Monday, June 29, 2009

More delays for Sgt. Gorski

On June 11 the Woodstock Board of Fire and Police Commissioners (BOFPC) met and voted to accept an Amended Complaint from the Police Chief Lowen against Sgt. Steve Gorski. The next step was to be a continuation of the hearing into Sgt. Gorski's termination, as ordered by Judge Maureen McIntyre on March 24, 2009. In her Decision she remanded the case to the BOFPC.

The BOFPC had previously stated it would meet on June 11 and then on June 30; however, on June 11 the attorney for the BOFPC announced that the Board probably wouldn't meet on June 30, due to the anticipated unavailability of two of the Board members.

In more than two weeks the parties have not settled on a new date, although they are beating around one date in the second week of July. What are they waiting for? Scheduling is not that difficult. If it is, then you get someone who can do it.

Of course, there is only one party here whose finances are at risk. So why hurry? The BOFPC has plenty of money to spend on its lawyer; why hurry? The City has plenty of money to spend at the City Attorney's office; so why hurry?

Why doesn't Mayor Sager step in and demand that the BOFPC and the City stop fooling around and get a date set? Doesn't the Mayor represent the employee of the City as well as the City itself? Shouldn't he be concerned about fairness? He should step forward and drop the hammer on everyone. Tell them all to stop the delays, which have already been too long, and get to the discussion table!

Sgt. Gorski hasn't been paid for almost two years! The BOFPC decided on February 14, 2008, that Chief Lowen had not made his case and directed the City to pay Sgt. Gorski all his back wages. That was 16 months ago. SIXTEEN MONTHS AGO. How much has the City paid? Zero!

If the Mayor won't intervene, then four of the elected Council members should step forward and insist on fairness. Four would be enough; six would better. All seven would be even better!

Maybe the legal fees for this case need to be posted in lights at City Hall. Every day residents, employees and voters(!) could drive by, check on the new totals, and lay into those responsible - legally, of course; peacefully, politely; yet loudly and persuasively!

Those responsible are the members of the City Council, who give direction to the City Manager and the City Attorney and guidance to Boards and Commissions of the City.

Right now everyone seems to be hanging back, waiting for "the other guy" to make to next move.

Who runs the Illinois State Police?

Gov. Quinn appointed a 29-year-old man to head the Illinois State Police in March. That's "29-year-old", not 29-year veteran.

The Associated Press has recently reported that the Illinois Senate has yet to confirm (or approve or ratify) this appointment of "Acting Director" Jonathon Monken.

Monken has already dropped the "Acting" part of his title. Read the press release on the Illinois State Police website, where on May 21 the release starts off with "Illinois State Police Director Jonathon E. Monken today announced ..."

Ahh, maybe he just "forgot" that he is still Acting Director. Or maybe possession (of the office) is 9/10ths of the law. Or maybe he didn't "forget." Who told the press officer to drop the important "Acting" part of his title?

As I hear it, a number of troopers are very upset with this appointment of a young man with no police experience and little administrative experience. Monken's major employment since college graduation seems to have been running a tank crew in our current war. In college, he was in charge of some cadets. Are those qualifications adequate for running the Illinois State Police?

The Director position of the Illinois State Police should require excellent administrative skills and experience, both management and financial, and I just don't see how a tank commander has that. And it certainly couldn't hurt to have some civilian police experience.

Wasn't there anyone qualified in the ranks of the Illinois State Police to move up?

ISBE - new parents' rights guide

If you are a parent of a student in Special Education, you'll want to know about the new Parent's Guide published by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

The Guide is available at this time only online at

For more commentary on this, see

July 4th Emricson Park rules

The Woodstock Police Department has issued a press release with the rules for viewing the fireworks at Emricson Park this year.

You can find the information in today's Northwest Herald or online at the Police Department's section on the City's website. Go to

To save time after you are on the City's website, roll your mouse (don't click yet) over City Departments, then over Police, and click on "Crime Stopper Cases/Press Releases/Crime Alerts".

I have suggested to the City that it post a headline and link on the City's homepage. Otherwise, who is going to find the press release buried in the PD's section?

Maybe this year the police will arrest driver who enter the cemetery driveways off West Jackson Street and also the jokers who, every year, set off huge, loud aerial fireworks from somewhere near or on Hill Street.

Resurrection Center Loan Deal with Woodstock

The flurry of publicity over the Northwest Herald's lawsuit against Crystal Lake blogger Cal Skinner got me thinking about a deal that the City of Woodstock made with Resurrection Center.

The lawsuit has brought to light (again?) a deal in 1985 in which, according to the Daily Herald today, "Deputy County Administrator John Labaj said the (Northwest Herald) newspaper was allowed to take advantage of the county's status to obtain financing at about 80 percent of what was the prime interest rate at the time."

"'They were allowed to use the county's tax-exempt status to get money at a favorable interest rate,' Labaj added."

The City of Woodstock approved a deal with Resurrection Center, a retreat located on Country Club Road outside the City Limits of Woodstock, 18 months ago in which, as I recall, the City would lend its good name (credit-worthiness, but not "credit") to Resurrection Center because of the beneficial effect the Center had on business in Woodstock. The City reportedly was not to be at financial risk in the deal.

Now that one is kind of hard to figure out, but the City felt secure that it had no financial risk.

What happens to that deal, if Resurrection Center winds up its business as a retreat and becomes a senior residential facility? The McHenry County Board approved that change on May 19, over the denial of its Zoning Board of Appeals.

It would be interesting to know when Resurrection Center first began considering the possibility that it could not financially continue as a retreat. Did it have even a sneaking suspicion of this, when it went to the City of Woodstock?

Did anyone on the City Council or on the City Staff consider the possibility and raise the question, "What happens if they change their minds about continuing as a retreat?"

It was on about December 4, 2007, that the Woodstock City Council approved a deal to help Resurrection Center refinance $5,000,000 in loans at a lower interest rate. The City Attorney assured the City that it would have no liability, if Resurrection Center did not pay off its loan.

Did Resurrection Center pay the City of Woodstock the promised $12,500 to reimburse administrative costs for issuing the bonds?

You can read the Northwest Herald article about the Woodstock City Council's deal with Resurrection Center at

Maybe in the future somebody play the role of the Devil's Advocate (and not be blamed for being negative) and take a hard look at the downside of a deal.

Where do I get in line?

The Northwest Herald is after Crystal Lake blogger Cal Skinner about some comments that Cal made in his June 3 blog. You can find them at

This morning's Daily Herald reports on the lawsuit filed by the Northwest Herald against Skinner. Will the Daily Herald be sued for repeating the comments? Or was it merely reciting facts from the lawsuit? Will I be sued for referring to the stories?

According to the Daily Herald's story today, Skinner's attorney "...said county documents back Skinner's claims of a loan between the county and newspaper ownership. Those documents indicate that in 1985 the county board approved a resolution supporting the issuance of $2.6 million in tax-exempt bonds to fund the construction of the newspaper's Crystal Lake headquarters."

The paper then added, "Deputy County Administrator John Labaj said the newspaper was allowed to take advantage of the county's status to obtain financing at about 80 percent of what was the prime interest rate at the time."

And the paper further quoted Labaj, "They were allowed to use the county's tax-exempt status to get money at a favorable interest rate, ... But no county money was ever expended."

Where do I get in line to use McHenry County's tax-exempt status to get a loan at a 20% discount from a private bank?

And what about the shot taken by the attorney for the Northwest Herald? "The difference between a newspaper and Mr. Skinner is that Mr. Skinner doesn't care if he's right or not." If I were Cal Skinner, I'd be instructing my attorney to take a look at that statement and determine to my extent my integrity before the public was harmed.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Alcohol and Pregnancy

Do you know someone who is pregnancy and drinking alcohol?

Share this important website with her, Even if you have to intrude, get her attention and stress the importance of her learning about the probable connection between alcohol during pregnancy and the likelihood of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) in her child.

You probably know, or know of, children with ADHD, OCD, ODD (oppositional defiant disorder) and other neurological disabilities.

Help give the child a fighting chance to avoid these disabilities by supporting the mother in abstaining from alcohol and drugs during her pregnancy. The mother should take only drugs prescribed by a knowledgeable physician who is aware that she is pregnant.

Common Sense in Florida

July 1 brings new laws in many states. Can't you just wait to find out what the legislators have really spent their time on in the past year?

An Associated Press article reports the following: "Florida: Relaxes schools' zero-tolerance policies by preventing children from being arrested or expelled for insignificant misbehavior such as bringing plastic butter knives to school, drawing pictures of guns or vandalizing property."

Remember the child who was expelled (in what state?) for having a toy pistol (about 1/2" in size) on his keychain?

Or, closer to home, the high school student in McHenry who doodled during class and the school "authorities" deemed his doodling as gang signs?

The only reason that school personnel get away with actions like those is because parents and voters let them get away with it.

