Talk about stupid questions! It was dark and he was heading toward me! Of course I didn't see his license plate number! I insisted the dispatcher take my name and number.

A Huntley officer heard the call and stopped the motorcyclist, who admitted what he was doing. The dispatcher called me and I drove to Huntley. About a month later the motorcyclist pled guilty and was fined about $125 plus court costs. I didn't even have to testify, although I was there in court that day and ready to do so.

Have you ever had a less-than-satisfactory experience with a dispatcher at a police department?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Does roadway come with Lexus?

This morning I was targeted by a driver in a Lexus who seemed to think that, when he bought his Lexus, he also bought the roadway.

I was enroute to Hoffman Estates at the end of the morning rush-hour and was traveling east on Algonquin Road (Route 62).

After you cross Route 59, the roadway is four lanes for about a mile and then it narrows to two lanes for about a mile. The speed limit in 55MPH on that two-lane stretch and then reduces to 45MPH.

The driver in a black Ford pick-up behind me was in a hurry, but there was nowhere to go on the two-lane stretch until it opened up to four lanes just west of Penny Road. After the roadway opened up to four lanes, I was poking along in the right lane at the posted 45MPH speed limit and he went by. But then a clown in a Lexus tore past me. Now, he was really upset about my having poked along at 45MPH (in the 45MPH zone). To demonstrate his displeasure, he cut back into the right lane when he was almost past me. I say "almost", because he was not past me by a safe distance before cutting over.

As luck would have it, he caught a red light at Barrington Road, and I rolled right up alongside him and took three pictures. Guys with vanity plates shouldn't drive like that; right? A license plate like HOP HEAD? Who can forget that one? For a good look at the license plate and the driver, click on the photos to enlarge them. (Then click on Back on your browser.)

Hopefully, the South Barrington Police Department will keep their eyes peeled for him over the next few days. They already have the story and the photos.
What do you think? Anyone know him?

Major Lawsuit Filed Today

A Complaint (major lawsuit) was filed at the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago today against a large governmental entity in McHenry County.

The plaintiff's attorney is Blake Horwitz, of the law firm Horwitz, Richardson and Baker LLC, located in the Chicago Loop. Horwitz is a nationally-known attorney whose law practice is not limited to Chicago. In one case involving police misconduct, his client was awarded $28,000,000. That's 28 with SIX zeroes!

Details of the case and the name of the police agency named as Defendant will be published tomorrow, after they are served. No use spoiling the fun for them by naming them here right now. Let's just say that they probably know who they are by now. Word travels fast; right?

When the taxpayers hear the details of this case, let's hope they do more than shake their heads. Every part of it could have been stopped well short of a lawsuit. Maybe this will get the attention of the taxpayers and others who are politically influential around here to inspect carefully what is going on in their organizations and to put a stop early to the policies and procedures that are sure to come to light as a result of this lawsuit.

If you want to know more about Blake Horwitz, go to

Seatbelt Safety Checks

When will the public raise its ugly head and protest the horrendous waste of time and money when a law enforcement agency ties up traffic for a seatbelt safety check?

On Y-103.9 Anna Cherry just announced one being conducted right now on Algonquin Road at the merge with Highways 68-59. What a mess that will be during the morning rush! Eastbound Algonquin Road emerges from a four-mile stretch of two-lane road at that point. Traffic is often slow there anyway; add in a seatbelt check and it'll be like putting a match to a fuse on dynamite.

When you consider the lost commuting time, the gasoline wasted in idling and slow-moving traffic and the additional emissions pollution, does it make sense to conduct a seatbelt safety check during rush-hour traffic?

I believe in seatbelt use. I don't start my car without fastening my seatbelt. A seatbelt saved my life when I was 18. AND I don't believe in primary enforcement of the seatbelt law!

I'd rather have our well-paid police officers and deputies enforcing MAJOR traffic violations, such as speeding, tailgating, weaving in traffic, illegal passing, aggressive driving - shall I go on?

And so what is planned by the McHenry County Sheriff's Department between now and November 30? Seatbelt safety checks!

According to the Northwest Herald this morning, they sucked some money out of the Integrated Mini-Grant Enforcement Program, or IMaGE. (OK, so the NWH didn't quite phrase it that way.) Who do you suppose went to the planning retreat in Las Vegas and spent a week figuring out that name? Is this a State of Illinois Grant or a slice of fat from the ol' Federal pork barrel. What are those special pay-offs for votes called? Oh, yes; earmarks! Pig's ear; right?

I remember driving right into a seatbelt safety check a couple of years ago at Route 120 and Greenwood Road. I had been tailgated by a woman driver westbound on Route 120 from Ringwood Road. She had been very aggressive. I tried to get a deputy to ticket her. Ha! Writing seatbelt tickets was more important than getting a dangerous, aggressive driver off the road!

Got an opinion about seatbelt safety checks? Let Sheriff Keith Nygren know by emailing him at If you don't get a reply, your email was probably caught by the Spam filter and sent to solitary confinement. The County's email system doesn't even inform you when your email isn't delivered, and apparently no one reviews the email in the spam filter for email that should be delivered as addressed (based on my experience with the State's Attorney's office). So call him at 815.338.2144

Foreclosed Homes

Be sure to read the article on Page 1 of today's Northwest Herald; then make your comment online with your thoughts.

The Northwest Herald featured a foreclosed-home clean-out service - a company hired by the mortgage-holder to clean out the property taken in foreclosure. The uncaring headline "One's trash is another's treasure" is neither sensitive nor accurate. Abandoned household possessions, such as golf clubs, a crib, family photos, are not trash. And they certainly are not the clean-out company's "treasure".

