Friday, July 30, 2010

City to give away pedestrian path

Do you live on the north side of Woodstock? Do you or your kids use the pedestrian path between Tappan Street and Bellair Lane?

If you do and if you want that path kept open as City property for public use, rather than seeing it revert to private ownership and likely closure to pedestrians or bicyclists, then you will want to attend the Public Hearing on Tuesday evening, August 3, 7:00PM at City Hall.

The Public Hearing is scheduled for 7:00PM and is for the purpose of vacating the public way there. That means, give up the City's right to it. If no member of the public is present, or if you show up but don't speak, the City will assume that you aren't interested and don't care.

The public portion of the Hearing will close, and the City Council will vote on the Ordinance that they have already spent money on to prepare.

And you can guess what their action will be.

I have heard that there are those in the neighborhood who want it kept the way it is. If you do, you'll want to make sure you are there before 7:00PM. The Mayor starts meetings on time. If you are late, it will be too late.

Where is Beth Bentley?

Somebody in Woodstock knows where Beth Bentley is!

Bentley, 41, disappeared on May 23 in southern Illinois, somewhere in the vicinity of Mt. Vernon or Centralia.

There have been many stories, even more rumors.

The Facebook site for Beth Bentley-Missing has 7,400+ followers, but interest is waning there and fewer and fewer are posting comments that could help find her..

The site continues to draw interesting comments from sleuthers", but it is hard to follow because now there are five "threads".

Many question the lack of comment or announcements from law enforcement or family. Only two notices are posted on the Crime Alerts webpage of the Woodstock Police Dept., with the most recent one dated June 9. Beth is listed by WPD as a "missing adult-endangered", but no clear explanation of "endangered" is available. The WPD defines endangered in general terms as "a person who is missing under circumstances indicating that his/her physical safety may be in danger." Now that clears everything up nicely, doesn't it?

A relatively small reward is posted. CrimeStoppers posted a $2,000 reward, and that was increased to $5,000 in mid-June from other sources, although it has never been clear who kicked in. A fundraiser was held on July 16, but that apparently was for search expenses and not for the reward fund. A Facebook page identifies a trust and a CHASE Bank account for donations to the Find Beth Bentley Reward Fund, but the reward has not been increased since the fundraiser.

There are several locations in the Mt. Vernon area that are ideal spots for searches, but no organization of searches has yet occurred. Lots of talk; no walk.

Anyone ready to go to Mt. Vernon and search? I hear that mosquitoes, copperheads, rattlesnakes and poison ivy head up the Welcome Committee.

Elect City Council by District?

What would it be like in Woodstock, if voters elected their City Council representatives by district, instead of the way it is?

Think about it...

What happens now when you want to suggest an idea to the City Council? You look at the list and decide which member of the City Council to pitch your idea to. You may get a nice reception. Does your idea go further? Or you go to the City Council, where you must address your remarks only to the Mayor. You present your idea. You get thanked. And that's it. That's all there is, folks. Usually, no feedback and no commitment to do anything but note it in the Minutes. And there it dies.

What "pressure" do you have? Any? A little? What can you say? "I won't vote for you next time." So what?

But what if members of the City Council were elected from districts in Woodstock? What if all your neighbors and you wanted an idea brought before the City Council?

If you submitted a petition, let's say with 500 signatures, to a single Council person, do you think that person would sit up straight and listen really hard to your position?

Are there any drawbacks to electing Council members by district?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Driver in crash - 2 prior speeding tix

One of the drivers in the crash a week ago involving three cars, including a McHenry County Sheriff's deputy, had two speeding tickets in 2009. As a result of her driving on July 21, she now has one more ticket related to speed and a Fail to Yield to Emergency Vehicle ticket.

Theresa Alcazar, 29, was ticketed by the Bull Valley PD officer and has a court date of August 13 at 8:30AM in Room 103.

On April 5, 2009, Alcazar was cited for speeding 11-14MPH over the limit by the Fox River Grove PD. She paid $125 in fine, court costs and fees and was ordered to a 4-hour traffic school.

On September 10, 2009, Alcazar was cited for speeding 15-20MPH over the limit by the McHenry County Sheriff's Department. She paid $75 for that one.

Now, ten months later, with her cruise control set on 60MPH in a 55MPH zone, she piled into the back of a car and pushed it into the oncoming lane, where it hit a squad car on an emergency run.

I guess the positive part of her driving is that maybe she had learned from those tickets, since she was driving only 5MPH over the 55MPH limit. But what else was going on that she didn't react in time to avoid smashing into the rear of a Pontiac Grand Am in front of her?

Sure hope she had good insurance, and well above the Illinois minimum required liability limit of $25,000. No doubt she'll get sued for totaling two vehicles and hurting at least two people, Deputy Kyle Oligney and the driver of the other car, Lida Zelaya.

This might be a good time to review the limits of your own liability insurance and to talk with your own agent about what is adequate liability insurance today.

Harvard Radio celebrates two years

On Monday, August 2, will celebrate its second year "on the air" with a five-hour "extravaganza" from 7:00AM until noon. Be sure to tune in at or its sister station,

The Morning Buzz will expand from its normal three-hour program to five hours, and Henry Stevens, Jim Mathews and Dave Gardner will entertain you.

The top ten musical artists of each decade will be featured throughout the morning, and special guests will be on the air, either in the station or remotely by telephone.

Many thanks to Jim, Henry and Dave for mentioning the Woodstock Advocate regularly and also my race for McHenry County Sheriff. Jim frequently plays "my" song, Hang Up and Drive, by Ray Stevens; in fact, almost every morning shortly after 7:00AM. Thanks, Jim!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dash camera - was it working?

Regarding last Wednesday's crash on Greenwood Road, I wonder whether Deputy Oligney's squad car was equipped with a dashboard camera.

If it was, it should have been recording, since the emergency lights and siren were in use. My understanding of how the video-recording system operates is that it records whenever lights and siren are in use.

And many of the systems record all the time, even when emergency equipment is not in use. The recording time is 30-60 seconds before emergency equipment is turned on. This allows a deputy to record a driver's violation(s), before he turns on the emergency equipment.

There was a crash a while back when two squad cars were racing - not in McHenry County. The videocamera recorded a second squad car accelerating and hitting a car that turned left in front of it. The camera recorded the speed of its vehicle at about 70MPH in the 45MPH zone, and the black box in the squad car that crashed read out at 100MPH.

No doubt the sheriff's department will pull the black box from the 2004 Chevrolet Impala that crashed last Wednesday. How soon will it release the read-out of the vehicle's speed?

Open Letter to Dep. Oligney

Dear Kyle,

I'd like to invite you to meet for coffee one day and get acquainted. Some of your colleagues seem to think that I hate cops, but that's not true.

In any incident, what's important for me is the truth. I would enjoy getting acquainted with you and discussing the crash that occurred on Greenwood Road.

One of the things that I wonder about is the speed of the squad car as you approached the two southbound vehicles. I'm sure the Department will pull the black box and get the reading for the speed, but I'm wondering what you think the read-out will be. Or perhaps you already know.

It is reported that you had the lights and siren operating, although the women drivers did not indicate hearing the siren. I know that drivers often don't hear sirens, especially when windows are all the way up, A/C is on, radios are on, and maybe cell phones are in use. That doesn't really matter, since the I.V.C. doesn't require sirens when emergency lights are used.

I understand that the occupants of all three vehicles were treated and released. I hope you're okay.

Please let me know a good time to talk.

Gus Philpott

Photos from last Wednesday's wreck

If you would like to see a number of photographs from last Wednesday's wreck on Greenwood Road that involved two cars and a McHenry County Sheriff's Department squad car, go to

Cal Skinner got 173 photos and picked the best of them. You'll see that it wasn't just a little "tap" from the Mitsubishi that pushed a Pontiac Grand Am in front of the squad car. Look at the back end of the Grand Am. It's caved in - big-time. And then the Mitsubishi ran off the west side of the road and hit a telephone pole - hard. The Grand Am stayed in the roadway, but it must have been a wild ride.

There are scrapes on the left side of the patrol car that must be from the front of the Grand Am. Deputy Kyle Oligney must have swerved to the right when he saw the Grand Am coming across the road at him. He drove off onto the shoulder and then went almost straight ahead, missing a property owner's sign but nailing a big tree.

There is probably a black box in the squad car that will provide a record of the speed of the squad car. If not, Deputy Oligney probably has a good idea of how fast he was going. Eventually, there ought to be a report within MCSD with Deputy Oligney's recollection of the crash as it developed in front of him.

The photos seem to answer one question in my mind, and that was whether a northbound car had slowed or stopped, forcing the deputy to pass between cars. It appears there was no northbound car, so my questions now are why did the driver in the Grand Am slow; how abruptly did she slow? how much did she slow? did she come to a stop before she was hit from behind?

If the northbound lane was clear, all the driver in the Grand Am had to do was slow and move to the right side of the southbound lane. She did not have to stop, unless necessary to allow the squad car to pass safely. With no other northbound traffic, there was no need for her to stop.

Thus, in my mind, she contributed greatly to the crash, as did the driver of the car that hit her.

The Sheriff's Department has two more days to furnish the report of the crash toward which Deputy Oligney was heading. It will be interesting to learn how many squad cars were heading toward that crash and how far away it was.

Much of new Arizona law frozen

A legal analyst wrote on that "A federal judge in Phoenix Wednesday ordered Arizona officials to delay indefinitely much of the enforcement of the state's controversial new immigration law, declaring major portions of the measure an impermissible burden on federal resources and priorities."