This fall, get involved in your kid's school life. Find out about the parent-teacher organization at his school. These are sometimes now called parent advisory councils. Maybe that's what so few parents are on them. They don't find out about them, or they aren't listened to.

Show up at School Board meetings (and not just in Marengo, either!). Speak up. Speak out. Take your like-minded neighbors and parents. Make sure the school board members listen to you. Remember, you elected them (not the other way around).

35mph W. South St. Speed Limit?

I'm glad I wasn't at the June 2nd City Council meeting. I would have torn the rest of my hair out in exasperation at their deliberations about reducing the speed limit on West South Street at the west City Limit, from the entrance to Serenity Creek inbound to Duvall Street. One or more residents approached Councilwoman Julie Dillon to request that the speed limit on South Street be lowered to 35mph.

The speed limit there is 45mph. Yesterday I rode down there to check out the number of houses in Serenity Creek and the sight distance for drivers at the intersection of Serene Trail and West South Street. Then I re-read the Minutes of the June 2nd City Council meeting. Before that meeting I had read the packet that had been sent to the Council before the meeting.

First of all, there seem to be very few residents in the Serenity Creek development. Most of the houses appeared to be vacant; i.e., still for sale. It's a short, curving street that dead-ends in a cul-de-sac.

When a driver stops at the stop sign, he has adequate sight distance in both directions. It could be that he might have to wait a few seconds for a gap in traffic; for example, during morning or afternoon "rush hour." So what?

Public Works Director John Isbell explained to the Council, according to the June 2 Minutes, that "The Illinois Vehicle Code said the speed limit must be reduced in 10mph increments. The City will not be able to reduce the speed limit from 55mph to 35mph."

What he didn't tell them is that the City can reduce the speed limit more than 10mph, if approaching drivers are given warning of the reduction. You can't just spring a 20mph drop on them with a standard-size 35mph speed limit sign (Hello - "speed trap"). If a standard regulatory sign reading "Reduced Speed Ahead" with a smaller "35mph" sign below it is posted in advance of the 35mph speed zone, then a speed limit can be reduced more than 10mph. I believe this is called an "altered speed zone" or something like that, according to a past conversation I had with an IDOT sign shop employee.

That small bit of information might have saved the Council a lot of time.

A reduction to 35mph would be unreasonable. The Council directed the City staff to contact McHenry County about reducing the speed limit in the County, outside Woodstock, from 55mph to 50mph, so that the City can lower the speed limit from 45mph to 40mph. Why waste all that time and effort, when the City could ask the County merely to post a sign meeting the altered-speed-zone condition for a 40mph zone?

Or, better yet, why not "Just say No" to any change?
Maybe the Council's advice to Serenity Creek residents should be "Be patient. Be careful."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Whose parks are they, anyway?

Woodstock property owners pay huge real estate property taxes, and some of those dollars go to the Park District. Parks are public property, and the public should be entitled to use them - all of them.

On various fields at Emricson Park large signs warn the public to stay off. I wonder what would happen if some boys (or girls) showed up for an informal game of baseball or soccer.
First of all, they would have to scale the fence (notice that the gate is chained shut and locked) or bust the lock. It is probably not a good idea to break off the lock, as that damage could lead to charges of felony damage to government-supported property, if the P.D. wanted to make someone's life miserable.
If you are in a league that pays its fees to the City, then you get to play on the locked fields, whether or not you live in Woodstock.
These parks are paid by and maintained, for the most part, by residents' taxes. For those who don't understand economics, renters do pay taxes, which are part of the rent collected by a landlord.
Shouldn't park areas be open to all residents?

OK to park on park grass?

Is it okay to park on the grass at Emricson Park?

This sign is located just inside the park near the South Street entrance.

Yesterday afternoon this is what the parking looked like across from Woodstock Water Works.
If the City Parks Department is going to permit parking on the grass in certain areas, then the signs in the park need to be changed to conform to this permission.

Gravel pit on; ballpark stalled

The Woodstock Plan Commission was to meet last Thursday night. Presumably they did, although no work of discussions was published in the daily newspaper on Friday or today. This view, looking west from the newly-paved Lily Pond Road, shows that mining is well underway. More new "mountains" are to the right of this view. Drive on Lily Pond Road and take a look.
Woodstock was supposed to get a baseball stadium out of the deal, which was rushed through last fall, because (apparently) the Seller of the property put a deadline on Merryman to seal the deal. Nice work by the Seller...
As you may have read elsewhere, the stadium is on hold because of a wetlands issue to the west. Rumor has it that the wetlands issue has been known for years.
Now Merryman, according to Thursday's Northwest Herald (Page 1C), wants to add 7.72 acres "to the 240-acre baseball stadium site". Well, first of all, is it really to be added to the baseball stadium site? Or is to be added to the overall site, since the article goes on to add that the proposed "new" gravel mining site is "at the far east side of the baseball stadium site, on the west side of Lily Pond Road". (The stadium site is only 38 acres.)
I wasn't at the Plan Commission meeting. Was anyone there, apart from the commissioners and the interested parties?
The word "snookered" keeps running through my mind. I didn't like the rush put on the City Council when the deal was pitched to them, and I didn't like the 50 conditions attached but subject to approval by Woodstock City employees, not that of the City Council. This deal got rushed through and then passed off on employees to green-light it.
If the deal for the stadium falls through, then Woodstock inherits the land where the stadium was to be on May 14, 2014. Big deal. Merryman makes a ton on the gravel it mines; Woodstock gets no stadium but gets vacant, perhaps undevelopable, land.
Does this sound like a good deal for Woodstock to you?

Designated Drivers

Be a smart driver this summer.
With the 4th of July holiday week-end coming up, plan now about how you are going to handle your drinking and driving.
Need I say more?

Water Works - how clean?

Yesterday I was talking with a non-resident of Woodstock who expressed her disappointment in the operations of the Woodstock Water Works (WWW) and, specifically, with the cleanliness of surfaces of the pool deck and grounds inside the WWW. As a non-resident, last year she forked over $220 for swim passes for her family, and she felt a clean pool area shouldn't be outside her expectations.

One of her comments? "They don't enforce the rules."

Her main issues pertain to allowances made by pool staff to WWW users who buy food at the concession stand and then ignore the rules about where they are to consume the food or, more importantly, where they are not to.

There are designated areas for food consumption at the Woodstock Water Works. Presumably, these are good rules. They are created to keep food away from the pool and to confine food consumption to areas where spills and other messes can be cleaned up by pool staff, if they are left by users.

To what extent are rules at the WWW not enforced? Have you cautioned your children not to run on the pool deck, only to have them ask why others are allowed to run?

Have you seen kids (or adults) spill nachos and cheese and just walk away from the mess? Or overturn pop cans and ignore the sticky mess left on the ground or concrete? Come on, folks; "Oops" is not good enough.

How responsive has the pool staff been, when you have called attention to messes or to ignored rules?

If you have telephoned staff, have calls been promptly returned?

Parking Violations

For years the City of Woodstock, through its police department, has been blind to certain parking violations, such as the one shown in this photograph. Parking on the "parkway" (in the right-of-way - between the street and the sidewalk) is illegal. Vehicles at 931 Clay Street are frequently parked in this manner.

Although the law has existed for years in the City Code, has it been routinely enforced? Even when a resident complains about a given location, enforcement is not even. An officer might pay a visit on the offending property owner, who probably assures the officer that "it won't happen again." And then the next day or night it does.

If the resident doesn't complain about recurring violations, that's the end of it.

It should not be necessary for the resident to become the "policeman" or to have to nag the police department. The officers should know the City Code, and they should enforce it. When they spot cars on the parkway or blocking sidewalks, make one contact with the property owner. Explain the law. Write a warning ticket. Next time? Issue a citation. And the next time? Issue another citation. Sometimes, that's all that people understand.

Could it be that officers are told not to enforce some laws, because "residents might get mad at the police department"? If residents are going to get mad at someone, they should get mad at the City Council. The P.D. is only the agent of the City in enforcing the laws.

Enforcement should be even across all areas of the City. Low-income residents should not be targeted. Wealthy residents should not be ignored.

Repeat offenders should be dealt with promptly.

Police Chief Lowen referred to the "broken window" theory, when he first arrived in Woodstock. It's a solid theory. You address and fix small problems, and then they don't become big problems.

Friday, June 26, 2009

When other help fails

What's that phrase made famous by Sir Winston Churchill, "Never, never, never give up."

One of the first persons I met in Woodstock in 1996 was a man who had multiple disabilities and was unable to work. From time to time he asked me for help in dealing with agencies, and I was glad to help. Then he got a computer, and I became his Tech Live go-to guy. Now, anyone who really knows me, knows that I'm the guy who forgets that most computer problems can be solved by merely turning off the computer, waiting a minute or two, and turning it back on.