Foreclosure is an ugly process for all. The owner has lost his or her home. The mortgage holder now has yet another asset on which it will lose even more money. Children have a life-changing experience that may haunt them for years. And a situation not often considered is when it is a renter who must suddenly leave a rental house, because the owner lost it in foreclosure.

You may have read that Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart refused to evict tenants from rental homes being foreclosed upon. He probably found his own neck in a noose by some judge who felt snubbed, but it was a remarkable position for a top cop. And in Cook County, no less.

Here's the comment I posted on

"I am appalled at the insensitive treatment of foreclosure demonstrated by today's headline and article! Household possessions abandoned by a person departing from a foreclosed home may not be "trash". Certainly, family photos, a crib, golf clubs, etc. are NOT trash. The family moving out is not likely to have space into which to move all possessions or the money with which to do so. Your treatment of this subject was very uncaring!"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Where is the newspaper coverage?

When a significant law enforcement action occurs in McHenry County, should it reach the newspapers? When the daily newspapers don't print it, is it because they all put their heads together and decided not to report it? If you think that's the case, you were standing downwind too long when the sheriff's department buried that marijuana field.

Last March 14th (2008) there was such an action, when deputies attempted to execute an arrest warrant. Well, they didn't "attempt" to execute it; they executed it. Luckily, they didn't execute some of the people in the house.

The deputies had a warrant for one man. They went to his parent's home. As the story goes, they really weren't sure the son was in the house, but they forced their way in. Broken glass and all. The senior citizens were roughed up; one was hospitalized for a week.

In this state we have laws against Elder Abuse. Is it okay for cops to injure or otherwise cause harm to senior citizens in the zeal to "do their duty"? The correct answer should be a resounding NO.

I've met the parents, and I've met the son. Their stories will be told. For the time-being, their respective attorneys have properly counseled them not to discuss their cases. This is the right advice.

But once the cases are heard in court, the complete stories will be reported here.

The question is, why wasn't information released to the press back in March? The Northwest Herald, the Daily Herald, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times all would have been interested in an 80-year-old man and his wife "resisting arrest" after the cops broke into their home. A search on the four websites for the last name of the individuals finds no results.

Was this a case of "Ooops! Oh, man; we really blew that one. Let's bury it"?

Stand Up for What's Right

My stepson came home from school one day several years ago and told me about a poster on the wall in his classroom. It read, "Stand up for what you believe in, even if you are standing alone."

When I asked him what he thought of that, he replied, "It's true - except at school, where you get in trouble if you do that."

And it's the same way in the workplace. We have two organizations right here in Woodstock where that would be a great motto, except for the consequences.

And the consequences? To quote The Donald, "You're fired!"

In one case, the process has been dragging on and on, ad nauseum, for over a year.

In another case, it's just starting.

In both cases there are likely to be embarrassing after-shocks, because neither organization is squeaky clean.

The more who do stand up for what is right and who refuse to knuckle under to improper (or sometimes illegal) orders or directions, the sooner we are going to have the quality of law enforcement for which we are so handsomely paying.

The cost to the taxpayers is not just the salaries and benefits. The true cost is found only when the cost of unnecessary litigation and settlements is added to the mix. The settlements and litigation costs should be stuck right in the budgets of the departments incurring them and not siphoned out of the General Fund.

So, to those of you who want to stand tall, do it. Find your colleagues who will stand up with you. When you are told to do something that is unlawful or unethical, refuse. When you are threatened with a charge of insubordination for refusing to follow orders, tell your supervisor that you will happily and promptly any lawful order.

The more who do this, the less power the top dogs have to bully you with.

What? No Ticket?

As I approached the courthouse for a trial today at about 9:35AM, I walked past a shiny, black Jeep Liberty (license 199 4218) parked squarely in a no-parking zone at the end of a parking aisle near the building.

I couldn't help wondering why the driver parked there and why the car didn't have a ticket on it.

The security guard explained that the parking enforcement is by the Woodstock Police, and I figured they'd circle through the parking lot and issue a ticket. The Jeep was still there at 11:00AM and was still parking "free" in the no-parking zone.

I would have thought the parking lot patrol was handled by the Sheriff's Department, but apparently it's not. So here's my open request to Beat 21 officers: please patrol the parking lots at the McHenry County Government Center. When you first spot a parking violation, just stop and issue the ticket. Parking violations like this are intentional.

If the driver walks up just as you are writing the ticket, let him wait and then hand him the ticket. No passes, please.

Check those motel taxes

What impact do motel taxes have on travelers?

Recently I was checking motel prices in Kentucky and Tennessee and was shocked at the difference in taxes. Based on the difference, I decided to stay in Kentucky AND to inform the motel chain of the reason for my choice.

In Tennessee the taxes on a night's stay are 17.25%.
In Kentucky the taxes on a night's stay are 10.24%.

Why would taxes in Tennessee be 70% higher? Only because the various taxing bodies are getting away with soaking the traveling public.

From time to time local attention right here in Woodstock and in McHenry County is given to raising the hotel/motel tax. Motel owners and operators, travelers AND residents should complain and stop every effort to raise taxes.

How much does Woodstock collect because of hotel/motel taxes? And what does the City really do with the money to promote tourism? Does the City spend the money advertising and promoting all of Woodstock?

Last time I read how the money was used, it was doled out to a few local organizations to boost their operating revenues. After a portion gets spent for general operating expenses, how much of the tax money really goes for promoting tourism in Woodstock?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Deputy Causes Crash

Last week I wrote an article and titled it, Cop Causes Crash. You can read it below, but basically a young police officer got into an accident while enroute to a call. It was his fault, so he wrote himself a ticket.