Yeah, well, duh.... The Arizona cops go out and grab illegal aliens and turn them over to ICE... I guess that would be a burden on "federal resources". Of course, if the Feds were doing their job, that burden would already be there!

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton froze "...provisions that required a check of immigration status for anyone stopped by police under "reasonable suspicion" of unlawful status..." Good job, Judge Bolton. Now the cops can't do their jobs.

Judge Bolton is worried that "...officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens under the new [law]..."

I've got some news for her. Legal resident aliens are not the problem. All they have to do is carry their visitor papers with them. That's no different than anywhere else in the world. Try going to Mexico and not having your papers in order. Can anyone spell J-A-I-L?

Arizona will appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Green Party Convention this week-end

Sick of politics? Sick and tired of the two-party system?

Check out the Illinois Green Party at and attend part or all of this week-end's 2010 State Convention.

When: Friday, July 30, through Sunday, August 1

Where: Loyola University's Lake Shore Campus

Register online at

Highlights include keynote addresses by Rich Whitney and LeAlan Jones. Hear Gus Philpott at 3:30PM Saturday. Attend the fundraiser on Saturday night at the legendary Heartland Cafe, and enjoy a weekend of workshops for campaigns and meeting volunteers seeking to elect Greens all over Illinois.

The convention will meet in the Simpson Living-Learning Center at 1032 W. Sheridan Road (Chicago), about halfway between the Granville and Morse stops on the El Red Line. The CTA 151 bus goes from Union Station (Amtrak) to Loyola.

Anger hurts the one who is angry

There's a fellow here in the county who has been issuing some pretty unkind thoughts about my being in the race for sheriff.

He has identified himself as a retired peace officer, and then he wrote that "I'm scared to reveal myself. Ever wonder why? I'll lose my job. A bunch of us would if we spoke out."

So, if he is a "retired peace officer" but is afraid to speak out, does he work at the McHenry County Sheriff's Department?" Is he a jailer, maybe, or a courthouse security officer?

He's pretty unhappy that I'm in the race to stay. I hope he doesn't create some serious health issues for himself. He certainly is displaying a lot of anger in his writings.

If he does work at 2200 N. Seminary, probably the sheriff and the undersheriff will be trying to identify him. Freedom of speech is one thing, but the anger he is displaying is quite likely to surface on the job and create some very serious headaches (read, lawsuits and legal fees) for the sheriff's department and the taxpayers of McHenry County.

If I can get myself elected as Sheriff, employees are going to find that the muzzle on them is going to be loosened. They won't have to fear retribution and retaliation, as they apparently now do. If they have a legitimate grievance, I'll want to hear about it. The back-stabbing will stop. Yes, it'll take a while for them to learn that they can trust me. They'll get that time. A reasonable period of time. They'll need to be quick learners.

And, if they don't like working for the sheriff's department, they can resign at any time and hope to be happier elsewhere.

Crime prevention 101

If you know that a crime is about to be committed, what should you do?

Report it to police?
Wait until it occurs and then report it?
Forget it?

If you report it ahead of time, what should the police do?

Make plans to catch the criminals in the act?
Contact one of the people involved and tell him (or her) that the police know what's going to happen?
Send an officer to stand guard at the location so that the crime doesn't occur?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Smiling all the way to the bank

Former McHenry City Administrator Doug Maxeiner ought to be smiling all the way to the bank for the next six months. It looks like he played the system just right. According to this morning's Northwest Herald, the residents of McHenry will be paying him $10,000/month plus his family's health insurance for the next six months.

From the article: "(Mayor Sue) Low said she and Maxeiner spoke on July 12, and they mutually decided he should leave." I don't remember seeing that mentioned in the article on Wednesday, when it appeared Maxeiner had just walked off the job. Somebody in City government told a reporter that Maxeiner's letter of resignation was expected.

Maxeiner probably read his employment contract a whole lot more closely than government officials. The City Council met in executive session last Tuesday, presumably with the City Attorney present, and then they danced to and fro with their words, not really explaining what was happening. "Trust us," they seemed to be saying.

Hello? Does transparency in government exist in the City of McHenry?

Again, from today's paper: "I'm not speculating on what people will think," Mayor Sue Low said in response to a question about how taxpayers might react. "It is what it is." I predict she won't have to speculate very long; the People will let her know.

Lately, I've heard "It is what it is" often enough that I'm about ready to barf. That phrase is dismissive of responsibility, and it should be barred from government-speak.

Low said that Maxeiner "was offered the opportunity to resign. He didn't do it." Why, golly-gee. How could he pass up such an "opportunity"?

Speeding ticket? Get a lawyer

Last week I watched a McHenry lawyer represent two clients in Judge Wilbrandt's traffic court.

One of them, a female driver, 45, with no prior tickets in the McHenry court system, was in court on a speeding ticket for driving 71MPH in a 55MPH zone and getting nabbed by a sheriff's deputy on June 30.

Through a negotiated plea, she pled guilty to Unlawful Parking and ended up getting stuck at the payment window for a total of $285.00 in fine, costs and fees.

The other? Also, a female driver, 20, nabbed by a deputy for driving 73MPH in a 55MPH zone. And she got hit for $349 total in fines, costs and fees. What did she plead guilty to? Unlawful Parking!

Her driving history is a little different. According to court records, here is her traffic ticket history in McHenry County:

4/30/10 by Illinois State Police; speeding 15-20MPH over limit. Nolle prossed today.
3/29/10 by MCSD. Pled guilty today to Unlawful Parking
12/1/09 by Illinois State Police
10/3/08 by Crystal Lake PD
7/7/08 by Illinois State Police
7/1/08 by Richmond PD
6/2/08 by McCullom Lake PD
5/7/08 by Wonder Lake PD
3/3/o8 by McHenry PD

I wonder whether the judge bothered to look at her driving history before accepting the plea to "Unlawful Parking." Why did he dump the 4/30/10 ISP ticket as part of the deal?

The lawyer was in front of the judge for about a minute.

About 4-5 years ago I watched the same lawyer in front of a judge in the McHenry branch of traffic court, and a bunch of kids walked on under-age drinking tickets by pleading guilty to illegal parking and $100 fines. The kids were laughing about it before they even got out of the courtroom.

Why does the State's Attorney's office participate in these deals? Sure, they get a Gold Star for a conviction, but what price will the People pay later on?

Outrageous fine for 118MPH in 45 zone

About eight months after his 16th birthday, young Joseph Beausang got a speeding ticket in Lake in the Hills, Ill. Now that, in itself, is not such an unusual thing. In fact, when I was 16, I got a speeding ticket. That was 55 years ago, and I still remember it.

This one, however, was a little over the top. Beausang was in a 45MPH zone on Rakow Road. Over the top, you say? How about, over the top of 100MPH! In fact, the Lake in the Hills officer clocked Beausang at 118MPH. That's 73MPH over the speed limit!!! That was back on October 24, 2009.

I wanted to hear the jury trial in this case that was set for 10:00AM in Judge Weech's courtroom. When I showed up and checked the call, the bailiff let me know that he didn't think the jury trial would start today, because a jury trial from yesterday would be continuing. I thought about leaving, until he said he thought the lawyers had just gone to meet with the judge for a 402 conference. I decided to hang around and see if there would be a deal.

And a deal there was. Sort of a deal of a lifetime. Maybe.

Thanks to low voices and other noise in the courtroom, it was impossible to hear everything said between Judge Weech, the prosecutor from the Office of the Village Attorney of Lake in the Hills and Beausang's lawyer from Diamond & LeSueur. Beausang's parents were there with him. I did hear the judge tell Beausang that such a speeding violation could well prevent him from getting a job in law enforcement, but it might not keep him out a job in NASCAR.

I couldn't hear the entire sentence when Beausang pled guilty, but his lawyer told me outside the courtroom that the fine was $100.00.

$100.00? One hundred dollars? ONLY one hundred dollars? That's outrageous! Yes, sure, the judge admonished Beausang about his driving. And he was very serious about it. And Beausang and his parents looked serious.

Until they got outside the courtroom and had a good laugh with their lawyer. I overheard their lawyer say that sincerity had been important. Right. Say the right words. Show the right "look." Be remorseful.

But a $100.00 fine for 73MPH over the speed limit? What does that really say to young Beausang. "Go fast, young man."

The total cost at the courthouse today? $100.00 fine plus $248.00 court costs, for a total of $348.00. Plus, of course, a healthy fee from their attorney.

If Beausang keeps his nose clean for six months, the Secretary of State will never hear about it. How come the cop didn't charge him with Reckless Driving? Why did the prosecutor agree to the plea? Why didn't they go to trial over speeding 73MPH over the limit?

Kind of makes you sick, doesn't it?

Read the Greenwood Road crash report

Last week a McHenry County Sheriff's Department vehicle was involved in a three-car crash on Greenwood Road, when an oncoming vehicle slowed and was rear-ended and then pushed into its path.

You can read the crash report that was obtained by Cal Skinner and the McHenry County Blog. I didn't submit a FOIA request for the crash report. I'm glad I didn't. I don't think I could have kept my sides from splitting from laughter.

I posted a comment on Cal's blog: "Did the Bull Valley officer actually graduate from elementary school?"

Guess I'll have to stay out of Bull Valley for a while.

You can read the report at

Aside from the grammatical and spelling errors, the report is a joke. Reports should be clear and straight-forward, so that the reader can understand how a crash most likely occurred. Read that one and decide for yourself. That report is a classic example of why the Illinois State Police should have been called in to investigate the crash.

MCSD should have responded to Cal's FOIA request by providing its records, not shuffling Cal off to Bull Valley PD. I'll bet the repair estimate on the patrol car is considerably over $1,000, since the patrol car hit Unit 2 and then hit a tree.