He was injured in a Greyhound bus accident one winter, when the bus ran off the road in Nebraska while he was returning from a trip to Colorado. Greyhound has the absolutely worst, most unfriendly voicetree on its telephone system that I had ever encountered. And I helped him cut his monthly phone bill down, after the scoundrels at the phone company loaded him up with all sorts of extras.

Last winter he moved to Phoenix, and he wasn't able to get his Woodstock landlord to return his $1,000 deposit. Actually, the deposit should have been only one month's rent (about $600-700), but the landlord had been able to wheedle the extra deposit out of him. I urged him to seek assistance from the Housing Authority, which had subsidized his rent, but they apparently were unable to obtain it. Then I urged him to contact Prairie States Legal Services, which provides free legal assistance to Seniors and to selected others. He may not have called them, although he should have.

I encouraged his sister, who helps manage his financial affairs, to contact the Office of the Illinois Attorney General, and on Tuesday she wrote that he had received his full $1,000 refund!

So the moral of the story is - Never, never, never give up!

Last night's movie at MCC

Last night the MCC Student Peace Action Network showed a documentary titled Taxi to the Dark Side. It was about the U.S.-sanctioned torture of prisoners in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo.

An Afghan, Dilawar, was scooped up and imprisoned. Five days later he was dead. The cause was initially listed as a natural death; later, it was changed.

Deaths of several detainees have been classified as Homicide. Now, we all know what Homicide is. Murder.

The movie is about a subject of something that is not happening right in front of our eyes. And so the general population tends, in this day of instant news and "old news" that quickly moves off the front pages of the papers, to blow on past it and not raise the cry of outrage that deserves to be aimed at our government.

The general consensus is that torture (hello - waterboarding? extreme beatings? electrical prodding?) doesn't work. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld. Good that they are gone from office. But we'd better keep an eye on them and on their followers.

Like the sign on that defunct auto dealership: "Gone but not forgotten." May we never forget the harm that they have done!

Mis-use of County email system?

To what extent should the County email system or that of any particular department (let's say, for example, the Sheriff's Department) be used to promote a fundraiser for any event (even a worthwhile one)? Should County telephone numbers be given to the public for contact during business hours about unofficial business? Should fundraiser notices be placed on the walls of County office buildings?

On June 19th an email blast was sent to "Government Center All Employees; Annex A All Employees; Annex B All Employees; Admin Bldg All Employees; Valley Hi Staff, DivisionOfTransportation; Health Dept; and named individuals, announcing a Food Drive sponsored by the McHenry County Sheriff's Department, PB & PA McHenry County Sheriff's Lodge #192 and the Huntley Wal-Mart.

The food drive includes a chance to win a 37" flat-screen TV ($500 value), and there is apparently an increased chance of winning if you donate 10 non-perishable food items. Is this a lottery or raffle of some type that should be registered with the Attorney General's office?

Who will monitor the donations and distribute of the chances to win? Who counts the cans and awards the 'extra' chance, if ten items are donate? Who will conduct the drawing to select a winner? Are certain individuals or classes of donors excluded from the chance of winning?

Who approves and monitors the time of County employees involved? Must they "work" only off-duty; i.e., off the payroll? (Not hardly, since County telephone numbers are provided for contact.) Why is the County email system used to promote a food drive sponsored, in part, for a private business and a union? Why are County telephone numbers included in the email sent on the County system? Obviously, anyone answering the County telephones listed will be on duty (or at work, if a civilian employee).

This food drive is to benefit the Salvation Army. Are all charities eligible to have County employees work for their benefit?

The source of the June 19th is not against charities or donating (personal) time and money for these worthy causes.

Do other County Departments engage in these types of activities?

Elected office used for politicking?

Recently my attention was called to a couple of photographs on Dan Regna's website that show Dan in McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren's office. The sender of the letter to me containing a print-out of these photos suggested that a County taxpayer-supported office was used in a political campaign. Dan was running for State's Attorney at the time.

You can check out the photos yourself at Scroll down just a little to the photos under the title "Sheriff Nygren Endorses Dan Regna, January 10, 2008". One is a "That's my boy" photo with Keith standing with his hand on Dan's shoulder; you'll see it. The other is a shirt-sleeve business meeting (well, "photo op", since a photographer "just happened" to be there).

By the way, just who was the photographer? A County employee? If not, how did s/he get into the building with a camera? The guards are pretty good at keeping cameras and tape-recorders out of the building.

Maybe I'm particularly sensitive to the use by an elected official of his office (or of his "Office") for any business except proper County business (is that redundant?). A few years ago I received a envelope bearing the Sheriff's name and his badge of office, and I wondered for what court case I was receiving a subpoena. It turned out to be a fund-raising letter!

At the time I barked and whined about use of the badge of office in a political letter. The badge and the Office, even the title of Sheriff, go with the elected position and belong to the People; they are not personal to the person who temporarily fills the office by election. They should not be used in any unofficial capacity.

Now, if you go to the Endorsements tab on, you'll see the very first endorsement sure looks like a letter from the Office of Sheriff. See the badge at the top of the letter? See the signature above the title "Sheriff"? See the small print at the bottom with the P.O. Box for a mailing address?

When I'm sheriff, County taxpayer money will not be wasted putting my name on every vehicle. All that is, is rolling advertising for the next election. The badge and title will be used only for official business.

When's the next election for Sheriff? I called the Elections Office and learned that the next election cycle for McHenry County Sheriff begins with the General Primary Election in February 2010. Whew! Okay, so that's a while off. Plenty of time.

And then I asked when the petitions would be available. "August 2009." OK, so good; a year. And then she said, "In a couple of months."

Whoa! This is 2009. Where has the year gone?

For the past two elections for Sheriff, I have thought about running. I already have my Motto figured out, and I've already chosen my first hire.

Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

So Michael Jackson died yesterday. So what?

Can you believe all the media hype? The airwaves are chock full of Michael.

But I'm the guy who sees a movie and doesn't even care who the actors are. Or hears a song and doesn't care who the singer is or, often, even what the words are; that's assuming the words can be understood.

I wish I still had the old Thriller 8-track that I wore out on a drive from Denver to Santa Rosa (and back) in 1983. Even then I wondered "Who is Michael Jackson?"

Now that was a trip. Blasting across Utah and Nevada in a 1973 'vette, enjoying the wind in my hair (yes, I had a little more hair then).

I still remember one section of road in Nevada. Arrow-straight, 70MPH. A pick-up sailed past me, loaded with guys in the back. Field workers, probably. Before they were out-of-sight, one guy's cap blew off. I could see him pounding on the cab of the truck, but the driver didn't stop.

I stopped and picked up his old cap out of the road and then took off after them. I caught up and, as I passed, I waved with his cap. Then I pulled over in front of them and slowed a little, waving them around. You can see "forever" there and no cars were approaching for miles.

As they pulled alongside, I handed his cap back, and his smile and friendly wave of thanks have stuck with me for 25 years.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Good ol' boy network

As a relative newcomer (only 13 years) to Woodstock and McHenry County and as an outsider when it comes to being included, I still have not learned whom to trust and just who is a member of whose clique. But I am learning.

A reader this week sent along some juicy tidbits and some very helpful background information. And an email this evening from a different reader mentioned some of the same names!

Reading and re-reading the long letter has helped me to begin to connect the dots, meaning "who knows whom" and just where the inside tracks are. Now, of course, everybody knows who everybody else is around the County Bar Association, but the connections are murky to those not in the system.

The letter, as have other letters to me from different people, made a reference to a couple here in the County who got, in the words of some, roughed up back in February 2008. And not just roughed up, but injured. And injured to the point that hospitalization was necessary. And arrested for resisting arrest. How else do you explain how their injuries occurred?

I met this couple last fall, after some tips came my way through the grapevine. And I've stayed in touch with them. I've respected their attorney's wishes and am holding off on writing their whole story. It is important, though, that their arrest never made it to the newspapers. But their story will most likely make it to the papers, and in a big way. I don't worry about "scoops".

This same letter included some "courthouse rumors" and mentioned Wisconsin. That brought to mind the woes of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and a line in an Associated Press article about him this morning. The line? "Cornered at the Atlanta airport by a reporter from The State newspaper (of Columbia, S.C.), Sanford revealed Wednesday morning that he had gone to Argentina for a seven-day trip."

Any doubt that the reporter got a tip and knew when to be at the Atlanta airport, four hours from home? Maybe with a little tip like that, I'd be spending some time in Wisconsin, camera, pad and recorder at the ready!

SAO slips up on victim notification

Last Friday the McHenry County State's Attorney's Office (SAO) wrote a letter or notice of a court date to a victim of a 2008 Woodstock window-peeping case. It was dated June 20 (Friday). It informed the victim that the alleged perpetrator was to be in court on Tuesday, June 24, at 9:00AM.

This victim has requested that she be informed of court dates and that there be no plea bargaining.

All well and good. Right? Wrong.