This week let's take a look at how a local accident got handled last summer, when a deputy caused a crash. What was the outcome in McHenry County?

Back on July 13, 2008, there was quite a party in the Richmond area - Rodeo Days, or something to that effect. I'll be checking into it. The McHenry County deputies may have watched the day-long sale of alcohol by a person NOT holding a liquor license, and in the evening they were having a field day stopping drivers who were leaving at the party.

Several deputies had violators stopped on the shoulder of U.S. 12 near Macwood Drive in Richmond Township. One deputy was waiting on the shoulder to make a U-turn and transport a prisoner to the jail, but he didn't wait quite long enough for a vehicle to pass. Before it was past him, he pulled out and broadsided the vehicle as it passed him.

The first thing that is strange about this accident is that it was investigated by the sheriff's department. It is a common practice to call in another department to investigate such an accident. Doing this introduces objectivity and reduces the possibility that whitewashing the facts will occur.

What happened in this case? This accident was investigated by one of its own; i.e., a deputy investigated the accident involving another on-duty deputy.

Sometime after that, the woman driver of the car hit by the deputy received a letter from the County's self-insurance claims administrator, demanding payment for the damage to the patrol car. The letter reported that "evidence" in their files indicated that the woman was at fault in the accident.

This was not just a minor side-swipe crash. When the deputy pulled out into the lane of moving traffic, he pulled out and hit the moving vehicle hard. In my opinion, the woman driver is lucky that her vehicle did not roll. Over $5,000 damage was caused to the right side of the woman's vehicle.

If the woman was at fault, as claimed by the County's claims department, why wasn't she ticketed? I filed a Freedom of Information Request with the sheriff's department and was surprised to learn that the fault for the accident was attributed to the deputy. The primary contributing cause of the crash? Failure of Driver 2 (the deputy) to yield right-of-way.

Here's the problem. If the Crash Report states that Driver 2 (deputy) failed to yield the right-of-way and was the primary cause of the accident (and the only cause listed), how could the County's claims department be trying to collect for the damage to the squad car from the woman driver of the other vehicle?

This is why an outside agency is asked to investigate crashes. There are countless examples of an accident investigator's giving a "pass" to a fellow officer who has caused a crash. I know of at least four local, McHenry County examples and have heard of more.

Ask yourself this. If a deputy causes a crash and damages your car, do you think the County ought to pay you for the damage?

When Deputies Break the Law...

When is it okay for law enforcement personnel to break the law, while enforcing the law?

Ever? Never?

Consider the situation where deputies have an arrest warrant for an individual. They think they know where he is - not on his own property. They are not sure, but they think he might be inside a relative's home. Now, not just "any" home. Let's say a "nice" home. A high-priced home. In a very nice neighborhood.

And they have no reason to believe that the elderly people in the home (the owners) are likely to present any kind of a law-enforcement problem.

Consider also that the warrant isn't for a terrorist or a bank robber or a vicious criminal on the Top 10 List of the FBI (or even the Top 10 List at the McHenry County Sheriff's Department).

OK, so what's the right approach?

One approach could be like that of the Royal Canadian Mountie featured on 60 Minutes years ago. He flew to an island, walked over a house and told the wanted subject that he needed to take him in. He asked if the guy was going to cause him any problem. The guy knew that if he caused the Mountie any trouble, then the Mountie was going to handcuff him and make his life miserable. The wanted suspect walked with the Mountie to the plane and they flew back.

Another approach would be to position two deputies at the back of the house and then two at the front knock on the door. When the elderly owner comes to the door, the deputy asks the owner if the wanted suspect is in the house and they ask to go in. In this type of case, no resistance to arrest is anticipated.

Another approach is to assume that the wanted suspect is in the house. Kick down the door of a $600,000 house, barge in, scared the living daylights out of the elderly owners, injure them, hospitalize one of them, and haul the wanted suspect off the jail. And then arrest the elderly homeowners on felony charges of resisting arrest.

Just doing their dangerous job; right?

Does the sheriff's department keep a matrix on its deputies, tracking how often each deputy is involved in a "situation" with excessive force? When it spots a trend and finds that certain deputies are repeatedly involved in escalating situations that result in unnecessary force, damage, injury, etc., do the superior officers (right up to the Sheriff) take immediate action to stop what is happening?

Or do those deputies get more Gold Stars by their names on the statistics board and get praised for high arrest rates and then get promoted?

Which way is it?

What we need in McHenry County is squeaky clean law enforcement. The type where the cops are the first to obey the laws, not the last.

Send an Extra Card

A reader passes along this great idea. Many thanks for your thoughtfulness.

When writing out your Christmas cards this year, please send a card to the address listed below. If we pass this on and everyone sends one card, think of how many cards these wonderful special people, our service members and veterans, who have sacrificed so much would get.

Holiday Mail for Heroes
P.O. Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456

Information on the Walter Reed Army Medical Center's website indicates that cards should not be mailed to the medical center. Last year's similar program, sponsored by the American Red Cross, resulted in 600,000 cards being received.

If you wish to switch the word Christmas with the word Holiday, it's all right.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Don't Leave Home Without It

The 2009 Community Music Boosters discount card is now available. This has got to be the best discount card in Woodstock.

For ten bucks you get discounts at 24 area businesses, including Kmart (10%), Burger King, Bohn's ACE Hardware, Cuppy's Coffee, Apple Creek Flowers, Culver's and others. The discounts vary but are generous.