The Bull Valley crash report is incredibly poorly written. There is no statement about how quickly Unit 2 (the first southbound vehicle) slowed upon seeing the approaching emergency vehicle. Apparently, it had not come to a stop before it was hit from behind. Unit 2 could have still been moving when hit from behind.

Unit 1 (the second southbound car) was speeding in 55MPH zone; there was no mention of why the driver failed to slow and stop before hitting Unit 2.

The statement of the passenger in Unit 2 makes no sense at all.

There was no statement about the speed of Unit 3 (MCSP emergency vehicle), as it ran "hot" north on Greenwood Road or when (or if) the deputy began to slow to avoid a crash.

Notice the B.V. PD report says that the emergency vehicle hit Unit 2, but the MCSP report says that the Grand Am (Unit 2) collided with the emergency vehicle.

Another question in my mind is whether the driver and passenger in Unit 2 (the first southbound vehicle) were legally in the U.S. According to the Bull Valley P.D. report, MCSP Sgt. Campos-Cruz acted as interpreter for both of them. If neither spoke enough English to converse with the Bull Valley PD officer, is that reason to inquire about legal presence in the U.S. (In Arizona, it would be, and it should be here, too.)

I am awaiting the FOIA response from MCSD for the crash toward which Deputy Oligney was heading. I'm curious where it was, what time it had occurred, and how many deputies were running hot toward it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

What??? Afford a new home???

I don't know when this transpired or where this came from, other than from a friend in Arizona today, but does anyone else find Sen. Dodd's explanation appalling?

"Democrats Vote Down 5 Percent Rule

"In a bid to stem taxpayer losses for bad loans guaranteed by federal housing agencies Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac, Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn) proposed that borrowers be required to make a 5% down payment in order to qualify. His proposal was rejected 57-42 on a (Democratic) party-line vote because, as Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn) explained, "passage of such a requirement would restrict home ownership to only those who can afford it."

If that is accurate, then that Senator Dodd is one smart cookie. Right? More like the crumbs in the bottom of the cookie jar.

Motorcyclist crashes in Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake Police arrested a drunk motorcyclist yesterday afternoon, after a crash involving a car and a motorcycle.

Police determined that Carl Nendze, 42, Crystal Lake, was riding a 2004 Harley-Davidson motorcycle southbound on Heather Drive behind a 1996 Ford Mustang, driven by Darryl Burkett, 27, of Algonquin. Nendze attempted to pass the Mustang as the driver was making a left turn into a private driveway. Nendze and a 13-year-old passenger were treated and released by paramedics on the scene.

Nendze was charged with Driving While Under the Influence of Alcohol, Driving While Under the Influence of Alcohol with a BAC greater than .16, Improper Passing on the Left, and Endangering the Life and Safety of a Child.

Also arrested was Warren Fischer, 45, Crystal Lake, for Disorderly Conduct, Obstructing a Peace Officer, and Intimidation, after Fischer interfered with the investigation of the crash. Fischer did not pass Go or collect $200 on his way to the McHenry County Jail.

Motorcyclist - over the limit (0.214)

On July 2 a motorcyclist died in the Crystal Lake area after crashing his motorcycle. Trent David Steckel, 24, was riding his 2005 Honda VTX 1300C motorcycle shortly after 1:00AM.

According to a press release by the McHenry County Sheriff's Department, "for unknown reasons the motorcycle exited the roadway to the west, into a ditch causing the driver to lose control of the motorcycle, and to collide with a culvert."

Steckel had been associated with the Woodstock Fire/Rescue District and the Lakewood Fire Department. An honors funeral was conducted on July 10th.

According to the office of the McHenry County Coroner, Steckel's BAC was 0.214.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bentley missing nine weeks today

Beth Bentley, 41, of Woodstock, went to Mt. Vernon, Ill. for the week-end, leaving Woodstock on May 20. She didn't come home. She has been missing since Sunday, May 23. She has now been missing for nine weeks.

Other stories here and elsewhere have described the events that preceded her disappearance. An active Facebook page with numerous topics has more than 7,400 followers. Click here to go to it:!/group.php?gid=122739057758360&ref=ts

There is also an active following on; you can find the fourth of four threads for postings about amateur efforts to solve this case at Three previous "threads" can be found via links on the first page of each thread. A fifth thread (continuation) will probably begin soon.

The amateur sleuths are focused on Mt. Vernon and have generally discarded first reports that Beth had gone to Centralia on Sunday and had been dropped off near the Amtrak train station there. Recently, an apparent leak of information revealed an order for pizza in Mt. Vernon was placed from Beth's cell phone at 5:16PM that Sunday, or an hour after she is reported to have spoken by phone with her husband, Scott, a McHenry attorney.

A fundraiser was held on July 16, and a bank account has been set up at CHASE Bank for donations to the Find Beth Bentley Reward Fund. A reward of $5,000 is being offered. Any tips or information should be directed to the Woodstock Police Department (815.338.2131) or Crime Stoppers at 800.762.STOP

Mainstream media are devoting little attention to this case, perhaps partially due to the virtual absence of information flowing from the several police agencies involved or the family. Family search efforts may have been expanded briefly to the Las Vegas area, but results have not yet been released.

Drain on Nygren's war chest

The Northwest Herald published a front-page article today on campaign income and expenses in the McHenry County Sheriff's race.

Nygren's worries about Republican challenger Zane Seipler in the February 2 Primary may have cost him $40,000, and Nygren ended up with only 2/3 of the Republican vote. My guess is that he got a huge headache over that.

Zane Seipler, a political novice, got 1/3 of the Republican vote in the Primary. There is a powerful message there for Nygren. If one-third of the Republican voters in the Primary voted against him, what is really going to happen on November 2?

Nygren is fighting some court cases that will generate very unfavorable publicity for him before the November General Election. Two of them have McHenry County Court dates in August.

Nygren is fighting a losing battle and wasting considerable taxpayer monies to continue to fight Zane Seipler's reinstatement. An arbitrator ruled that Seipler should have been docked three days' pay and should get his job back. Nygren didn't like that decision and decided that he'd expend even more taxpayer money to fight it. The issue in court is no longer whether Seipler did anything wrong; that has been settled. The issue is whether the arbitrator made the right decision.

The case will be heard by Judge Caldwell on August 12, but that's not the trial or hearing; it's just for motions. Will Nygren tell his lawyers to stall this case until after the election?

Nygren has another battle on his hands over allegations that he mis-used his office for political purposes and has improperly used symbols of the office on political stationery and has used unauthorized symbols of the office on County vehicles.

The seven-point star/badge is different than the official five-point badge of office. As I understand it, Nygren has said that he designed the seven-point badge for his political use. Then why is it plastered all over many county vehicles? For example, see yesterday's photo of MARV in front of the Woodstock Harley-Davidson dealership.

I know that I complained four years ago about Nygren's use of the symbol of his office on campaign literature. That was, of course, long before I decided to run for sheriff. My complaint went nowhere, because I didn't spend the money then to haul the issue into court.

My compliments to Zane for doing so. Zane is a guy who stands up for what he believes in, and he puts his name right on it.

Will Nygren be forced to spend every dollar of his campaign funds in an attempt to hang onto the office?

Worse than I thought

Yesterday I wrote about a police escort for a veteran returning to Woodstock. A McHenry County Sheriff's deputy was escorting a parade of motorcycles and using red lights and siren to wreak havoc on southbound traffic on Illinois Route 47.

This morning's Northwest Herald revealed more about it, indicating the escort was to honor Lt. Col. Edward Wood. I certainly acknowledge Lt. Col. Wood for his 20 years in the Army.

My complaint yesterday, and it is compounded by reading today's article, is that, according to the article, Lt. Col. Wood had arrived in Woodstock on Friday evening by train. "On Saturday, he was escorted from Huntley back to Woodstock, parading around Emricson Park with a fleet of Warriors' Watch Riders, firefighters and police officers."

Some may read this as a barb at Col. Wood's military service. It definitely is not. I thank him for serving. But that's his job; it's his employment. It's what he chose.

It is, however, a barb at the McHenry County Sheriff's Department for authorizing a deputy to improperly use red lights and siren on a state road. And, if resources of the Woodstock Police Department and the Woodstock Fire/Rescue District were utilized for a "parade" to recognize one individual, then that was wrong, too.

This improper use of tax-supported, public service equipment must stop!

The brave and the cowards

In McHenry County, there are the brave and there are the cowards.

Just yesterday a man said to me, "You (meaning, anyone) have to be brave to run for Sheriff in this County." He was referring to anyone who would run against an entrenched, wealthy, campaign fund-rich, incumbent.

This morning I was further reminded of the difference between the brave and the coward.

The brave are those who believe in something, who stand up for it, and who put their names to their words.

They may attract attention, not all of it positive, because of their beliefs and their comments. But they are willing to comment, to take a stand.

Others stand by and might say, "I wish I had the guts to stand up and speak out."

And then there are the cowards. They are the ones who submit anonymous comments to blogs and to the newspapers or who publish blogs anonymously. They criticize but are not willing to sign their names. You'll hear them rant at work or at gatherings. You know who they are.

Next time you are near one of them, tell him you don't like what he is saying. Then turn around and walk away.

Walla-Pa-Looza - this Sat.

Put this family event on your schedule for Saturday, July 31, and be sure to be in Johnsburg (Ill.) at the Walla-Pa-Looza "Raisin' Cash for Cancer" event.

This family event starts at 2:00PM at the Johnsburg Community Club, 2315 Church Street, in Johnsburg. $5.00 each gets you in the door; kids 12 and under - free. Last year the event raised $15,000.