The problem is that the letter wasn't mailed until Monday, June 23, according to the postmark or postage-meter date on the envelope. And so it was delivered Tuesday afternoon - after the court date and time!

It could be that the person stuffing the Notice into the envelope on Friday "thought" it would go out in that day's mail. This is a problem that needs to be fixed at the SAO. There are many ways to fix that.

Clear posting of "Mail must be here (Mailroom) by ___ P.M. to go out today."
Employees elsewhere in the offices must know of the deadline.
Employees must "think" about the mail deadline.
Mailroom employees must get the mail out to a mailbox.

A quick phone call about a fast-approaching court date would be in order; even an email, which takes only seconds to send (by an organized, efficient staffer).

If mail reaches the mailroom after the cut-off on a Friday, it should be stamped and placed in a mailbox, where it would be picked up on Saturday and delivered locally on Monday.

Mail should not be allowed to sit in the SAO over the week-end! If a matter is handled late on Friday, put a $.44 stamp on it and mail it. A few dozen stamps should be on hand for last-minute mailings.

Reminder to victims and witnesses. You can call the court clerk's office regularly to ask about upcoming court dates. Call 815.334.4000 during business hours.

There used to be an automated system for court date information, but it was apparently abandoned a while back. It would be nice in the McHenry County Courts came into the space age and utilized a system like the Wisconsin system. You can check that one out

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Who, me? Invent the future?

From Rep. Mike Tryon today.

"Tomorrow (Thursday, June 25) there is an Invent the Future Workshop hosted by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning from 7 to 9 p.m. at Crystal Lake City Hall, 100 W. Woodstock Street in Crystal Lake. Refreshments will be served.

"To register, call 312-386-8814. If you need more information, call Joey-Lin Silberhorn at 312-386-8814 or

"To accommodate 2.8 million new residents expected by 2040, our region has some urgent decisions to make in the very near future.

"Should rapid growth outward continue?
Or should we consolidate housing and jobs where infrastructure already exists?
Should we emphasize road or transit--invest in both?
How can we reduce energy use while also strengthening our region's economy?

"We can't solve everything at once, so it"s all about trade-offs. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) invites you to have your say at a GO TO 2040 Invent the Future workshop. With interactive software and keypad polling, attendees will express preferences about real-world choices that will shape the GO TO 2040 plan--and the future of our region.


(Hey, Mike. How about a little more notice in the future?)

Movie & Discussion at MCC

The Student Peace Action Network and the McHenry County Peace Coalition will host an event tomorrow night, Thursday, June 25, at MCC.

They will show the movie Taxi to the Dark Side. The event will be held in the Faculty Dining Room, B177c, at 7:00PM. A short discussion will follow.

What's it about? From "An in-depth look at the torture practices of the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, focusing on an innocent taxi driver in Afghanistan who was tortured and killed in 2002."

This June 2008 movie won an Oscar for Best Documentary, features, and has won several other awards.

Drunk CPD cop avoids jail

If you want to read something that will really make your blood boil, first read this morning's Associated Press (AP) article in the Northwest Herald on Page 6C (well back in the paper; right?) about the drunk Chicago cop who beat a woman bartender in Chicago on February 19, 2007. But don't stop there...

Then go to the Chicago Tribune and read the online article at,0,5965992.story

The Trib's article will give you the big picture from the victim's perspective, which the AP article does not. The victim, described elsewhere as about one-half the cop's 250 lb. weight, had ordered the cop out from behind the bar, where he had gone when she refused to continue serving him. He knocked her down and kicked and punched her. A video on the Trib's website shows the cop slamming a customer into a wall and throwing him down on the same day that he later attacked the bartender.

And the judge's verdict and sentence? Guilty of aggravated battery and a sentence of two years', home curfew and 130 hours of community service. No jail? No jail. Of course, the cop had claimed self-defense. Probably kept a straight face, too.

Says the victim in the Trib article, "I have a fear of the police." Well, duh...

Maybe Judge Fleming ought to go drinking with Abbate some day.

An Open Letter from Zane Seipler

The following is a letter received for publication from Zane Seipler.

To Gus Philpott, Blogger Extraordinaire,

I wrote you an open letter in November of 2008. That letter was directed specifically at the deputies of the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department. Once again I find it necessary to publish a letter with the hopes of informing and encouraging those same deputies I spoke of before.

It has come to my attention that the atmosphere within the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office has become “difficult”. It is a difficult place to work for some. I venture to say that a large group of deputies see the situation as humorous and long over due. Regardless, tough times are ahead. Not for all deputies but definitely for some. Hold your heads up, weather the storm and tell the truth if it is asked of you. Don’t be intimidated. Keep your eyes and ears open. Document everything.

With that said, I want to comment on some information I received about two specific roll calls that occurred earlier this month. These roll calls were attended by Captain Cundiff. During these roll calls Cundiff expressed his concern about a Grand Jury. This Grand Jury was convened to obtain testimony regarding two senior citizens who had a run in with deputies in March of 2008.

Cundiff told all deputies present that he would not tolerate misconduct by deputies and if anyone had information about misconduct they should approach him personally. Sources tell me that this speech sounded more like a vengeful tirade. Cundiff used the term “Fuck” numerous times. He raised his voice in a violent and threatening manner. I was even told that he stated that he would “castrate” and “crucify” deputies that were in violation. After his tirade was over I’m sure some of the deputies were very uncomfortable. For that an apology is owed. (I would say a visit to EEO Katy Seith is also in order.)

In normal society supervisors or anyone for that matter do not address an audience like that, especially an audience of subordinates. Why is it that this is tolerated? Is it because it has always been this way? (John Miller told me that once.) The answer is fear. When Cudiff gets up in front of a room full of deputies and screams obscenities and threatens castration, there is a purpose. That purpose is to scare the audience. How is it that this is allowed to happen? I pose that question to Keith Nygren. Why does Keith Nygren allow this man to run around the department openly intimidating deputies? (I’ll find out the answer to that question in the near future.)

During my conflicts with Cundiff and others, I was ordered to undergo a psychological exam by the county psychologist, Dr. Meyer. Cundiff claimed I was suffering for post traumatic stress syndrome stemming from an incident where a man died, due to my actions. The problem with this request was that it was 18 months after the fact and 6 months after I went into his office and expressed my concerns about the behaviors of other deputies. So be careful when you consider taking Cundiff up on his open door policy. (You might be the one who gets crucified.)

Another question that should be posed to Keith Nygren is the mental fitness of Cundiff. Not long ago Cundiff was involved in a very traumatic incident involving life threatening surgery. I wonder if Dr. Meyer gave Cundiff the battery of tests that I was ordered to endure. It is a fitting question because a mentally healthy individual does not talk of castration and crucifixion as means of discipline unless, of course, the individual is suffering from post traumatic stress.

Deputies, you don’t have to work under these conditions. No one should ever feel fearful of their supervisors. Supervisors, how can you sit by and let people you command be bullied and intimidated by this man? How can you let yourselves be bullied and intimidated? You know these things are wrong. Stand up. Be a leader.

Sheriff Nygren, you are an elected law enforcement official. It is your sworn duty to enforce the law. There are laws that govern the work place. Enforce them. It is time for you to take a good look at your command staff. They are causing you a world of trouble. It’s only going to get worse. Fix the problems.

In closing, I would like to thank all the deputies and county employees that have reached out to me, Gus Philpott and my lawyers. The information you are providing is invaluable. Again, thank you.

Zane Seipler (McHenry County Citizen)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

C.L. Park District buy on hold?

Last night I received a call from a man who has taken an intense interest in the proposed purchase of the Viking Dodge property by the Crystal Lake Park District. He probably wouldn't have any interest in it at all, if Viking Dodge and its owner, James Samaria's, Jr. hadn't cost him $7,000 in legal fees over a two-year period before abandoning its lawsuit against him and then further compounded the insult by refusing to honor Judge Caldwell's January order to pay him $131.00, in reimbursement of his required Appearance Fee when the court case started.

What's that old saw about Hell has no fury like a woman scorned?

Probably by now, Mr. Samaras wishes he had forked over the $131.00 in January and also that his attorneys had recently been a little more polite, when Wayne Beto stopped by their offices to discuss Judge Caldwell's order pertaining to the $131.00.

Will Wayne get even a little satisfaction if he can do anything to torpedo the Park District stimulus payment to James Real Estate LLC for the Viking Dodge property? Yes, indeed.

A reasonable person has to wonder exactly why the Park District would consider paying $6,290,000 for 27 acres during these economic times.

Especially against a low appraisal of $5,550,000.
Or a market value of $3,420,000 (calculated from the newspaper article's statement that "The assessed value of a property is one-third of its market value.")

I have previously written here about the McHenry County Property Tax Bill of one parcel of Viking Dodge property. There is apparently some ground zoned agricultural that is part of the deal.