Please be sure to thank the merchants for participating and tell them if you came in for that purchase at their stores, instead of shopping elsewhere, because of the Music Boosters card.

Order your card now and be ready to use it in January. Send $10 for each card (you really can buy more than one) to Community Music Boosters, Inc., P.O. Box 1623, Woodstock, IL 60098. Be sure to include your address.

The mission of the Boosters is to facilitate, support and promote music education, performance and activities for all student in our community.

(The preceding has not been a paid announcement.)

Dial *999 - What's this?

*999 is a roadside assistance telephone number in Chicagoland for reporting crashes and other roadside situations by cell phone.

When you dial that number, you should reach an operator who will connect your call to the correct agency to handle your call. Let's say that you want to report a traffic crash.

Dial *999. Tell the operator where the crash is. She or he will connect your call to a nearby police agency. Give them the complete details, such as location, direction, number of vehicles, likelihood of serious injuries, etc. Stay on the line if requested.

I use it to report obvious motorist needs for assistance, such as an occupied vehicle stopped on the inside shoulder of the Tollway against the guardrail. That is an emergency waiting to happen, especially if the driver leaves the vehicle and/or attempts to run across 3-4 lanes to the outside shoulder.

Sure, many drivers have cell phones and can call for help on the own; many do not. On the Tollway I just dial the direct number for the Tollway headquarters and dispatcher, which is 630/241-6800. You might want to add this number to your cell phone directory, if you travel the Tollway frequently. Just punch "0" when the phone is answered to reach an operator 24/7. Ask for a dispatcher.

*999 should be answered 24/7 and promptly; however, during rush-hour expect a delay. The other night I was on "hold" for 5+ minutes and gave up. I guess I could have dialed 911 to report a three-car, rear-end accident. The middle car got sandwiched, and the back end was really crunched. Maybe I should have stopped, but other drivers were standing around and no one appeared to be assisting any injured driver in the middle car. The safest thing was to keep going and not stop on the shoulder where emergency responders might want to stop.

When you stop in traffic, how close to the car in front do you stop? Right on its bumper? Think about what will happen if you are rear-ended! Pow! Right into the car in front of you. So then you have damage on the back and on the front. And maybe additional injury. Your neck and back won't like getting slammed into from behind, and they won't like it any better when you hit the car in front.

Do drivers frequently stop close behind you? Allow even more room in front of you. Have you noticed how, when you do that and then slowly roll forward to gain space behind you, then the jerk behind you rolls right up on your bumper again?

There oughta be a law...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mercury in Retrograde? SWAT

For the astrologically-minded, this phrase is familiar. When Mercury is in retrograde (whatever that really means), communication difficulties are greater. People don't understand what you mean. Communication breakdowns are more frequent.

Was Mercury in retrograde last week? I experienced my own challenges when I called the Illinois State Police.

I was trying to get information on SWAT team qualifications and certification. That shouldn't be all that hard. I had called District 2 in Elgin and had gotten the name of an ISP sergeant a week or so before. When I called, I reached his voicemail and left a message. When I didn't hear from him and called back, the number no longer reached him.

So I called the Chicago District office and connected with 2-3 incorrect extensions.

Then I called Springfield and reached the office of the Director of the Illinois State Police, Larry Trent. A very helpful woman there needed a couple of minutes to locate a number for me and gave me two numbers. I opted to call the Training Unit, instead of the Department head.

When I reached her number, a message indicated that she was out on an extended absence and provided a phone number in northern Illinois. I was in my car and had to dial back three times to understand the number. Messages like that should be recorded slowly and alert callers to have paper and pencil handy, and then give the number twice.

I called the next number, where I also reached a voice mailbox. The message there? Leave a message or call the same employee back in Springfield who was out on an extended absence.

Duh..... When the northern Illinois trooper didn't call back, I called him again and suggested that he remove the referral number, because it only provided a direction to call him back! And then I called Larry Trent's office to suggest they not give out a number of someone who is out on an extended absence.

Has the training trooper called back yet? Well, I guess Mercury must be stuck in retrograde.

$700B - Bail-out or Blank Check

Stop the presses? The money-printing presses, I mean.

If you ever wondered how powerful Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is, listen to the news, watch TV, read the news magazine, read the paper.

Congress gives him $700 Billion to bail-out the junk mortgage securities market; he decides to spend half of it bailing out banks. Naturally, he's not doing this alone, because he works for someone. Even if it's a lame-duck someone, Hank isn't self-employed.

And it's not "his" money.

Congress ought to be all over him. Is it?

Said Hank on Wednesday, "The facts changed, and the situation worsened." Well, duh... Or should we be asking, "Oh, really? What changed so drastically is four weeks?

According to the Associated Press, "Setting up a purchase program for the bad assets was taking too much time, officials said."

The last time a bank loaned me money, it expected me to use it as applied for. Had I run back in a month and told the bank that I wasn't going to buy a home, instead I was thinking of an RV ... well, can you hear the laughter? And the demand for its money back?

Landmark - Not until April???

The Northwest Herald reports this morning that the Woodstock City Council will not decide on the Grace Hall Landmark designation until April 2009. Tim Kane wrote a good article, but he's kidding; right? Is this an early April Fool's Day joke?

First step is to learn whether the Historic Preservation Committee held a valid Public Hearing on Monday, November 10. If it did, then the recommendation to grant Landmark status should go immediately to the City Council and be considered at the next City Council meeting.

If Monday's Public Hearing did not qualify as a valid Hearing, then the continuation of the October 6 Public Hearing should be scheduled immediately.