There will be a battle of the bands (under 21), and the judge will be Cory Lockwood, host of The Time Machine on Saturdays, 2:00-6:00PM (except July 31), on Cory's guest yesterday was Dina DeMonte, lead singer of Blush and volunteer at Walla-Pa-Looza.

Plan on food, music, family fun, and raffles.

The Walla-Pa-Looza Organization was founded in May of 2009 to raise funds for cancer research and the aid of local families struggling with issues related to cancer. Craig and JoAnne Wallace and Mike (gotta get his last name) are behind this event. The organization is a 501(c)(3) organization, and your donations are tax-deductible.

For more information, go to and/or to

Saturday, July 24, 2010

First signs appear

The first campaign signs have started appearing.

This one was spotted in Marengo.

Thanks to a very special family.

Improper use of red lights/sirens must stop

This afternoon I was heading south on Route 47 from Woodstock, when traffic stopped. Cars in front of me were stopping in the traffic lane and partially on the shoulder. Down the road, northbound, I could see some flashing lights and then I heard a siren.

Was it a deputy enroute to an emergency? Was it an ambulance headed to the hospital?

No, it was a deputy in a McHenry County Sheriff's Department squad car (583) leading what looked like a parade of motorcycles. Emergency lights and the siren of the squad car were in use, and that's why southbound traffic stopped. As the parade passed the stopped cars, many motorcyclists honked their horns.

Toward the rear of the pack one smaller motorcycle (perhaps a 750cc) had a windshield behind which there was a flashing red light mounted about halfway toward the top of its windshield.

I called the sheriff's department and left a message for the shift supervisor. About 30 minutes later Sgt. Campos-Cruz called me back. Sgt. Cruz explained that the group was a Warriors Watch (or group of similar name and purpose) that had requested a police escort for the member of the military returning from overseas. The deputy had met then at the McHenry County line and was escorting them northbound.

I wasn't at all interested in the part of the explanation that they provide escorts for funeral processions or honor guards for the bodies of fallen soldiers. That was not today's convoy. Today it was a squad car leading a bunch of motorcycles.

I know of nothing in the Illinois Vehicle Code that grants authority for such use of red lights and sirens. The only reason they do it is because they can do it and get away with it. I was certain that the deputy was not acting on his own. Someone with authority had approved it.

After all, who is going to stop them and write a ticket? There was even a Woodstock police car stopped in a driveway south of Cobblestone Way; perhaps that car was waiting to escort them through Woodstock.

There was just a serious accident on Greenwood Road last Wednesday. What's going to happen if there is a serious crash involving such a convoy?

Emergency lights and sirens have a specific purpose. They are to be used for emergencies. Leading a parade of motorcycles is not an emergency! The command personnel at the sheriff's department should have the courage to refuse such escort requests and explain to anyone asking for such escort that there is no authority in the State law to "light up" for such a convoy.

What, for example, happens when a traffic light turns red on the group? While a funeral can proceed (safely) against a red light or stop sign, a celebration/convoy cannot. Do they stop? Probably not.

I am not anti-military. I am not anti-American. I am anti-law-breaking. This must stop!

Under water? Does it matter?

"Under water" is a popular (or, rather, unpopular) phrase these days. When you owe more on your car than it's worth, you are "under water". Sometimes, it is referred to as "upside-down". Same with that house you bought. Maybe you paid $640,000 for it, and it's worth only $380,000 today. You're "under water" or upside-down.

There is a sidewalk in Woodstock that is under water - literally. It's right in front of the Woodstock Recreation Center on Lake Avenue at the corner of Kimball Street. OK, so it rains a little (well, a lot) and the sidewalk floods for a while. Is this important?

It's important because this sidewalk is used almost daily by physically disabled adults who live at Walden Oaks and who go to 3 Brothers Restaurant for meals. Some use electric wheelchairs or scooters and, when they get to this sidewalk, they must motor out into Lake Avenue to pass the flooded sidewalk.

What can the City of Woodstock do with this sidewalk?

Cops & Donuts

You know all the old jokes about cops and donuts...

Today is the 4th Annual Cops Donut Run, apparently sponsored by the McHenry County P.D. (according to small print at the top of this sign). I'm not sure exactly what the "McHenry County P.D." but it's close enough for government work. The starting point for today's "run" was Woodstock Harley-Davidson.

The McHenry County Sheriff's Department was represented by several deputies, presumably off-duty, and MARV was there and open for inspection. I noticed that other spectators were invited to enter MARV through the open back doors, but the invitation was not extended to me.

People might wonder at how I am able to withstand such obvious rejection, but they probably don't know I was in the life insurance business for 18 years. After that, I can handle anything!

One thing I did notice about MARV was the absence of front and rear license plates. I didn't see how it got to Woodstock Harley-Davidson. It must have been brought on a trailer. Surely, no deputy would operate a motor vehicle on a public roadway without proper registration. (Would he?)

Also, MCCD was there with a trailer displaying a snowmobile and a quad. I had to wonder where the license plate was for the trailer being towed by the MCCD marked squad.
Why is it that those nagging little details just jump right out at me?
Did any deputy wonder about the absence of registration (license plates) on MARV or on the MCCD trailer?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Drivers ID'ed in Wednesday crash

Bull Valley P.D. has identified the three drivers involved in the crash on Greenwood Road on Wednesday of this week.

The drivers were Theresa M. Alcazar of Woodstock, Lida Zelaya of Woodstock, and Kyle W. Oligney.

Kyle Oligney was the deputy who was driving the McHenry County Sheriff's Department squad car that was involved in the crash, which occurred approximately 1/2-mile north of Route 120.

NWH scooter give-away - an illegal raffle?

Just what I need; right? A Flat Squirrel scooter. Yippee. And I could win one! All I need to do is fill out the entry blank in this morning's Northwest Herald and mail it in. That's worth a $0.44 stamp.

Perhaps I shouldn't mention it here, because readers might enter and drive down my chance of winning... But I shall, and I wish you good luck.

You know what I'll do, if I win it (and if I get elected on November 2)? Guess ... Put a seven-pointed star on it and put it in the vehicle line-up at the Sheriff's Department! Well, I won't commit to that - at least, not right now.

Now, where might the Northwest Herald be crossing the line from a free drawing (not a raffle) and a legal raffle in Crystal Lake that would require a permit (that they won't be able to get)?

Alongside the entry blank were these words: "Fill out and mail in the form at right for a chance to win! GET 10 ENTRIES when you sign up to receive the Northwest Herald!"

Bingo! To get the 10 entries, you must sign up for a new subscription to the Northwest Herald. For which you have to pay. How much? $13.39/month. To me, that looks like "consideration". You can't get 10 entries (chances) without buying a new subscription. Current subscribers are not eligible for the 10 entries.

The Contest Rules printed on the entry blank do not contain any restriction on the number of entries by one individual. Neither is there a requirement to mail entries separately. So I'll save up my entry blanks and submit them all at once in one envelope.

FOIA - unnecessary roadblock?

Or is it just a speed bump?

Yesterday I was trying to learn who the three drivers were, who were involved in the crash on Greenwood Road, north of Route 120. That's the one where one driver apparently stopped when he saw an oncoming squad car using its emergency equipment. The car behind that driver rear-ended him, forcing the first car into path of the squad car, which then left the road and hit a tree.

Bull Valley P.D. is the investigating agency, since the crash occurred in their jurisdiction.

When I called yesterday, I was directed to file a FOIA request, and I did.

I called back this morning for the drivers' names, and the buck was passed to the FOIA officer, although the person who answered the phone said he would try to expedite the response. At Bull Valley P.D., the person who answers the phone (or makes a call) doesn't identify himself.

The point is that a FOIA request never should have been necessary in the first place. The Northwest Herald hasn't published the names in either its print or online edition, so it must not have the names, either. If it published the names, I wouldn't be calling; I'd just read them there, along with everyone else.

Governments use FOIA to stone-wall and to impede the flow of information. A few months ago, when I made that statement, I thought for a moment they would become "fighting words", because the particular government official strongly objected to my assertion. However, that's exactly what governments do.

The Freedom of Information Act is the tool that the legislature gave the public to pry information out of the government. If government operated in a mode of transparency, then FOIA wouldn't be necessary.

What's the secret about the names of three drivers in a crash? Each was treated and released from the hospital. It's not like somebody died and police have to track down next-of-kin.

In this case there is another accident or incident that is of interest to me, and that's where the deputy was hurrying when he had the crash on Greenwood Road.

How many deputies were running "hot" to that call? Were all of them needed? Who decides whether a deputy runs hot? Does the deputy decide? Does a supervisor have to approve a "hot" response? Can the deputy run "hot", just because he is some (far) distance away? Should the farthest-away deputies "shut down" after the first deputy or two arrive at the scene?

Fasten your seatbelt, sheriff!

Cal Skinner had a couple of interesting pictures on his blog on July 21. Cal wrote about the McHenry Fiesta Days parade and had photos of County Sheriff Keith Nygren standing in a car being driven in a parade. See his article entitled, "Seeing both...", at

And Mrs. Nygren was seated on a pillow on the trunk of the convertible, using a pillow on the lowered convertible top of the vehicle. Now that's safe, isn't it?

Hello? Remember Click-It-and-Ticket? Hundreds of motorists get tickets in McHenry County and its municipalities every month, but the sheriff can stand in a moving vehicle. Nice, eh?

Now, in all fairness, perhaps there is an exemption in the Illinois Vehicle Code for vehicles driven on public roads in parades. Is there?

Frankly, I don't see any campaign value in riding in a car during a parade, but it seems to be popular. But shouldn't state laws be observed?