At any rate, what's the rush? It's not like there are other bidders for the property. Why doesn't the Park District sit back and wait? Its obligation is to buy land at the lowest possible price. Is there any other buyer on the horizon?

Wayne told me last night he had a hard time getting what he considered straight answers out of the Park District yesterday about when they would be making their decision. It sounded to Wayne like the Park District was going to do what it wanted to do, no matter what.

And then this morning's Northwest Herald tells a different story. Water table problems. Possible development problems related to intended use. It's time to slow down. Look what has happened with the ground where the baseball stadium is (was?) to be built in Woodstock! Rush, rush, rush. Now? Wait, wait, wait.

If you are a taxpayer and a voter in the Crystal Lake Park District, you'll want to call the Park District office and demand to know when the next meeting is. And then be there.

Will it be July 20? Will it be sooner?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Couldn't cut it?

"funnylibs" also took a couple of jabs at me in the Northwest Herald comments to today's Jail article about how I couldn't cut it as a "real" cop, and so I thought I might provide some information about my long time interest in law enforcement.

As a college senior I applied to the Border Patrol and took the written test, which was a snap for me, because I was a Russian language major in college. The test was a combination of law enforcement questions and a mock language. When I got to the oral interview, the first question was, "Where did you miss that one question? We never had anyone score a 99 before."

Life as a Border Patrolman sounded pretty glamorous (had I been single), but I had a wife and small daughter, and I didn't think they'd like living 50 miles from the nearest running water or finding rattlesnakes or scorpions in the house all the time. The Border Patrol interviewers explained that many applicants were eager in the first year but quit during to family pressure.

When I was a college senior (1964), I was offered a fellowship at the University of Florida for a masters in criminology. At the time I was also offered a Ford Fellowship for graduate study at the University of Chicago, and that's the one I chose. Once I got there, though, I realized my mistake, because I didn't want to study Bulgarian and logistics, and so I resigned the fellowship and suggested they give it to someone who would appreciate it more. Later, when I looked back on those days, I wondered why I didn't contact the U. of Florida and express renewed interest.

In Colorado in about 1975 I applied to the Littleton Police Department and was #3 on the written test. They refused to process me further, saying I made too much money as a life insurance salesman and wouldn't be happy on a police officer's pay. I figured I could push them on it and win, but then I would have been washing police cars instead of driving them.

I also applied to the Colorado State Police, but I was 1/4" too short, wore glasses, and didn't have a Hispanic last name. I decried the vision requirement, because I knew several patrolmen who wore glasses, but the eye-guy assured me that NO state patrolman wore glasses. Little did he know.

And even later, in about 1985, I applied for a job with the Lakewood (Colo.) P.D. That department was one of the first in the country to outfit its officers in grey slacks and blue blazers. That was the uniform in 1971, when I moved to Colorado. I still have the nice letter from then-Chief Pierce Brooks, thanking me for helping them apprehend some kids who were stripping a car.

So maybe all this helps explain my interest in law enforcement - good law enforcement. I was always a citizen first, cop second. Police should be the first to obey laws, not the last. Maybe now you know why I complain as I do about some of the cop things going on in McHenry County.

Wannabe or Real Cop

Some anonymous commenter (funnylibs) on today’s Northwest Herald article about the profitability of the McHenry County Jail took a jab at me for my prior service as a reserve deputy sheriff in Colorado, so I thought I’d explain just how that worked.

In 1964 I had been a part-time police office in a small Iowa town while I attended college. The town, Mount Vernon, had a day officer and a night officer, and no one was on duty between shifts. I noticed many drivers speeding through the school zone and ignoring school walk light signals, so I pestered the town council until one night the Mayor/Police Chief/Judge/Chairman of the Education Dept. of the College threw a badge at me and said, “If you think you can do something about it, go do it.” And I did.

In 1973 I was living in Aurora, Colo. and learned that the Arapahoe County (Colo.) Sheriff’s Department had a large reserve component of volunteer deputy sheriffs. I volunteered, and I served until about 1981.

My first assignment was as a dispatcher, because the patrol division was full. Within a few months I was able to transfer to Patrol, which was exactly where I wanted to be. Initially, I rode with a full-time deputy, who served (sort of) as a field training officer.

Then I was authorized for “solo” patrol duty and was permitted to work full or partial shifts and be responsible for assigned patrol districts, just as the full-time deputies were.

In about 1977 I bought a police-equipped Harley-Davidson from a volunteer who was resigning.

I often said that, when I tired of selling life insurance early on a nice day, I would knock off early, go home, wash the motorcycle, shower, put on my uniform, grab my gun and bullet, and go out to “terrorize” the citizens for 8-10 hours. I made many traffic stops but, if a little polite “roadside counseling” would solve the problem, I didn’t write a ticket.

Why did I quit?

The Department had an armorer who had a reputation for destroying weapons. I had had trouble with my duty weapon and had taken it to an expert for repair. One night at a class there was a surprise weapons inspection, and I refused to allow the armorer to inspect my weapon out of my sight. I was willing for him to touch it while I stood there, so long as he did not put a screwdriver anywhere near it. A lieutenant made a big deal out of it, and I handed in my commission card that night.

The next day I wrote a letter to the sheriff, and ten days later a new rule was issued. After that, all weapons were to be inspected at the range only and all deputies would fire their weapons after inspection.

City to allow clean-up time

The City of Woodstock will be compassionate in its approach to Code violations resulting from placement of storm debris in the public right-of-way after last Friday's storms.

The Public Works Department has pretty much completed its clean-up of debris from public roads and public property. If tree or other damage occurred on private property, it is the responsibility of the property owner to take care of it.

Many residents have placed limbs, branches and brush between the sidewalk and the curb in front of their property. This area is deemed the "right-of-way" and, as such, is not the place for such debris. Property owners should contact waste haulers or other businesses to have the debris removed this week.

The City will begin identifying Code violations, but enforcement action will not commence this week. If debris is still in the right-of-way (the parkway or grass area between the sidewalk and curb) next Monday, June 28, then the City will begin making contacts with property owners.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

MCC Trustees vote for, then regret

Be sure to read today's article in the Northwest Herald that carries the headline, "Packard exit was board's decision." At this point, probably few care why Mr. Packard left MCC but here's what matters: The board lied to the public when it announced his reason for leaving.

Get it? The MCC Board of Trustees lied to the public. That is, they LIED. Two have left the board; maybe it's time for the public to clean house and sweep out all the others. Give the new MCC president a board unburdened by the lie.

Was reporter Brett Rowland talking about the closed session as being the "three-hour meeting"? If so, then of course there was no formal vote. A public board cannot vote in executive/closed session. It can "discuss"; members can voice their opinions. And then they must return to Open Session. If a vote is to be taken, somebody has to make a motion in open session, and then the vote on the matter has to be taken by roll call with the vote by each member individually recorded. And they better have recorded the Executive Session, either by audio- or video-tape. Did they?

Board member Carol Larson and board president George Lowe reportedly "eventually joined the majority". Several paragraphs later, they reportedly "...said they regretted the board's decision." You know something? The world just doesn't work this way; or does it? If you regret something, then you take a stand, no matter how unpopular, and you don't vote for it.

This same affliction is present in Woodstock at some City Council meetings. Members talk about a matter under discussion and say they are not in favor of it. And then, a little later, when it's time to vote, they vote for it.

Trustee Donna Kurtz said, "We could have done the transition and communication better, but we did the best possible job we could with the information we had."

Sorry, Trustee Kurtz. No pass. No one was in a position to have more information than the trustees in closed session. You infer that there was information you didn't have. No, you had to have it, or you should have gotten it. Sure, you could have done the transition and communication better. The trustees, or their spokesperson, could have told the truth.

And Trustee Mary Miller? According to the newspaper, "I think it's huge media hype," she said. "Let it die. Move on with something more positive."

In other words, we lied and we got caught. So what? Live with it...

Sorry, Trustee Miller. No pass for you, either. The Board has gotten caught in the lie. Just because, for you, his leaving was about caring for his wife, if it really wasn't, you should have spoken out and informed the press and the public of the truth.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

City responses to storm

Remember the flood in Woodstock a couple of years ago and how the City responded? You do? You don't?

Check out this announcement on the City's homepage this morning at

"On Friday, June 19th the City of Woodstock received several inches of rain along with high winds. While unfortunate, residents are reminded that tree limbs and other yard waste which may have resulted from this storm should NOT be placed in the City right-of-way (that area from sidewalk to sidewalk (sic)) for pickup. The City of Woodstock does not offer yard waste disposal services and, as such, residents should contact private landscaping firms for the removal of downed branches and other yard waste. In addition, any interior fixtures (i.e., carpeting, furniture) which may have been damaged as a result of residential damage should NOT be placed within the right-of-way unless arrangements have been made for removal with a waste hauler. Any items left in the right-of-way for longer than 24 hours are subject to citation."