Reporter Tim Kane was kind enough not to name the "city officials" who gave him the April information.

What would an April consideration mean? For starters, it would mean that WCLS would not have to cancel any reservation already made for the wrecking ball.

Further, if the City runs rough-shod over those who wish to preserve the historic Grace Hall, approves an unconscionable Ordinance placing insurmountable requirements on two individuals personally, and holds off on Landmark status to April, demolition is assured.

This is why a strong Committee to Save Grace Hall is needed and why such a Committee needs a lot of money to hire an expert, experienced, preservationist attorney of its own - NOT legal representation from the City.

The City has shown its true colors by abandoning the Historic Preservation Committee (HPC). The Plan Commission isn't treated as a step-child. It gets a lawyer at its Public Hearings. But the HPC?

First, it gets a junior attorney (a very nice young man, probably fresh out of law school) from the City Attorney's office who wasn't even told where to sit in Council chambers when he showed up at the first meeting! Then, during that meeting, counsel for WCLS freely gave legal opinions to the HPC that should have come from its own legal advisor. Worst of all, he showed up with "marching orders" from Rich Flood not to contest a WCLS Motion to continue the hearing until November 10. That November 10th date, of course, was well beyond the following night's City Council meeting that had the Grace Hall issue already on the agenda.

Mark Gummerson is a great attorney; perhaps the best in Woodstock. And his client and he had to have a loud and long laugh later in the evening (in private, I'm sure) at the ineptitude of the HPC.

That was excellent lawyering by the counsel for WCLS, and Chairman Tim Art refused to allow me to speak that night to argue for holding the hearing. Was it all set up at the front of the room before the October 6 meeting was called to order. The HPC members held a stand-up meeting at the front of the room. Looking back, I should have walked up to listen it. Even at the time, I wondered whether it constituted a legal meeting under the Open Meetings Act. While the members were in the meeting room, they seemed to be holding a hushed discussion.

What were they really talking about? Where to go for pizza after the meeting? NOT!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Roadside Memorials

We've all seen the roadside memorials to those who died along Illinois highways and roads. Many are impromptu, homemade, temporary and soon weathered. Others are sturdier and last longer.

Illinois even has some rules now - laws - that allow these. Opinions vary on whether they are a good idea. What happens as they disintegrate? When the family stops caring for them, who goes and pulls them out?

I saw this one today. The deceased had many fans. They are in mourning.

HPC Public Hearing - Valid or Not?

I was licking my wounds from Monday night's Historic Preservation Commission meeting again this afternoon, and I got to wondering whether it was, in fact, a legal meeting. I think there is a strong chance that it was not.

The minor point in my mind is that the Commission may not have called the roll of Members present. Without that's having actually been done and recorded, the record and Minutes might only reflect that Chairman Tim Art called the meeting to order at 7:02PM and proceeded with business. For legal purposes, could a case be made that only he was present, since the record won't reflect otherwise?

The major point in my mind is that Monday night's meeting was scheduled as a Public Hearing. My understanding is that testimony in a Public Hearing is sworn testimony. The person about to speak swears (or affirms) to tell the truth, identifies himself by name and address, and then speaks to the Commission. That didn't happen.

The Petitioner spoke. The Objector spoke. Others spoke. All without being sworn. Of course, they couldn't be sworn, because the City Attorney's office didn't send an attorney to the Public Hearing!

If Monday's meeting was not a true Public Hearing, then is the recommendation to the City Council that it grant Landmark status to the building known as Grace Hall worth anything - legally? It may be that a bunch of people just gathered in the City Council chambers on Monday night and exchanged a lot of hot air, and nothing legally took place.

The Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) should find out why its attorney did not show up. How could it conduct business on a matter of some great importance without adequate legal advice at the time of the meeting?

Knowing that Woodstock Christian Life Services is represented by an excellent attorney, Mark Gummerson, should have been a mandate for a senior partner with the City Attorney's office to attend this public hearing. Instead, no attorney from the City Attorney's office showed up. Did the assigned attorney "just forget" or was no attorney designated to attend? And if not, why not?

Further, the HPC should get a written legal opinion from the City Attorney as to the validity of Monday night's Public Hearing. Otherwise, the HPC will forward its recommendation for Landmark status to the City Council, and the City Council will decide that it cannot accept it because no (legal) Public Hearing was held before the Commission voted unanimously in favor of the status.

The clock is running. The countdown to demolition has started. In fact, a month has already passed.

Those in favor of preserving Grace Hall should be gathering support of the entire community. A dozen proponents will not be enough. Fundraisers should be held. A preservation effort should be organized and incorporated. City Council meetings should be packed with those favoring the continued life of Grace Hall. Expert legal advice should be lined up, or else Woodstock residents will be watching the wrecking ball knock down Grace Hall in May 2009.

It cannot be assumed that the City will be of any help at all. The City Council has already doomed Grace Hall, and the coming Ordinance, drafted by the City Attorney, must not be passed by the City Council. But they can be persuaded - if enough people start showing up.

Woodstockers, you - that's Y-O-U - can make a difference. Get involved. Knock on doors.

Was there a clever reason that the City Council picked the target date it did for the deadline? Someone has commented that the date is right after the local election this spring. Let's say that the entire Woodstock City Council is run out of town on rails and a new team moves in. There might not even be time for them to act to reverse the course that was set, when this City Council approved the demolition of Grace Hall in October.

There are legal steps that can be taken, even at the 11th hour when the bulldozers and wrecking ball are rolling into town. The right lawyer, with the right petition to the court, can stop the demolition. But it costs money. Lots of money.