Can you imagine the furor id a McHenry cop had stopped the driver of that black convertible and issued tickets to him, to the sheriff and to Mrs. Nygren?

And don't miss the big seven-pointed badge/emblem on the side of the car. This is the same emblem that is used on numerous Sheriff's Department vehicles.

It's the same emblem that is used in the sheriff's campaign literature. And the same one that is described in the petition filed last week in court that claims it is wrongfully used by the Sheriff. It's the same emblem I complained about four years ago, when it was on what I first thought was an official envelope from the sheriff's office. The envelope contained political information.

Citizen First; Cop Second

In my campaign for Sheriff of McHenry County, I am finding that voters are responding to my motto of "Citizen First, Cop Second."

What do I mean by this?

I believe that the Sheriff of a county must realize that he serves the citizens and residents of his county and that he must observe and respect their rights under the Constitution of the United States and the State.

And I believe that law enforcement officers should be the first to obey the laws, not the last.

I believe in the motto that is stenciled on many police cars: "To protect and to serve". It's not "To deflect and to swerve". And not "To protect and to serve us", when spoken by cops.

The office of sheriff should be held by a leader, a person of highest integrity. This person must respect the rights and the character of others. He may, from time to time, have to make some hard personnel decisions. That's what he is elected to do and what he is paid to do.

And he should be fair in these decisions. He should not engage in any personal vendettas. He should not engage in ongoing, losing lawsuits that waste taxpayers' money. He should work with his official legal representative, the State's Attorney for the County.

So, when you step into the voting booth on November 2, you'll have only one choice, if you want a "Citizen First."

For sure, I do not have the "cop mentality." I have challenged abuse of police power for more than 30 years. Everywhere I have lived, I have objected to failure of police officers to obey laws; for example, in Denver, Fort Collins (Colo.), Kansas City (Kans.), Los Angeles, Richmond (Va.), Chicago, Woodstock (Ill.), McHenry County (Ill.).

November 2? Vote for Gus!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Digging for the cause

Yesterday afternoon there was a 3-car crash on a straight stretch of Greenwood Road north of Route 120/Charles Road, involving two cars and a squad car running hot.

The initial report in the Northwest Herald indicates that an (apparently) oncoming car (to the squad) stopped and was then rear-ended and pushed into the path of the squad car, which left the roadway and hit a tree.

Just as with the crash in northern Wisconsin in which a deputy died, I'm willing to ask the hard questions right up front. Running "hot" is dangerous, as I recently wrote, and should occur in very selected circumstances. Many times it is necessary and appropriate. Let's see about yesterday.

Logical questions:

Toward what time of call was the deputy responding?
How many deputies were responding to that call?
Where was he in the order of distance of deputies from that call?
Was he needed at the call toward which he was driving?
Were other deputies already on the scene at the other call?

What were the traffic congestion conditions on Greenwood Road?
Was there other northbound traffic as well as southbound?
Was he having to run down the center of the road, with drivers in opposite directions pulling over toward or onto narrow shoulders?
Were the two cars involved in the accident with the squad car southbound, with the northbound lane clear?

If the northbound lane was clear for the squad car, why did the driver in the black Pontiac Grand Am stop? THIS IS A MAJOR PROBLEM IN MCHENRY COUNTY! State law requires you to stop only if necessary for an emergency vehicle to pass safely, yet drivers stop when not necessary, creating dangerous traffic conditions!

How abruptly did the driver of the Grand Am stop?
Did the driver of the Grand Am first observe traffic following him to be sure he could stop safely? It's a 55MPH zone there.
Did the driver of the Grand Am activate the 4-way hazard lights on his vehicle?

Was the driver of the Mitsubishi that struck the rear of the Grand Am and pushed it into the path of the squad car following the Grand Am too closely?

For how long a distance had the emergency equipment (lights, siren) of the squad car been in use?
As the deputy approached the oncoming cars, did he observe that the Mitsubishi might be traveling too fast to stop without hitting the Grand Am?
What was the speed of the squad car before the crash?
Was the deputy talking on the radio or on his phone or reading his computer screen?

Did the Grand Am hit the squad car and force it off the road, or did the deputy drive off the road in an attempt to avoid a head-on wreck? (I know what the paper says.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Endangered - defined

The Woodstock Police Department has provided this general definition of "endangered", as used in missing-person cases.

"In a missing person case the definition of 'Endangered' means - a person who is missing under circumstances indicating that his/her physical safety may be in danger."

Crash on Greenwood Road

About 4:00PM there was a major crash on Greenwood Road, north of Route 120. The crash occurred near Thoroughbred Estates, between Saddlebred Trail and Arabian Trail.

Deputies had northbound Greenwood Road shut off at Route 120 and again at Saddlebred Trail, and a deputy was blocking southbound Greenwood Road at Arabian Trail, routing traffic through Thoroughbred Estates around the accident scene.

I was told that numerous ambulances and other emergency responders were on the scene. A number of deputies may have been responding to a reported multi-vehicle accident, when this second crash occurred. It appears that one McHenry County Sheriff's Department squad car and two other vehicles were involved, and the squad car came to rest against a tree. Damage to vehicles would indicate very serious injuries to some of the occupants. Expect to find details in the Northwest Herald in the morning or online sooner.

The accident scene was about 200-300 yards south of Arabian Trail. There are no other street intersections there, but there are driveways to properties on the east side of Greenwood Road. That section of roadway is in Bull Valley jurisdiction, and the Illinois State Police may have been called to handle the accident investigation.

Neither daily paper is reporting this crash on its online editions at this time.

Arbitrator 1, Woodstock PD 0

A few months ago I wrote about the squabble between a few highly paid, senior cops at Woodstock PD who felt cheated, when the chief brought in lower-paid beat officers on over-time to dress up the Coffee with the Chief meetings. These "senior" officers had a deal with the chief, they thought, that gave them the gravy first.

No matter that the beat cops were closest to the ground. I mean, if you are going to introduce the residents to their beat officers, it makes sense to have the beat officers at the meetings, and not a highly-paid senior officer.

The problem? Over-time pay. So maybe the chief should have just had the one beat officer who was on duty attend the Coffee meeting. Or move the hours around a little and "arrange" for the beat officer to come in when he wasn't going to draw over-time pay? If you could get around the union, that is. Or, rather, "work with" the union.

Anyway, the disagreement (grievance) went to arbitration, and the arbitrator sided with the senior officers and the deal. Naturally, the chief didn't like that, so he (the City) appealed to the county court. Judge Meyer drew the short straw, and he ruled on Tuesday, and I am sure correctly, that the arbitrator was right.

Don't you just wonder how much the City spent trying to get its way?

According to today's article in the Northwest Herald, "(Chief) Lowen has said that he believed the standard cost of two hours of overtime to the city was about $40 an officer."

WHOA! Wait a minute! Really? Two hours OT will cost only $40? That's $20 for one hour of OT. Assuming OT is 1 1/2 times regular pay, then a senior cop in Woodstock earns only $13/hour? I don't think so!

I suspect a senior cop's salary in Woodstock is $70,000; it's probably more. Let's say, it's just $60,000, because it's easy to divide that by 2,000 (for the approximate number of working hours in a year), which makes his basic hourly rate $30. And makes OT $45. And makes two hours of OT $90.00.

OK, coppers. How far off am I?

Now, assuming that the shouting match really was over just 14 grievances of two hours at $20/hour, what was at risk? $560? And for that Woodstock spent how much in legal fees? $5,000? $10,000? More?

No wonder the number of traffic tickets in May went way up!

Thanks to Judge Wilbrandt

When I visited the traffic court of Associate Judge Robert A. Wilbrandt, Jr. this morning, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my hearing must have been miraculously restored. I could hear!

When Judge Wilbrandt addressed those present in his courtroom, he spoke clearly and loudly enough to be heard throughout the courtroom, and he did so throughout the cases he called. Some of the attorneys mumbled and the Assistant State's Attorney was often hard to hear, but the judge's voice was clear throughout the court call.

He was at times humorous, but he always made his point. If you pled guilty, you knew it was no laughing matter. One woman, a senior citizen there on her very first ticket, got a "good driver discount", as the judge called it, and he fined her only $10.00. Of course, she probably had a heart attack when she got to the payment window. I almost followed her out, so I could call the paramedics quickly, if she keeled over after hearing how much the court costs would be.

One man had gotten pulled over while driving a car to a lot to sell it. He got tickets for no license plates and no insurance. He was ready to plead guilty; but when he told Judge Wilbrandt that he had a Commercial Driver's License (CDL), the judge recommended he talk to a lawyer and come back in August. Now, that's what I call considerate!

Judge Wilbrandt warned everyone about the court costs. He explained that he and the cashiers do not set them. If you have a complaint, you should call your state legislator. He agrees with you that court costs are (too) high!

Setting the record straight

A message from a reader caught my attention this morning. He wrote:

"Wow! Gus you are being flamed on Beth's FB website for sabotaging the Fund Raiser last week by Sheryl Ginger in the discussion section "true or untrue". What gives? Are these people so caught up in that website that they can't think logically anymore??? How can they possibly attack the one person who's out there trying to keep Beth's disappearance in the news??? I don't think the moderators of Beth's FB page are helping in the least! Please don't let their actions discourage you in trying to find the truth about what happen to Beth."

So, maybe it's time to set the record straight.

Buried in a long rant by Sheryl on Tuesday was this: "The fund raiser was taken to task by another member and after he sent in his five dollars he wanted a accounting for ever penny spent and where it was spent at.......he purposely tried to sabotage the whole benefit."