So you'd better pile your tree limbs and brush between your house and the sidewalk, not between the sidewalk and the curb. And, of course, if you do that and it's there more than ten days, maybe you'll get a visit from the Code Enforcement Officer, anyway.

Now, if you do, be nice to Donovan. He's just doing his job. It's a dirty job, and someone has to do it. The City couldn't have a better guy in the job than Donovan Day.
An old, worn-out, beat-up, tattered, ragged sofa isn't storm debris. Go get 'em, Donovan!

Racial Profiling - "remarkably ineffective"

"Law enforcement traffic stops based on race or ethnicity are not only unconstitutional. They're also remarkably ineffective." (Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report, Summer 2009, Pages 61-62)

This article explores the abuses and inefficiency of racial profiling. What does it mean in McHenry County?

Deputies of the McHenry County Sheriff's Department get their arrest numbers up by the number of "No Valid" arrests. What's a "No Valid" arrest?

You sit on the side of the road and watch for a vehicle to pass with a driver who appears to be Hispanic or Latino. Or you follow a vehicle with a Latino driver. Without noting a traffic violation, you run the license plate through the in-car computer. You see that there is no driver's license in the computer record associated with the vehicle registration.

You might even watch for a traffic violation. Oh, the driver just weaved a little in his lane (maybe a gust of wind or he reached for the radio dial). Or maybe he pulled out of an area where a community party had been held that attracted many Latino visitors; say, in the Richmond area last July 13.

Bingo! The driver has no valid driver's license, and he is arrested and transported to the jail. If there is another licensed driver in the car, you might let that driver take the vehicle and go on his way. Otherwise, you call for a tow ($125 min.) and have the car towed and stored ($40/day?).

Question: How does a deputy know that the person driving the vehicle is the owner of the car, for which the registration shows no associated driver's license?
Answer: He doesn't.

As the article points out, police in the South are confiscating thousands of dollars from drivers of cars but the arrest rate is only 25%. So the police department replenishes its operating kitty but never arrests the drivers. And they can confiscate the cars as well.

"U. S. Department of Justice records show that from 2004 to 2008, the amount of assets seized by local law enforcement agencies that were enrolled in a federal drug enforcement program tripled - from $56.7 million to $1.6 billion. This doesn't include assets kept by those agencies as part of state asset forfeiture programs." Ibid


Does anyone know how much McHenry County has collected/received in confiscated goods?

Remember the recent flap in Springfield (yes, right here in Illinois) when a member of a "public body" related to the Illinois State Police was identified as the driver of a high-value, confiscated vehicle. Wish I had saved that article! Why didn't they get him a SmartCar or Subaru or Cavalier to drive? Transportation is all he is entitled to; not luxury.

You can read the entire (short) article here:

Friday, June 19, 2009

Storm clobbers Woodstock

A late afternoon storm swept through Woodstock, dumping inches of rain and felling trees.

The trees to the right are in front of the Harris Bank Drive-Thru on South Street at S. Madison St. Two large trees with shallow roots fell toward the south, away from the bank's building, and blocked South Street. (Click on the photo to enlarge it; then click on the Back button on your browser to come back here.) Fortunately, their tops did not reach all the way to the Bundling Board Bed & Breakfast, but it was close.

Other trees are down all over town, and streets are flooded. On the north side of town one car on Greenwood, west of Wheeler St., was submerged to its headlights. Another car, on Meadow Avenue, had water almost up to its headlights.

Alten Farms Agricultural Journey

Dan Volkers, Manager of the McHenry County Farm Bureau here in Woodstock, sends along this information about Alten Farms:

Follow the Alten's agricultural journey through a descriptive picture narrative. Pictures date back to the early 1900's through today. The Alten family have dedicated their lives to the agriculture industry. The Altens have also dedicated countless hours to volunteer positions within the agriculture industry.

Harry Alten, Jr. has served on the Cook County Truck Gardener's Association, Illinois Vegetable Grower's Association, Illinois Specialty Grower's Association, McHenry County Farm Bureau, Chairman of Farmland Preservation Commission of McHenry County, and Harvard FFA Alumni.

Dennis Alten has served on the Cook County Truck Gardener's Association, Illinois Vegetable Grower's Association and Illinois Specialty Grower's Association.

Click here (or copy and paste into your browser) to enjoy this cyber-trip through McHenry County: You do not have to have a Facebook account to enjoy.

If you would like more information about membership in the Farm Bureau and its benefits, call Dan or any of his friendly staff members at (815) 338-1520 or visit

Grey Ford, 900 8273 = Hot Dog

Thursday morning I was driving into Crystal Lake on U.S. 14, and I noticed a grey Ford sedan (Illinois front license plate 900 8273) coming up fast behind me between Doty Road and Lily Pond Road. It was quickly clear that he was going to "make his point" about my 50MPH speed (in the 50 zone) by closing the distance between his car and mine very quickly and coming up very close behind me.

I tend to drive right on the speed limit and use Cruise Control to maintain my speed. As we approached North Ridgefield Road, he swung out to pass and flew by me right through the intersection, hitting an estimated 70MPH as he went around.

So, where are the deputies? Do they ever monitor locations where drivers frequently violate traffic laws? Does the Sheriff's Department still have the motorcycles? Do they use them for anything besides parades?

That driver quickly caught up to the next car "poking" along at about 50MPH, and then he passed it just east of the law office at 8600 U.S. Hwy. 14, right in the middle of a no-passing zone.

I got a good look at the driver, as he went around me. Maybe it's about time to start going to court again. In this case, since I didn't call to have an arrest made while the driver was still in sight, I'd have to talk a deputy into taking a complaint from me and issuing a ticket to the driver, once he was identified by me. I'd probably have to view a photo line-up and go to court 1-2-3 times, so it just isn't worth it for two no-passing violations.

In the past I've run into resistance from some deputies (and none from others) about issuing tickets when they have been able to stop the driver. Usually, it takes a call to the next jurisdiction to get the driver stopped and detain him (or her) until a deputy can arrive.

I remember one night when a speeder in a pick-up passed me between Huntley and Woodstock in a no-passing zone. Woodstock Police stopped him and held him until a deputy arrived. The deputy talked to the other driver first, then talked to me and told me that the other driver said he hadn't passed me and she wasn't going to give him a ticket. Well, duh, what did she expect him to say? I insisted she ticket him, and she refused and allowed the other driver to leave.

After the deputy left, the Woodstock cop said to me, "She should have just given him the ticket. She has no idea how much grief you are going to cause her."

It turned out not to be that much, because the Sheriff backed her up. Unfortunately, that made the deputy not only the cop, but also the judge. What she should have done was, write the ticket and let the traffic court judge decide. At that time I was batting 100% in McHenry County Traffic Court on cases where I had complained about other drivers' violations.

The next time you see a serious traffic violation, consider calling the police or the sheriff's department, depending on where the violation occurred. If you are willing to go to court, say so. What you may run into is that the dispatcher will tell you that you have to talk to an officer first. This is a dumb requirement, if you are reporting a serious traffic violation, because the violator will be long gone.

The cop needs to get the violator stopped on your telephone complaint, if he can spot him, and then wait for you to arrive and stop a safe distance behind the patrol car. Stay in your car until the officer approaches. Dispatchers should be trained to ask callers, if they want to make a complaint and will stop and talk to the officer, if he can get the violator stopped.

If you just want to report the violator and hope the dispatcher will broadcast the complaint and that a local cop will spot a violation himself, do that.

Grand Jury - secret or not?

Thank goodness the mail service is so good in Woodstock. Next day delivery still happens.

I wish to extend my appreciation to all who fax messages to me at (815) 338-2666, who send email to me at, and who send mail to me at 500 Lake Avenue - 1 or to P.O. Box 1222, Woodstock IL 60098. (Mail at the P.O. Box may be slow to reach me, because I go to the Post Office only once/week.)

It's nice to know that the Sheriff's Department is concerned about misconduct on the part of some deputies. But is it appropriate for Grand Jury matters to be discussed at roll call? Aren't Grand Jury proceedings supposed to be confidential - or more than confidential, secret? How could information reach command personnel at the Sheriff's Department that the current special Grand Jury might be investigating some members of the Department?

Are deputies required to report any summons to appear before a Grand Jury?

The Department isn't aware of possible misconduct? Give me a break!

EVERY case of arrest that involves injury to the person(s) arrested should be closely investigated by senior command personnel at the McHenry County Sheriff's Department. When a 17-year-old requires reconstruction of his nose after an arrest, doesn't anyone connect the dots and try to figure out how such an extensive injury was caused? Don't they keep track of who is involved in arrests involving injuries and start to wonder, if they see the same names appearing repeatedly in injury-arrest reports?

A trial is scheduled for August for two senior citizens who were injured when deputies stormed their home east of Crystal Lake in March 2008, trying to serve an arrest warrant on their adult son. Any improper procedures followed by the deputies will be made clear at the trial, along with why this couple was charged with "resisting arrest." Did they "resist" and thereby incur injury? Or were they injured, and then the arrest had to be made to "explain" their injuries?