WCLS can examine adaptive re-use in depth and find a creative way to use Grace Hall. It doesn't "want" to do that, but it can. It would be better if it didn't get an alternative jammed down its throat. WCLS claims it "needs" to demolish Grace Hall. Actually, it seems more correct to say that it "wants" to do that; there is no way that it "needs" to do that. It's not a toxic waste site.

Mental Health Services for Veterans

What do returning vets do for mental health services after they have completed a tour of duty in a war zone like Iraq or Afghanistan?

On yesterday's Diane Rehm show on NPR, an organization of volunteer therapists was discussed. Check out and tell a vet about it. And, if you are a professional in the mental health field, consider registering and donating an hour of your services now and then.

Professional services in a variety of areas are available, including for PTSD, Anxiety, Alcohol/Chemical Dependency, Anger Management and many other areas.

Merit Commission at S/O?

The regularly-scheduled, November meeting of the Merit Commission of the Sheriff's Department, to be held today at 10:30AM, is on the County calendar.

Only now it is not scheduled for today. The meeting has apparently been re-scheduled to November 8 at 3:00PM. Of course, there are immediate problems with that date.

The date is a Saturday.
More importantly, the date is four days AGO.

Since the meeting on the calendar is noted as "rescheduled" and not as "canceled", presumably the legal notice was given by posting the new date in a public place and by notifying the media, as required by the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

Why would this Commission meet on a Saturday? And why would it meet four days before its regular-scheduled meeting?

Something smells, and I don't think it's last week's fish.

Open Letter to Woodstock City Council

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Woodstock City Council,

When you vote at a regular meeting to approve a motion made by a member of the Council, how can a supporting resolution drafted by the City Attorney radically change the content and meaning of the Motion?

Who gives the direction to the City Attorney to add new and different language to a draft of a proposed Ordinance?

Does the City Attorney take it upon himself to draft what he "thinks" you want?

Does the City Manager instruct the City Attorney to add in language that guarantees the failure of one party to whom responsibility for a successful outcome depends?

Can any member of the council or the Mayor direct the City Attorney to include such language?

The draft of the proposed Ordinance regarding the WCLS project and the scheduled demolition of Grace Hall contains just such language. It assigns an impossible condition to Mr. and Mrs. Lemanski.

Even if a group or newly-established foundation bought Grace Hall for $1.00 and made arrangements to move it, demolition would proceed, according to the drafted Ordinance, because the Lemanskis would not have fulfilled the condition of the Ordinance.

The City seems to have an "agenda" here and that is to cause the demolition of Grace Hall, no matter who or what is trying to save it.

Are you really operating in good faith and following Due Process?

Cop Causes Crash

A young police officer was enroute to a call, when he got involved in a crash; an "accident", some call it. He was a rookie, new to police work and in his first year. He knew he had caused the accident. What did he do?

He got out and wrote himself a ticket!

Years later that officer, Reuben Greenberg, served as the first black police chief of the Charleston (S.C.) Police Department.

I read that story in Reader's Digest years ago, and it has always stuck with me.

As a young police officer he had a lot of choices. He could have blamed the accident on the other driver. His supervisor could have coached the officer and "shaped" the police report to fix the blame on the other driver. His supervisor could have told him not to ticket himself.

But the officer knew what was right. His core ethics were the basis for accepting responsibility and moving on. And move on, he did. Through several positions and departments until he became the top cop in Charleston.

What happens in McHenry County when a deputy is involved in an accident (a "crash") and is at fault? When he knows, and the facts are clear, that he caused the accident? Deputies drive a lot of miles, and they are expected to multi-task while operating a motor vehicle. Some would say they are required to DWD - Drive While Distracted. They must operate emergency equipment, take on the police radio, use any in-car computer, legally drive above the speed limit or against a red light in certain circumstances, make U-turns, be responsible for prisoners in their patrol vehicles. They have a lot to do while driving. You'll even see some talking on their handheld cell phones, just like many other drivers.

When they do get into accidents (crashes), if they are at fault, it should not be covered up. Reports should be accurate and correct from the first writing. If a ticket is warranted, it should be issued to a deputy, just as it would be to any other driver.

Accidents involving a deputy should not be investigated by his own department, just as accidents involving police officers should not be investigated by their own departments. If a police officer of, say, Woodstock is involved in an accident, the Sheriff's Department is called to investigate it. But who investigates an accident involving a deputy? The Sheriff's Department? Or should the Illinois State Police be called or, if a trooper is not available, a nearby police department?

Absent extraordinary circumstances, being involved in a crash doesn't make the deputy who causes it a "bad" guy (or gal). It happens. Handle it correctly. It's over.

Is that the way it happens in McHenry County?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thanks to Reader

Many thanks to KLSchultz, who posted a comment on the Northwest Herald to its October 9th story by Tim Kane about the approval given by the City of Woodstock to make a pile of bricks at 318 Christian Way, the address of the possibly-soon-to-be-demolished Grace Hall.

That comment was:

"To the residents of Woodstock; I would ask you use Gus Philpott's Woodstock Advocate blog;( as a sounding board for this, and many other issues in Woodstock. Nevermind he comes across as a bleeding heart liberal. I forgive him; you can too. "

Gee, that's the nicest thing anyone has said about me in a long time.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Who Runs Woodstock?

If you think the People run Woodstock, think again. I'm not even sure that the City Council runs Woodstock, after tonight's Historic Preservation Commission public hearing on an application for Landmark status for Grace Hall. Just in case you don't want to read all of what follows (and you'll miss the juicy part), the HPC voted unanimously to recommend Landmark status to the City Council.
(click on photo to enlarge it; then hit the Back button on your browser.)