So let's take this apart, just in case she is talking about me.

First, I didn't take any fundraiser to task. So what does she mean by that?
I did make a small initial contribution in person at CHASE Bank. It was a cash deposit. I did not identify myself. It was a test, and the bank almost failed, because the teller had a very hard time finding the account. Gee, I didn't even complain when the teller gave me the deposit receipt (which should have been mailed to the accountholder and not given to me).

I did not ask for an accounting.
I did not ask where the money was "spent at"
I did not try to sabotage the fundraiser. (On the other hand, if asking them to obey Woodstock's laws about raffles is sabotage, then I'm guilty.)

What I had done, right after the fundraiser was announced, was post a question on Facebook about the need for a raffle permit. I already knew that Woodstock had a raffle ordinance. You can't just run off willy-nilly and hold a raffle and a 50/50. I also knew that the fundraiser wasn't going to qualify for a raffle permit, since it was not a non-profit organization. But I figured they could find that out for themselves with one phone call to City Hall.

The next week it was posted that the committee was well aware of raffles, permits, etc. And yet they continued to promote the raffles.

On the Wednesday before the fundraiser I inquired of City Hall what department of the City would enforce raffle violations. It was an inquiry. It was a question. Of course, the City's employees would have been reading the promotions of the fundraiser.

And so the City, on its own, communicated with the police department, and an officer contacted someone on the fundraiser committee. The City has assured me that the police officer did not divulge my name. I realize it wouldn't have taken a rocket scientist to put 2 & 2 together; no problem with that.

I even heard from a lawyer-friend of the Bentley crowd who is all bent out of shape over this. He accused me of calling the police, which I did not. He apparently doesn't see much wrong with the friends putting together an illegal raffle. I mean, after all, it's for a good purpose. So what if it's illegal? Why didn't he tell them the risks of running an illegal raffle in a bar?

So a cop contacted the fundraiser group, and a cop showed up Friday night to be sure, I guess, that there were no illegal raffles in a Woodstock bar.

If four lawyers had been present Friday night while illegal raffles were taking place, could they have ended up with some expensive headaches in front of the ARDC?

Would the owner of Gus's Roadhouse had a really, really big headache, if he had gotten summoned before the Woodstock Liquor Commission to defend his liquor license? I suspect he might have been clobbered with $1,000-1,500 in fines and costs, plus legal fees, plus a loss of business if his liquor license had been suspended for 7-30 days.

June PD report - little Bentley information

I felt really badly last night after writing the article about how the May 2010 Woodstock Police Department report to the City Council had not contained any mention of the Beth Bentley missing-person case. Why? I had tossed a barb at the PD not only for May, but also for my anticipation that they might cop out (no pun intended) and fail to mention the Bentley case in the June 2010 report.

After all, it was a May police case; right? Why mention it in the June report?

When I reviewed the Agenda for last night's City Council meeting, I saw that the June 2010 police department report was indicated as having been transmitted to the City Council. I hadn't noticed it in the City Council packet at the library and wondered if the entry on the Agenda was an error.

So this morning I stopped back at the Library and found the June 2010 P.D. report in the City Council packet for last night's meeting.

In the Investigations Division section there is a short mention of the Beth Bentley case. It says, basically, that many hours have been put in on the case, it's still open, and more hours are to be put in.

Beth Bentley has been missing now for over eight weeks. When the transmittal letter was written on July 9, she had been missing for six weeks. And that's all that can be reported to the City Council and the public?

The case is apparently still classified only as a Missing Person case. I'm trying to learn from the P.D. what "Endangered" means. It shouldn't be a state secret. It's standard police jargon for something, but what?

I would think that "endangered" would be used when a missing person needs medication or has a mental illness or has Alzheimer's or some similar condition. What could "endangered" mean in Beth's case?

No-show for traffic court

Even though judges sometimes are friendly in court and can smile and even joke around a little, blowing off a court date is not a good idea.

This morning I visited Judge Wilbrandt's traffic court at the McHenry County Courthouse. In case you have a date with him, you find him in Courtroom 102. When you arrive, you are supposed to check in the court clerk, who will then know to let the judge know you are present, so that he can call your case. If you don't inform the clerk, he doesn't call your case.

On June 23 a woman was stopped on Highway 14 northwest of Woodstock. When she presented her California driver's license, the deputy noticed that it was expired. He issued her a ticket for driving without a valid driver's license and gave her a court date of July 21 - that's today.

Interestingly enough, although she was driving a car at 1:27AM that was not registered in her name (and which was, in fact, registered to a woman who had been missing (at that time) for 30 days), the deputy did not require her to post a cash or other bond; he marked the ticket only as a Notice to Appear.

So, when she didn't show up today, what was the judge left holding? A piece of paper ordering the driver to appear. Big deal! The ticket is also marked "No Court Appearance Required". That might mean that she could have paid the ticket ahead of time. At 8:20AM, though, the cashier said the ticket had not been paid. So where was she?

What happens next? The court assigns a new date automatically for 60 days from now; thus, September 16th. And they will "sock" her a whole $10.00 for not showing up today. Wow! That ought to get her attention! Of course, the judge might make up for it in the fine, to which substantial court costs will be added.

Maybe a better deal for building respect of judges and tickets would be to set a date 7-14 days later with a Must Appear in the letter. Why let a driver skate for 60 more days? My first thought (shame on me) was, will she even still be in the state then?

The name of the driver with the June 23 ticket? Jennifer Paplham. That name might not ring a bell with you. Most around here know her as Jenn Wyatt. Why did she give that name to the deputy?

I wonder whether the prosecution is going to have trouble with this ticket, since there is no other traffic charge filed. What was the reason for stopping her early that Wednesday morning? Speeding? Passing? Will she plead Not Guilty, ask for a trial, get a sharp lawyer to shred the deputy, and get her off? Should the prosecutor amend the charge and tell the deputy to issue a ticket for the reason for the traffic stop?

Who drove the car away from the highway shoulder that morning? Surely, the deputy did not let her drive, because she didn't have a license. Was there a licensed driver in the car, or did a relative of the registered owner go out there to drive the car?

Is this another piece in the mysterious case of Beth Bentley's disappearance?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Leash those dogs???

At tonight's Woodstock City Council meeting local resident and business owner Mark Indyke presented petitions to the Council, asking for an amendment to the Animal Control Pet Ordinance. Over 500 people signed the petitions that request elimination of the "At Heel" section in the ordinance.

Mark is owner of local business Dog In Suds, Ltd. on Route 47 just north of Burger King. Over the past few weeks he has talked to hundreds of pet owners, and the petitions tonight contained over 500 signatures. These people are concerned about pets that are off-leash, and Mark said the signers had either been victims themselves of animal attacks or that their own pets had been attacked.

Mark asked me after the meeting what happens next?

Something is supposed to happen? (Of course, it is.)

The City Council accepted the petitions but made no comment or commitment to do anything with them. Will it study the issue? Five hundred signers is impressive. If the Mayor or the City Manager got 500 phone calls Monday morning between 9:00AM-Noon, they'd get the message. Tonight they got 500 signatures, and Mark hopes they will do something about seriously considering the request of 500 people.

Will they?

You can help by emailing your support to Do it now.

Over the week-end I spoke with a resident whose dog had just completed therapy-dog training. The dog was off-leash and stayed near her. She never raised her voice once to the dog. When I mentioned this to Mark, his response was, "What if an off-leash dog attacked her dog or her?"

He made his point. Want more information? Call Mark at 815.338.3647

May P.D. report - no mention of Bentley

The report of the Woodstock Police Department to the Woodstock City Council for the month of May 2010 did not include any mention of missing person Beth Bentley.

Is the Woodstock Advocate the only publicity her disappearance is getting?

The PD's report, dated June 21, could have reflected the report of her disappearance, which was reported to the Woodstock PD on May 24. By June 21 she had been gone almost a month.

Will the June report skip it, too, by concluding it was a May report and so doesn't belong in the June report?

Many people are asking why there has been virtually no publicity about her disappearance.

What do you think should be done to locate her?

Edgetown Bowl to have 3 parties

Edgetown Bowl got the green light at tonight's City Council meeting to have three parties on its property this summer. Weather permitting, the parties will be held outside, and Edgetown asked the City to waive its noise/amplified sound ordinance during certain hours of the three days.

The ordinance prohibits "any noise or sound to be amplified outside the bounds of a structure on the premises if a residence is located within 500 feet of the premises." There are residences south of Edgetown Bowl within the 500 feet radius.

The parties will be on the evenings of August 14, August 28 and September 25. Edgetown Bowl had requested a waiver so that a band could play until midnight, but City staff recommended until only 10:00PM. A deal was struck on the event's ending time as 11:00PM. It sounded (no pun intended) to me tonight like the condition on the Agenda for the band to stop at 10:00PM didn't change.

Councilman RB Thompson asked the question on my mind, which was, "Can the band continue to play after 10:00PM, if it turns off the amplifiers?" Mayor Sager said "No", and there was no further discussion about it.

My opinion is that the band can play unamplified after 10:00PM, because it won't be violating the ordinance, which specifically refers to amplified sound.

Actually, I wondered whether the ordinance applied at all. The band will be playing outside. Could the ordinance be construed to restrict only sound being generated inside the structure but being amplified to the outside, either through speakers or through open doors or windows? Picky, picky, picky.... I know. But that's what laws and ordinances are far - to cover specific issues (and only those issues). Will it get tested in August and September?

52.5% increase in traffic tickets

The May 2010 report of the Woodstock Police Department provided some interesting reading today. Each month a report is prepared and submitted to the City Council as part of its packet. At tonight's City Council meeting I inquired whether the Council members studied the numbers or just read the cover letter.