Fortunately, this couple has the means to afford the best of defense attorneys in McHenry County.

Maybe times have changed. The sheriff's department in Colorado that I was with never would have tolerated such actions by deputies!

Special Ed Group in Algonquin

Algonquin School District 158 is really stepping up to the plate this summer and is forming a Parent Advisory Committee for parents of students with special needs. And it appears that this group is being designed to actually use their minds, brains and voices and offer information and opinions TO the school district. Bravo!

I received the following emailed announcement of the first meeting:

"District 158 will host an organizational meeting July 2nd for its first Special Needs Parent Advisory Committee.The purpose of the committee is to allow parents of special needs children the opportunity to provide information, guidance, advice and support to the special services department.

"The committee also would assist in planning and coordinating activities aimed toward effective parental involvement, assist in improving public relations through community and business representatives and advise staff on specific program areas.

"All parents of special needs children in the district are invited to attend the meeting, which is from 6 to 7:30pm in Room 180 of the District 158 Administrative Office, 650 Academic Drive in Algonquin.

"The tentative agenda includes a discussion of strengths and concerns of the district's special education program, as well as goals for the year.

"For information, call Associate Superintendent Terry Awrey at (847) 659-6131."

Three cheers to District 158. It sounds like this program could be a model for every school district in McHenry County!

This article will also be posted on

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Another Civil Rights Lawsuit

On June 5, 2009, "SKR" and "FR, Jr." filed a $100,000 Civil Rights lawsuit against McHenry County Illinois Sheriff Department, McHenry County Illinois Fire Protection District, Centegra Northern Illinois Medical Center, A Tec Ambulance Service, Central DuPage Hospital, Moraine Emergency Physicians, Summitt Clinical Services, Deanna Merrell, Dr. Bobba, Dr. Wyna and Unknown Others.

Deanna Merrell is with the McHenry County Sheriff's Department. It'll take some digging to learn the inside story on the lawsuit. The Case No. is 1:2009cv03419.

What rights of the Plaintiffs were violated?

Legitimate traffic stop?

What was going on last night about 9:15PM, when several deputies were stopped with a car with five young adults in it on Route 31, just south of Route 176 in the Crystal Lake area? This happened roughly across the street from the Honda dealership and McDonald’s.

The driver was stopped and told his registration was expired. The deputies wanted to search the car, and the kids told them that they couldn’t search it.

Then a deputy reportedly told them that, because they refused to let the deputies search the car, it showed that “they were up to something,” and that gave the deputies “probable cause” to search the car.

At one point at least two of the boys were put up against the side of the car and searched. A girl’s purse was taken from her and the contents were dumped out on the ground. The witness also observed that deputies had drawn weapons.

One of the kids told the witness, “If we don’t give them what they want, one of us goes to jail.” A deputy reportedly told them that, if they “don’t answer questions perfectly, one of them was going to jail.”

The witness understood that the kids had been stopped on previous occasions.

No tickets were issued. No arrests were made. The witness inspected the license plate on the vehicle and noted that the registration was not expired.

Was a report written on last night’s traffic stop? There is only one way to find out. Stay tuned for more information.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Off the lawn, please!

Where are we? Woodstock? Still? Really? Or did we slip over the edge and end up in a foreign country?
What's with people and their ideas about maintaining property values? Does this vehicle belong to the owner of the property or to a renter of an absentee landlord?
This car was in front of 314 N. Madison last evening; perhaps it has been moved by now.
But look what it took to get it there. The driver either backed up over the curb or drove across the front lawn to park this old battleship on the front lawn and on the sidewalk leading up to the house.
One of the problems with a City Code full of rules and regulations is that residents don't know about them. Or maybe they wouldn't even care, if they did know about them.
The City could do a better job of informing residents about parking prohibitions and many other ordinances. Using a portion of the water bill postcard would be a low-cost way of publicizing car-parking regulations and garage-sale rules. Every house in the City gets one of those several times each year.

Pot boils over at roll call

Rumor has it that one of yesterday's roll calls at the McHenry County Sheriff's Department was more than a little exciting. A heated "exchange" (shall we say, "argument") occurred and the participants were moved outside the roll call room until things cooled down.

One report indicated that a "big fight" broke out, but I believe it was a fight of words, which can be every bit as dangerous. It apparently almost turned into a fist fight in the roll call room. Now, any time you have angry, ARMED men arguing and approaching being out of control, this is not a good situation.

And it's even worse when they are packing heavy heat and wearing badges.

Anyone care to fill in the details (before I do)?

In McHenry County there are some deputies (perhaps the vast majority of them) who want the Department cleaned up. They are sick and tired of elderly couples being physically injured and then arrested. They are upset that persons under arrest and even handcuffed are then beaten and injured or threatened with a gun barrel placed in a mouth AFTER being handcuffed. They are upset with warrants that are being improperly served, even after they have been quashed.

Shouldn't these incidents lead to arrest and prosecution of the deputies committing such crimes?

Are deputies really being threatened with loss of jobs if they speak out against such abuses? That is, speak outside the department? Or if they talk to me? I hear that certain command personnel at the Sheriff's Department would love to know who is telling me about the dirt at the Sheriff's Department. Well, it's not going to happen. Those who know me know there is no way that I will reveal their identities.

I have been receiving calls, faxes, emails and deliveries of "dirt" for more than two years.

If the Sheriff's Department were serious about curbing abuses by deputies and took harsh actions against those who sail out of bounds with the illegally aggressive tactics, then none of this dirt would ever reach me. If deputies knew that reports of irregularities (or worse, crimes) would be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted, they wouldn't have any need to go outside the Department.

And then certain command personnel wouldn't have the need to threaten them for doing so.

Comments, anyone?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

2009 2A Freedom Rally - June 26

The 2009 Second Amendment Freedom Rally will be held on Friday, June 26, from 11:00AM until 1:00PM. This year's event, like last year's, will be held at Thompson Center, 100 West Randolph Street, close by Mayor Daley's office and Gov. Quinn's office. Maybe one or both will show up.

The keynote speaker this year will be Ralph Conner, CORE-Chicago and the narrator on the DVD, No Guns for Negroes. If you haven't seen this video yet, watch it now at

And come on down to the Loop on June 26 and support your Second Amendment rights! See you there on Friday, June 26.

Why is this important? Remember what has happened in all the countries where guns have been taken away from law-abiding citizens!

Sotomayor - wrong pick for USSC

"It was during that (2002) speech that Sotomayor uttered the now infamous contention that, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

"If a white male judge ever uttered such a remark about how his life experiences gave him a better grasp of wisdom to reach a conclusion than a Latina woman, he not only would never be nominated to a spot on the Supreme Court, he might be driven from whatever federal or state bench he currently occupied, and ridden out of town on a rail."

The above is from This is from the Chicago edition of

Is she the absolutely best, top pick, best qualified person to be the seventh judge on the Supreme Court? I mean, Number One in the entire U.S.A.?

The selection of a judge for Supreme Court should be blind to race and gender, just as the judges must be in their decisions. We're talking Law of the Land here, where decisions are made on law and fact, not on last name or heritage.

I don't know or care about her position on gun rights; well, yes, I do care. Frankly, I liked Charlton Heston's (1923-2008) remark, "I'll give you my gun when you take it from my cold, dead hands!" (which, actually, did not originate with him.) And I like Chuck Norris's sign at his home, which bears the likeness of a pistol and words, "We don't dial 911." Norris says, "Any burglar who tests what I mean by that sign will find out really quick!"

The Washington Times reported in May that "Three of the five majority opinions written by Judge Sotomayor for the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals and reviewed by the Supreme Court were reversed..." ( May 27, 2009). That's 60%.

Somehow, I just do not believe that Sotomayor is the mostly highly qualified jurist to take the open seat in the Supreme Court.

Care to become a criminal?

The House passed the concurrence on HB 182 on May 29, 2009, with a vote of 90-28. Rep. Franks and Rep. Tryon voted in favor of this, as did Sen. Althoff on the Senate version. The Senate's vote was 57-0.

Now, here's what you can do. Call Gov. Quinn's office at 312/814-2121 right now and ask him to sign this into law. The following is the press release from the Illinois State Rifle Assn.


"In a strong show of bipartisan support earlier this spring, the Illinois General Assembly overwhelmingly passed HB182. This important piece of legislation clarified ambiguities in the unlawful weapons use statutes. These clarifications ensured that law-abiding citizens would not accidentally violate the law while preserving the justice system's ability to arrest and try violent criminals.

"As you might expect, the gun-control extremists are blasting the General Assembly for making these reforms. The gun grabbers are mounting a campaign to have Governor Quinn veto HB182.