Tonight's public hearing, a continuation of the October 6th false start, got underway with an immediate Motion by Woodstock Christian Life Services (WCLS) that Chairman Tim Art arbitrarily decided wasn't going to be considered. I saw a copy of it but returned it and will have to get a copy tomorrow.

Caryl Lemanski gave a nice recital of the history of Grace Hall and three of its students who went on to fame and, I hope, fortune. Orson Welles, Robert R. Wilson and Alan Breed, inventor of the automotive airbag. Chairman Art got impatient before Caryl finished and cut her off (just before she finished).

Allen Stebbins and other members of the HPC asked probing questions about whether WCLS had explored options for adaptive re-use of the property. It's clear to many that WCLS wants Grace Hall gone.

Questions arose about the protection of Landmark status in view of the City Council's decision on October 6 to approve the special use permit of WCLS, including demotion of Grace Hall. If the City Council supports the HPC recommendation, that could slow down demolition.

NO ATTORNEY FOR THE HPC WAS PRESENT TONIGHT. Whoa! Wait just a minute! Last month a junior associate of the City Attorney's office was present at the HPC meeting with "marching orders" from Rich Flood to allow the public hearing to be continued. The City knew that Attorney Mark Gummerson represents WCLS. So the City Attorney sent a "Yes" man to the HPC meeting. When I suggested to the City Council on October 7 that a senior partner should have been at the HPC meeting, the Mayor delivered a tongue-lashing. Oh, me; oh, my.

Talk about a set-up! The young attorney came with his instructions; what else could he do? Finding a new job is probably not easy, even for a young attorney. So the HPC rolled over and agreed with the WCLS request to continue the public hearing for a month. And what happened the very next night? The City Council approved the WCLS plan!

So tonight, when Chairman Tim Art referred to the Mayor's statement last month that he was following Due Process, all the flags in my pocket flew down on the field!

I had not intended to speak tonight, but I told the HPC that every time I drive past Grace Hall, I now admire that grand, old building. Personally, I don't want to see the "place where Grace Hall used to be." I cannot imagine that a bunch of small duplexes can have higher financial value for WCLS than a grand building renovated into condominiums, with the exterior maintained as a showplace in Woodstock.

WCLS' position is against a museum. Who do they think wants a museum? They seem worried about someone's "taking their building without compensating them." Wrong. No one wants to "take" their building. Keep it. Keep it nice. Threatening to let it fall into disrepair? That doesn't hold any water in my bucket!

On October 7 City Council Ralph Webster made a motion that was quite general in terms. See Page 11 of the October 7, 2008, City Council Minutes online at

Now, here's the kicker. Wait until you see the THREE-page proposed Ordinance concocted by the City Attorney's office and mailed to Dan and Caryl Lemanski and Mark Gummerson on October 17. Be sure to take your blood pressure meds before starting to read it.

After six WHEREAS's and some other legalese, the City Attorney has crafted out of thin air some conditions that guarantee the demolition of Grace Hall. These conditions were not set out by the City Council. Where did they come from?

Because I have not agreed with quite a number of positions taken by the City Attorney's office, I jumped to the early, and probably erroneous, conclusion that the City Attorney had come up with the ideas for the Ordinance. Upon further thought, I believe that he is probably just following orders. Where do such orders come from? If I had to guess between the City Manager and the Mayor, I'd guess the latter. After all, the City Manager gets to keep his job just about as long as the Mayor is happy with him.

Why is this the kicker? Because the main condition was NOT discussed by the City Council and ordered to be scribed by the City Attorney? Get this! If the Lemanskis "fail to fulfill any (emphasis added) of their obligations, demolition and construction may commence April 30, 2009."

One of their obligations is: "The Lemanskis shall produce a contract for the purchase of Grace Hall and its removal from its current location. Petitioner (WCLS) shall negotiate any such contract in good faith. The contract must be presented to the City by April 6, 2009 for consideration at the April 21, 2009 meeting of the City Council. Closing on the contract and removal of Grace Hall must be scheduled for no later than May 21, 2009."

That is NOT what the City Council agreed to on October 7. Just how long ago did the Mayor and City Council decide to banish Grace Hall from Route 47? Why do they all use such nice words, while they are signing their names to the destruction of Grace Hall?

Maybe at the next retreat, they should re-think the City's Motto: "True to its past - confident of its future."

Next time you drive by the Opera House, just picture a parking structure in your mind. Except for some interested Woodstock residents, that's what would be there today.

Historic Preservation Commission - Invisible?

A glance at the calendar on the City's website reveals that the Historic Preservation Commission's public hearing tonight is apparently of so little importance that it didn't even make the cut for the monthly calendar. Go to and see the calendar on the homepage.

Tonight's meeting is the continued public hearing regarding the petition for landmark status of Grace Hall.

Check back later for details, including commentary on the advice of the City Attorney to the HPC at its last meeting.

Did the Commission get sandbagged at its last meeting?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

TROs - Do They Work? Always?

TROs - Temporary Restraining Orders. Do they work? Do they always work?

These are legal orders designed to protect someone or something. They are often first thought of as a judge's order for one person to stay away from another person; for example, if harm has been threatened or committed against a person. One person makes a police report and then asks a judge for "protection."

The first thing for the victim to know is that a piece of paper is worthless as a bulletproof vest. If someone is coming after you to do you in, then you need to be prepared to defend yourself. How often do we read of a woman who fears a husband or boyfriend or ex- and who is later shot, in spite of a restraining order? That person needed to get really serious about self-defense. For me, that means owning a good handgun and being prepared to use it.