The transmittal letter for the May 2010 monthly report, dated June 21, carried this sentence, which I read to the Council: "Traffic arrests are higher for May 2010 and slightly lower as compared to year to date 2009 figures."

I addressed the "slightly lower" reference first.
In the first five months of 2009 Woodstock police issued 2,394 total traffic tickets.
In the first five months of 2010 Woodstock police issued 2,299 total traffic tickets.
That's 95 fewer tickets, or 4% less. Perhaps good, fair, firm law enforcement was resulting in fewer traffic violations.

However, look at what happened in May 2010:
In May 2009 Woodstock police issued 451 tickets.
In May 2010 Woodstock police issued 688 tickets.
That's 237 more tickets, or an increase of 52.5%!

What was so special about May 2010? I suggested that the Council members might want to examine a grid or spreadsheet of the types of tickets, in order to know the types of tickets being issued by the police department. One councilman responded, and he said he didn't intend to "micro-manage" the police department.

Actually, I don't consider that "micro-managing." I consider it knowing what's going on. Those additional 237 tickets generated a lot of revenue for the City, for McHenry County and/or the State of Illinois. That revenue came right out of the pockets of area drivers. If the officer checks the Must Appear box on the ticket, then the driver will fork over $125-150 in court costs just to say Hello to the judge.

Ka-ching, ka-ching.

The councilman made a good point. If you don't break the law, you don't get a ticket. Of course, that raises the entire question of officer discretion. If Mayor Sager or Councilman Webster (or any other member of the City Council or management of City Government) gets stopped, do you think they'll get a ticket (ka-ching) or a warning (pass Go (but do not collect $200))? They won't ask for a break, but the cop will give it to them.

So they get to break the law, but they don't get a ticket. The number of warnings issued by officers is not reported each month.

Should I FOIA a year's worth of records and find out what percentage of drivers get tickets and what percentage gets warnings?

McHenry leaders shut down

The Northwest Herald was a little more polite... Its article led off with "McHenry leaders decline comment on Maxeiner's resignation."

Last week City Administrator Dough Maxeiner walked off the job. He had worked approximately ten years for the City of McHenry, and it appears he just got fed up. I'd rather imagine that it didn't just suddenly happen.

City leaders are tight-lipped. They hid out in executive session and then apparently kept their mouths shut after re-entering open session, and afterwards. I'll bet the City's lawyers are busy working up a politically-correct statement that will eventually find its way to the public.

Will it be bland, bland, bland?

Mayor Sue Low is quoted in the article as saying, "I think the actions of the council tonight speak for themselves." What actions? Not talking about it? Not explaining to the voters and taxpayers of McHenry why its top appointed official walked out?

Shutting down is not an explanation. The actions don't speak for themselves, unless she means that the public should just ignore what happened.

And Alderman Jeffrey Schaufer? "I really don't want to comment." Well, that's truthful enough. Then he added, "I think the actions of all of us here speak for us." Was there an echo in the room? Did they agree in executive session to say the same thing in different words?

I've used the phrase "treating citizens like mushrooms" from time to time. You know, keeping them in the dark and covering them up with (okay, well, "manure").

What would cause a man to just walk away from a $125,000/year salary, $400/month for a car and full health, dental and vision insurance? Well, a good job elsewhere would, but he'd give a month's notice so that his current employer wouldn't be caught short.

One of these days, the truth will come out. And, at the next election, McHenry voters should let the City Council know what they think about getting stiffed on honesty back in July.

Home library of the future

What will the home library look like in the future? has reported that Kindle sales are outpacing sales of hardcover books. Not much of a surprise there, when you consider the price of a hardcover book at your local bookstore.

Amazon reports 180 Kindle e-book sales for each 100 sales of hardcover books over the past month.

Last week a Woodstock neighbor showed me her Kindle reader. It was larger than I thought. That's good; if I had one, I'd be able to read the print-out! I have noticed a problem with my cell phone; it seems that each time I turn it on, the phone numbers have shrunk!

The large, flat, rectangular Kindle reader is very thin. I mean, really thin. What you do is download (without an additional air-time charge (i.e., free 3G)) your book and then read it when you want to. You can even download your books on the train to Chicago.

What will your childrens' libraries at home look like in 10-20 years? Lots of dust on the shelves and one Kindle (or similar reader of another brand)? Will there even be libraries in the homes of the future?

And what will e-books mean to bookstores, especially good, hometown bookstores like Woodstock's Read Between the Lynes?

Frankly, I like the books on my bookshelves. I'm glad I own them. It's nice to be able to take one from the shelf and flip it open to a page I have "bookmarked." There are memories with books.

Will our children feel the same way?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chicago PD officer gunned down

A Chicago Police officer was gunned down Sunday morning in front of his home. Ofc. Michael Bailey, 63, had arrived at home after working overnight as a guard at Mayor Daley's home, and he was cleaning the windows on his new car.

Robbers accosted him in an apparent car theft attempt, even though he was in uniform.

Ofc. Bailey was just about a month short of retirement. Chicago Tribune reporters wrote that Bailey's son grabbed one of his father's guns and ran outside.

When will Chicago residents wake up and realize they are sitting ducks, thanks to Mayor Daley. If an armed police officer in uniform can be killed on a Sunday morning, what chance do they have?

Technically, Bailey's son broke Daley's new gun law by taking his father's gun outside the house. Was it locked and secured, as required under the new ordinance? Guns are no good, if they are not loaded and ready to be used.

Did the Bailey family live in the war zone? If not in the war zone, they lived near it, according to the article.

How fast would this type of shooting dry up, if law-abiding citizens had the right to carry concealed weapons? Let's say that the shooters were spotted by a dozen armed citizens, as they attempted their escape. Let's say those armed citizens opened up on the shooters.

Do you think the word would not get around Chicago pretty fast that it was dangerous to your life (of crime) to continue to engage in armed robberies, car thefts, drive-by shootings? It might take all of 72 hours for word to get around town.

But the 'burbs had better ready for the flight of the criminals from Chicago.

Sound like the Wild West? Maybe. And the Wild West calmed down, once the citizens took back their towns. Or so the story goes.

Lt. Gov. - a great job

One of my friends over at, Jim Mathews, directed my attention today to a Letter in the Editor in today's Northwest Herald about the Illinois Lieutenant Governor's position. Jim said all the Lt. Gov. does is run around smiling for photographs.

Hey, give me that job. Does it pay? How's the retirement plan?

I looked in the paper for that letter but didn't find it.

Bentley fundraiser last Friday

Last Friday there was a fundraiser for the Beth Bentley family of Woodstock. The fundraiser was held at Gus's Roadhouse, and a committee rounded up many donations for silent auctions.

According to the Events tab on the Beth Bentley-Missing page on Facebook, donations included Bull Valley Golf Course golf for four, Woodstock Country Club golf for four, a Swanky Spa Gift Certificate, a Dog-n-Suds Gift Certificate, a night at the Courtyard Marriott in Elmhurst, a Wisconsin Dells Fun Card (2), Legoland Passes, $25 Gift Certificate to Scoops, Boone Creek golf for four, and week-end use of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Merchants were very generous to donate to a fundraiser for an individual and her family, and these merchants (and the others) deserve a huge and public thank-you. Keep them in mind when you plan your next shopping trip.

During the weeks leading up to the fundraiser and while contributions were being solicited for the CHASE Bank account that was opened as part of the Find Beth Bentley Search Fund trust, a number of posters asked if disbursement of these funds would be made public. Administrators of the Facebook missing-person site for Beth seemed to be supportive of transparency.

It is surprising that no comments regarding the fundraiser have been posted on the Facebook pages by the committee. It's almost like it never happened. And yet another fundraiser might be in the works to raise more money.

Down south a number of concerned folks in the Mt. Vernon/Centralia area are even talking about putting together a fundraiser there.

Without any word from the several law enforcement agencies involved, it is impossible to know whether this case is moving from a "simple" runaway situation toward a crime. It could be that evidence of criminal activities is developing, even if not directly related to Beth's disappearance.

Will an increase in the $5,000 reward help? Some think so; others do not. If Beth just ran away, the reward won't grow. It's not illegal to run away. If foul play or illegal activity is involved, a larger reward might loosen some lips.

Will the committee divulge the amount raised on Friday night or will the trustees disclose the total in the CHASE Bank account?

Thanks for the laugh, D-26

The Northwest Herald provided the laugh of the day first thing this morning, with its Page 1 article about the possible ISBE take-over of D-26.

Why would the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) take over Cary School District 26? Cary D-26 is ranked fourth worst financially in the entire State of Illinois, according to today's article.

D-26 has been operating in the red for several years. Current plans are to have a balanced budget by 2015.

Promises, promises, promises...

OK, so what provided the laugh? D-26 Superintendent Brian Coleman was quoted as having said, "They (ISBE) know we're doing our best in a difficult situation."

Well, Supt. Coleman, your best (the School Board's best) isn't good enough. You have some nasty decisions to make, and the Board should make them. You've got two choices. Cut expenses or raise revenues. Since the latter choice is unlikely or impossible, that means you've got one choice.

You can make it, or you can duck it.

Obama waste hits home

I have generally not blasted Pres. Obama for issues that have generated disappointed among so many of his original supporters, not to mention the opposition, but his waste of "our" money for a trip to Illinois on August 5 for a fundraiser is preposterous.

OK, so such trips haven't just started with Obama. Perhaps all presidents have made such trips. Obama is scheduled to come to Illinois to raise money for the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, Alexi Giannoulias.