1. You would not be able to handle a firearm in any manner outside your own home, a gun shop, or gun range.
2. Let's say you were invited to a birthday party for your friend Hank. Let's say that one of Hank's gifts was a new shotgun. Hank notices you admiring the shotgun and hands it to you so that you could examine it. If Gov. Quinn vetoes HB182, then you could be subject to arrest and felony prosecution for handling Hank's new shotgun -- even if you possess a valid FOID.
3. Let's say your buddy Bill asks you and Hank to come down to his farm for a day and for you to bring a couple of rifles with you for some good old fashioned plinking. If Gov. Quinn vetoes HB182, then you and Hank could be subject to arrest and felony prosecution for plinking on Bill's farm, despite the fact that Bill gave you permission and despite the fact that you possess a valid FOID.
4. Let's say you're on the road and stop off at a hotel in a seedy part of town. Once inside your room, you unpack and load a pistol and place it on the hotel room nightstand. If Gov. Quinn vetoes HB182, then you could be subject to arrest and felony prosecution for preparing to protect yourself within your hotel room.

"Once again, we see that the primary interest of the gun control movement is to harass law abiding gun owners. WHAT YOU MUST DO TO PROTECT YOUR GUN RIGHTS:

1. Call Governor Quinn's Office as soon as possible at (312) 814-2121 and POLITELY tell the person who answers the phone that you are a law-abiding firearm owner and that you are tired of being treated like a criminal. Politely tell the person that you would like Governor Quinn to sign HB182 into law at his nearest convenience.
2. Pass this alert along to all your gun owning friends and neighbors.
3. Post this alert to any and all Internet blogs or bulletin boards to which you may belong.


Get your 2-cents' worth in

From a McHenry County press release:

County residents, municipal and township officials, and other community leaders are invited to attend one of four interactive workshops to be held June 26th, 29th, and 30th. Each workshop will provide an opportunity to review and comment on each of the plan’s six chapters:

Community Character and Housing;
Agricultural Resources;
Greenways, Open Space, and Natural Resources;
Water Resources;
Economic Development; and

The Regional Planning Commission will conduct additional meetings to gather comments on the Future Land Use Map component of the plan, which has not yet been completed. The County Board will also conduct public hearings prior to final adoption of the plan, which is anticipated this fall.

Each workshop will feature an overview presentation of the draft plan and an opportunity to engage in roundtable discussions with other participants and members of the Regional Planning Commission. Participants are encouraged to stay for the entire two hour workshop in order to fully contribute to the process. Morning, afternoon, and evening workshops are scheduled in order to accommodate broad participation. The workshop times and dates are:

Friday, June 26th, 1:00-3:00 PM
Monday, June 29th, 6:00-8:00 PM
Tuesday, June 30th, 8:30-10:30 AM
Tuesday, June 30th 7:00-9:00 PM

All workshops will be held in the County Board meeting rooms of the McHenry County Government Center, located at 667 Ware Road, Woodstock, IL 60098. Advanced reservations are requested in order to ensure adequate seating is provided. Participants can register online on the 2030 Plan website or by calling (815) 334-4560 ext. 1.

Participants are encouraged to review the draft plan in advance of the workshops. The plan is available for review on the 2030 Plan website; at the McHenry County Government Center in the Department of Planning and Development; and at public libraries throughout the County.

Comments on the draft plan can also be submitted via email to or in writing to: McHenry County 2030 Plan, Department of Planning and Development, McHenry County Government Center, 2200 North Seminary Avenue, Woodstock, IL 60098. All comments must be received by 4:30 PM, Friday, July 10, 2009.

For more information visit the 2030 plan website or call the McHenry County Department of Planning and Development at (815)334-4560 ext. 1.

Education Requirement - new police officers

Recently a proposal was made to the Woodstock Board of Fire and Police Commissioners (BOFPC) for a change in the educational requirement for new police officers of the Woodstock Police Department. At the meeting where this was discussed, no explanation was made of the proposal, which had been distributed before the meeting to the three Commissioners.

The City proposed "a minimum educational standard of an associate's degree, and/or 2 years of military service, as part of our next planned recruitment."

This is a reasonable minimum standard. In fact, it may be too low. I had left that meeting, wondering whether the City had been proposing a minimum of a four-year degree. Even that requirement might not be unreasonable.

Today's serious applicants for law enforcement study Criminal Justice, Police Science, Criminology or a whole slew of other names for this course of study.

In today's hiring climate, and understanding how long a newly-hired officer might actually remain with a department, a minimum standard of an associate's degree, with no minimum law-enforcement program credits, might be too low. And two years' military service, alone, is, in my opinion, a completely inadequate minimum requirement, unless the applicant for a cop's position had been in a military police MOS. And that, if it were the case, should bear close, careful examination. Duties of a military police officer are not the same as a civilian police officer.

A high school education today is insufficient preparation for employment. The grammar, spelling, writing and math skills of too many high school graduates leave them unprepared for full-time employment. In fact, they leave them unprepared even to enter many colleges, which then have to offer remedial classes before the students can be expected to succeed in college-level classes.

Perhaps I place undue importance on writing, spelling and speaking skills. But, when someone answers the phone and responds "This is him", when I ask to speak with a certain person, I immediately lower my estimation of the person's educational level and ability to resolve any problem about which I might be calling. And when I hear "Him and I did such-and-such", I'm ready to throw up.

I urge the BOFPC to re-examine the proposal of the City's Human Resource Director and to adopt a higher minimum educational standard than currently exists in Woodstock.

After that, the BOFPC should consider college-level educational studies for existing members of our police department, encouraging each officer to earn his or her B.A., if not already awarded.

Parking Challenges

What is it about certain drivers that causes them to think that this kind of parking is appropriate or considerate or wise or even legal?

This vehicle was parked in the 900 block of Clay Street on Monday. Will somebody clue me in on why the woman driver (yes, it really was a woman) would park in this manner?
In all fairness to the gentler sex (okay, gender!), vehicles driven by men are frequently parked in front of the same house in similar manner on "party" week-ends.
Questions are being posed to Community Development and to the Police Department on the legality of parking in this manner. Their responses will be posted, if and when received.

Doomsday Budget?

Yesterday I received an email about the budget cuts that are expected to affect Options & Advocacy, a not-for-profit McHenry County organization that serves a developmentally-disabled clientele. This morning's paper forecasts gloom and doom for Illinois Federation of Families, Pioneer Center, Family Service and Community Mental Health Center, and perhaps up to 10,000 state employees.

Everybody seems to be bashing Gov. Pat Quinn, but isn't he a beacon for fiscal responsibility in Illinois? How can we continue to blow more money out the door than is coming in? But, of course, that's what most people do: spend beyond their means.

Illinois' money problems cannot be solved only by cutting allocations and disbursements of state monies. The income tax must be raised to close the gap between outgo and income.

Wasn't it just about two weeks ago that the Northwest Herald carried an article about the pork to be distributed by state legislators? Just how much will be doled out right here in McHenry County alone by Representatives Franks and Tryon and Senator Althoff? I guess three phone calls today will be in order.

What are these dollars called? Pork? Earmarks? Legislative privilege? You know, like full scholarships to high school graduates for tuition at a state university? Are they the neediest among our state population?

Can we afford to turn our backs on the segment of our population that cannot help itself? Illinois ranks in the bottom 10% of the States for how it funds services for children and adults with disabilities. Maybe we don't have to be first in services to them, but we certainly don't have to be in the bottom 10%!

Contact your elected representatives today and demand that they balance the budget by responsible cuts and by a reasonable increase in state income tax.

Monday, June 15, 2009

"Serviced" at Viking Dodge? No, thank you.

On June 11th the Northwest Herald reported "(James) Samaras said Wednesday (June 10) that his Crystal Lake dealership remained opened for business as it winds down." Of course, that wasn't quite correct, since it was no longer a "dealership".
To me this sounded like a retraction by the paper of its previous day's Associated Press article and headline, "Viking Dodge closes door for good." Should the Northwest Herald now retract its retraction?
On Sunday a sign was displayed on the front door of Viking Dodge, now known as Viking Motors. I dropped by this morning to see if it looked like Viking Motors was really open for for business; i.e., were the service and parts departments open as usual and the sales department open to sell used cars? From the appearance of the interior and the lot, my guess is they are not.
While I was there to take this picture (click on the photo to enlarge it, then click on the Back button on your browser to come back here), a man in a minivan approached me and told me that he had bought the van there three weeks ago. He was promised $500 worth of window detailing and also told that he would save big bucks on his auto insurance premium because of the anti-theft package he bought.
He had called his insurance agent after making the deal and was told there would be no premium reduction. If you hear this from any other dealer, call your insurance agent right from the salesman's phone. Then walk out.
And his window detailing? He told me he figured he was out the $500 for that. But he bought his minivan for $12,000, so maybe his "good deal" was just $500 less than he thought it would be.
Oh, about the "servicing" part of the notice on the front door... Did you get "serviced" there? Some would say they did. What they were probably hoping was that they would get "served" there.