A temporary restraining order is just that - temporary. Good for a very limited period of time, perhaps 24-48-72 hours. During that time both parties, the victim and the accused, appear before the judge, who then decides whether to make the order more than temporary; e.g., permanent.

Now, how about these situations?

1. The victim changes her mind about prosecution and Hubby moves back home, and everything is going along smoothly - until the cops show up and arrest Hubby for violating the restraining order. And they are right - the judge's order is still in effect. So what is necessary is that the Order be canceled before Hubby moves back in or even encroaches on the defined distance at which he is to keep himself from her and perhaps not to even have any conversation with her. Read the fine print.

2. Here is one that is even crazier. A month or so ago, a couple married in California and shortly thereafter the cops arrested the newly-wedded husband for violating the restraining order.

I remember laughing at that one, although it is no laughing matter. But the cops probably could have handled it a different way. Since the couple was supposedly living happily ever after, was there really a need to arrest him? Technically, they were doing their job. But what was really this right solution to the dilemma in which the cops found themselves?

Awesome Military Photos

A friend in Arizona sent me these websites containing photographs of our country's military might. For me, a good reminder of the huge expenditures made by the U.S.A. and how we must use this power correctly.

Planning a Car Trip?

Planning a car trip over Thanksgiving? Christmas? Or any other time?

Check out the Trip Calculator on to estimate the cost of gas for the trip in your chariot and to spot the places where you might save some serious money on your fuel purchases.

Are you like me? Hate it when you make a fuel stop on an interstate and pay 5-10 cents more per gallon than had you stopped at the next exit?

On my car it's not a lot of money when I buy on 8-10 gallons but, if you are driving a gas hog or a vehicle with a large tank (or more than one), using the Trip Calculator can result some real savings.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Transition Fair - Friday, Nov. 14

This Friday, November 14, 2008, the 5th Annual McHenry County Transition Fair will be held at MCC, 8900 US Highway 14, on the west side of Crystal Lake, Ill.
Hours? 10:00AM until 4:00PM.
Plenty of free parking!

The purpose of this Transition Fair is to provide a central point for information that will help young men and women with their transition from high school to whatever is next – college, trade school, military or to civilian employment.

Numerous agencies and organizations will be present to provide information and referrals to help students and young men and women regarding employment, education, health services, transportation, Social Security disability benefits, financial planning, housing, advocacy, recreation and leisure activities.

Transition Planning for students with IEPs in Illinois is supposed to start at Age 14 (state law) and be in place by Age 16 (federal law). This is a huge joke in our area. One local school district has been known to delay starting it until a student was almost 18!

Spread the word to all boys and girls, young men and women between ages 14-25 with any form of disability to attend on Friday. Many schools will be sponsoring buses to MCC. Since transportation is such a great factor in McHenry County, consider providing a ride to and from MCC for those you know who will benefit from this information.

This Transition Fair is sponsored by the McHenry County Transition Planning Committee, Pioneer Center for Human Services and the Family CARE Project of the McHenry County Mental Health Board.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Home Invasion - One Block Away

The Northwest Herald reports this morning that a home invasion and a resident was injured in the 100 block of Lawrence Avenue last night. Read more at

November Coffee with the (Deputy) Chief

November's Coffee with the Chief, a monthly program of the Woodstock Police Department, will be hosted Deputy Police Chief John Neuzil. Chief Lowen is scheduled to be off for vacation.

The November program is a rescheduling of a recent program that was devoted entirely to resident complaints about the handling of a call after a woman stepped out her back door and found a man crouched next to her house holding a gun.

The November program will feature Cindy Bock and Marsha Boncosky from Senior Services Associates. They will discuss elder abuse and describe protective services available to seniors in McHenry County.

When? Monday, November 10.
Time? 7:00-8:30PM
Where? Woodstock Police Department, 656 Lake Ave.

Plan Ahead - Nov. 10, 7:00PM

No, it's not a late Election Night party. It's the continued public hearing on the Landmark status for Grace Hall.

The Historic Preservation Commission will meet on Monday, November 10, at 7:00PM in the City Council chambers to hear Caryl Roskie Lemanski's petition for local landmark status for Grace Hall, currently used as the administrative offices of Woodstock Christian Life Services.

If you would like to understand better how government works (or is supposed to work), if you just have an interest in a grand old building, or if you just like a good fight, be there.

Some may considerable the issue dead in the water, since the City Council approved the WCLS project, including the demolition of Grace Hall (but with a seven-month stay of execution). Others are not willing to write it off, just because the City Council said, "Count to seven (months) before you tear it down."

Put it on your calendar now. Call your friends. Forward this to others by clicking on the little envelope below the article. Go and look at Grace Hall. Walk around it. Learn about it.

See you at the hearing.

Results of CCW Referenda

Fourteen counties in Illinois had a non-binding CCW referendum on the ballot yesterday (November 4, 2008). The question on the ballots was generally worded like: "Shall the General Assembly enact legislation to permit the carrying of concealed firearms?"

Here are the results from those 14 counties: (sorted by percentage approving the issue)

Franklin - Yes 71%
Saline - Yes 71%
Union - Yes 67%
Greene - Yes 63%
Jefferson - Yes 63%
Jasper - Yes 61%
Crawford - Yes 59%
Effingham - Yes 58%
Woodford - Yes 55%
Ogle - Yes 53%
Winnebago - No 51%
LaSalle - No 53%
McDonough - No 55%
Kendall - No 56%

Source: Illinois State Rifle Association website