What will it cost us for Obama to come to Chicago? If he just caught the red-eye on United from Dulles, that cost would be okay. But POTUS doesn't travel that way. How many 747s will come? Not just Air Force One, but one-two others. And then the whole entourage of security and support, and the City of Chicago? Its expense for a presidential visit?

Give me a break!

If I were President, I would make only a few official trips, given the total cost. Somebody wanted to see me? They'd come to the White House. And I'd vacation right in Washington, D.C. - a spot millions from around the world come to visit. And no fundraisers and other wasteful trips.

Never fear. After a term as Sheriff, I promise not to run for President.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Jefferson County (Ill.) Sheriff up for re-election

This afternoon I came across the Facebook election campaign site of Sheriff Roger Mulch, sheriff of Jefferson County (Ill.). That's down where Beth Bentley disappeared on May 23.

I spoke with Sheriff Mulch one day about a month ago. The department operator connected my call right to him, and he answered his own phone. I found myself speaking with a professional, polite, respectful law enforcement officer who received the information as I offered it.

On Sheriff Mulch's Facebook page he describes his background this way:
"30 years of experience" and
"2700+ hours of training & continuing education"

What does he stand for?


Very cool, Sheriff Mulch!

No crime in Woodstock?

Today's Northwest Herald carried Police Reports for Lake in the Hills, McHenry, Spring Grove and Woodstock; all took up only one column. There was one arrest reported for Woodstock, and that was on June 26 for a DUI and improper lane usage.

So there are three possibilities.

1. Crime has stopped in Woodstock.
2. The Woodstock Police Department didn't release information about crimes to the Northwest Herald.
3. The Northwest Herald didn't publish the information received from the Woodstock Police Department.

My vote is going to be for #3.

Every month the Woodstock Police Department prepares a boiler-plate report to the City Council, changing the numbers and sometimes adding a little new information. Several hundred traffic tickets are issued, plus a few DUIs and tickets after crashes. And there are "crimes".

But the Northwest Herald doesn't give much space to Woodstock for this. The Woodstock Independent usually devotes about half a page to its Police Blotter. But even the July 14th Independent carried "old news", listing only eight (8) arrests by Woodstock PD for June 17-June 20 and six (6) arrests by the McHenry County Sheriff's Office for May 27-June 11.

Each department almost certainly had many more arrests; there must have been many, and more recently.

Bentley missing 8 weeks now

It was eight weeks ago that Beth Bentley, 41, of Woodstock, was last seen or heard from. She had traveled to Mt. Vernon with a woman friend, Jenn Wyatt, and no one has reported seeing her or hearing from her since Sunday afternoon, May 23.

The Woodstock Police Department is the lead investigatory law enforcement agency, because Beth was a Woodstock resident and her husband, Scott, reported her missing late Monday evening, May 24. The first WPD announcement of her being missing was dated May 27, but the first media reports were not until about May 30, when Chicago papers reported her missing. WPD issued a second announcement, classifying her as a "Missing Adult - Endangered", which was posted on the PD's webpages on June 9.

A request to WPD on July 13 for a definition of "endangered" has gone unanswered.

Since June 9 WPD has had almost nothing to say. No evidence of foul play has been found but, as I said when I addressed the Woodstock City Council several weeks ago, isn't the absence of foul play a possible indication of foul play. Her cell phone has not been used, and there has been no activity on her credit cards. Beth has not contacted her children or her husband since May 23.

A fundraiser was held at Gus's Roadhouse in Woodstock on Friday, July 16. There is an active Facebook page (click on the Discussions tab), but postings are dwindling. A very active website with considerable activity about possibilities in this case is

It's tricky for newcomers to find the Bentley threads, of which there are now four. The most recent one at this time is at To read earlier threads, even back to the beginning, go to the first page in each thread and click on the link to the prior thread.

Other law enforcement agencies involved at the Mt. Vernon and Central Police Departments, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department and the Illinois State Police. A $5,000 Reward is being offered; see the Reward flier for details. Tips can be phoned to any of the police agencies or to Crime Stoppers at 800.762.STOP (in-state only); out-of-state tips should be telephoned to the Woodstock (Ill.) Police Department at 815.338.2131

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ford's new cop car

Take a look at what will replace the Ford Crown Vic, for years a police standard. (Well, in some jurisdictions...)

And no 8-cylinder available, either.
How about a V-6 with a 6-speed transmission? Ought to get a pretty good top speed out of that.
One of the problems in police departments is the rarity of the high-speed chase. So, do all the cars have to be capable of running down the kid on the crotch-rocket or the robbers in the Charger? Many departments now prohibit high-speed chases. It's not that they want to let the other driver go; they just don't want to some innocent people trying to catch him.

No wonder Illinois can't pay its bills

Does anyone wonder why Illinois is bankrupt (or almost)? Just take a look at this craziness, and then try to figure out why we are ever going to figure out how to extricate ourselves from this mess.

Subject: Retiree Gets $224,000 Pension For 18 Years Worked

A reader sent this information to me, and the subject line certainly got my attention. Here's the gist of it.

Free-lane writer and consultant Bill Zettler published a story on July 14 at Look for the headline: "Retiree Gets $224,000 Pension for 18 Years Worked"

Can $29,238 get you $3.5 Million in pension payments? I think some of us were at the airport when our ship was coming in. Too bad we missed it.

John Conyers worked in the Palatine (Ill.) Elementary District 15 for 18 years and now has a pension of $224,006/year after retiring in 2003. Pretty good deal; right?

Conyers used years worked and salary earned in another state, sick leave credit and made a discounted contribution to meet the requirements for his huge annual pension benefit.

He benefited from an outrageous final salary schedule - 58% increase over 3 years:
· 2000 - $223,000
· 2001 - $250,000
· 2002 - $300,000
· 2003 - $353,000

According to Zettler, Conyers has "... 30 years service credit (only 18 work years) at 2.2% per year or 66% of the average of his last four years or about $185,000 pension to start with, increased by 3% per year leaves him with $224,000 pension today.

"If he had received his pension only on the 18 years he actually worked his starting pension would have been about $110,000, bad enough but a lot better than $185,000."

"So how much did Mr. Conyers have to pay to increase his pension by $75,000/yr? Exactly $29,338.27, less than one-half of the first years increase."

That's one heck of an R-O-I, isn't it?

Zettler gives other examples in his article. A 13-year Winnetka School District employee who is sucking up $164,000/year. Eighty (80) K-12 retirees who worked less than 30 years for $100,000+ pensions.

Go on; read his full article. I dare you. Then ask yourself: where do you want to be living when Illinois declares bankruptcy? If your answer is "Illinois", then you'd better get on the phone on Monday to Sen. Althoff and Reps. Mike Tryon and Jack Franks.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Coffee - worth the drive

A new coffee cafe has opened on Green Street in McHenry. Be sure to go by La'a Coffee, located at 1237 Green Street, just south of Route 120.

After reading of their opening in the local daily, I made it in this afternoon. It was 90 degrees, so I passed up the hot coffee, but I did enjoy a strawbanana Smoothie. It had a great taste and plenty of body.

One of their specialties is the Scuffin, which is a cross between a scone and a muffin. Get there early for them; 3:00PM was way too late!

Adam explained about their coffee. Is it fresh? He placed an order for it yesterday. It was ground yesterday afternoon and shipped. He received it today. Not like those other places that brew coffee 4-5-8-12 weeks after the beans are ground.

Hours for La'a Coffee?

Monday-Friday 6:00AM-5:00PM
Saturday 7:00AM-4:00PM
Sunday 7:00AM-2:00PM

Flags to half-staff 7/17-19

U. S. and Illinois flags will be flown at half-staff from Sunrise, Saturday, July 17, 2010 until Sunset, Monday, July 19, 2010, by order of Gov. Pat Quinn.

All persons or entities covered by the Illinois Flag Display Act are to fly the flags at half-staff on behalf of:

Staff Sergeant Christopher J. Antonik
United States Marine Corps
Hometown: Crystal Lake, Illinois

The times of services for Sgt. Antonik can be found on the Northwest Herald website at

Thursday, July 15, 2010

To pass on the right or not ...

When a deputy or police officer is running "hot" (red lights and siren) down a four-lane divided highway and comes up behind a slower-moving vehicle in the left lane, it's a hard decision whether to slow down behind that driver and "make" him move over or just sail around on the right.

I watched that dilemma unfold on U.S. 14 in front of Farm & Fleet late yesterday afternoon. The squad car changed lanes to the right and went on around. It turned out well, but it could have gone the other way.

Drivers in 95-degree weather are sure to have their windows up and the air-conditioning on. More than likely, they have the radio on and/or are on the telephone. Although sirens are loud when you are standing on the sidewalk watching the squad car go by, they aren't all that loud inside a vehicle that is zipped up to keep the heat out and the cold in.

What if the driver in the left lane had suddenly noticed the squad car coming up fast behind him? Some of those drivers will stay in their lane and allow the driver of the squad car to choose his path. Some will even pull toward the left shoulder. And some drivers will panic and swerve to the right to let the squad car pass on the left. And that might just force the squad car off the road, if it has started to pass on the right.

The driver in the left lane might have been signaling a left turn well ahead of Lake Avenue, indicating to the driver of the squad car that he intended to stay to the left. However, that driver was far enough away from the left-turn lane that the correct action would have been to move out of the left lane and let the squad car pass on the left.

The driver of the squad car was traveling at a safe speed, even if over the posted speed limit, because that is permitted when emergency equipment is in use. The civilian driver appeared to be traveling about 50MPH in the 55MPH zone.

This is why it's a good idea to drive with your window cracked a little at the top, so that you can hear an approaching siren.