Sunday, August 25, 2013

Beth Bentley - 170 weeks

Beth Bentley vanished 170 weeks ago.

From where did she disappear? Has it ever been conclusively determined that she was at the Amtrak station in Centralia, Ill., where her friend, co-worker, financial beneficiary, traveling companion and sometime-alibi, says she dropped her off about 6:00PM on Sunday, May 23, 2010?

What would a careful investigation in the Mt. Vernon, area, even now, uncover? Could there be those who would say absolutely that she was (or was not) in the Frosty Mug on Friday night, May 21?

Or that she went on a rental-boat ride on one of the big lakes in the Mt. Vernon area on Saturday, May 22?

Would anyone remember her at any gas stations, grocery stores, liquor stores, shopping areas?

Maybe, just maybe, some careful questioning, even now (more than three years later) could uncover information that would lead to her whereabouts.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll ...

Is this what is happening in McHenry County?

On Thursday at 3:00PM the McHenry County Ethics Commission will convene a hearing. Perhaps by now they have learned how to conduct a hearing...  If they have, perhaps they should back up a month and actually conduct the hearing sought by Cal Skinner, publisher of the McHenry County Blog, in the proper form and manner.

As it stands right now, there wasn't any hearing worthy of being considered a "hearing", and Mark Gummerson's attempt to stick it to Cal Skinner to the tune of $5,000 should be tossed out through the second floor window of the Administration Building. And send Mark's client, Undersheriff Andy Zinke, the bill.

To come up to speed on Thursday's meeting, see the Northwest Herald article today. Also, read the McHenry County Blog and FirstElectricNewspaper.

The Commission, through inexperience and legal advice that didn't help it, totally dropped the ball when Skinner's complaint was scheduled to be heard.

The Commission was run over by Zinke's attorneys, Mark Gummerson and Rebecca Lee. It was a pitiful example of government. The Commission let Gummerson go on and on, as if it was afraid to tell him to sit down and wait for the hearing to be convened.

Then the Commission quickly ran into closed session and, shortly thereafter, returned to open session (without following Open Meetings Act rules) and threw out Skinner's complaint.

Gummerson tossed a foul ball at the Commission, just as he did a few years ago when the McHenry County Election Commission held a hearing, when a Marengo resident filed a complaint against Perry Moy, who was running against Jack Franks. At that time, and before the recent Ethics Commission meeting, Gummerson said that the person bringing what he called a "frivolous" complaint ought to be fined $5,000.

The Chicago attorney at the Election Commission hearing back then said that would have a "chilling" effect on any citizen who considered bringing a complaint. And it is just as true today, as it was then.

Now Gummerson wants Skinner fined $5,000 for a "frivolous" ethics complaint against Zinke. There was nothing "frivolous" about it. Skinner should file a complaint against Zinke and Gummerson for their frivolous action. If there is any frivolity here, it is the complaint against Skinner.

How is it going to be possible to get the Ethics Commission to re-convene and conduct a legitimate hearing on Skinner's complaint against Zinke?

If Skinner's complaint does get a re-hearing, Skinner will need an attorney to remind the Commissioner's that Zinke's attorneys' statements are not testimony. You know - like at trial? Attorneys flap their arms and their jawbones, make a lot of accusations, speak in loud voices, but what they say is not "testimony" or "evidence."

The Ethics Commission should have put Zinke and Nygren under oath and then asked them, out of the hearing of each other, whether Nygren really told Zinke to send that e-mail to the County Board via the County (official) email system and while on Department compensatory time.

Do I believe that Nygren told Zinke to send the email that way? Absolutely not.

But Gummerson said that's how it happened, and the Ethics Commission wasn't smart enough to say, "Prove it."

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Leave keys in your car "just for a minute"

Check out this humorous video from the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Police Department, which found that most stolen cars had the keys in them. Watch it all the way to the end. Did you have the same thought I did, before the final scene?

Have you ever run into a store, or even into your home, and left the keys in the car, even "just for a minute"?

Handheld cell phones, PDAs - illegal when?

Have you been wondering when the law will change in Illinois about using handheld cell phones?

The legislature and the governor decided, in their infinite wisdom, that it really won't be that unsafe until January 1, 2014.

Why it's safe now, but not after January 1, is beyond me. Does anyone else wonder?

You can read the law, Public Act 098-0506

Still have a CB radio? Guess what? You can use that, good buddy.

And you'll want to read Exclusion 9: "a driver using an electronic communication device by pressing a single button to initiate or terminate a voice communication." Think that means the "Start" and "End Call" buttons? Tell it to the judge...

And right now, watch out for those special Zones. Using a handheld cell phone in Work Zones, School Zones, and maybe the Park speed limit zones will cost you big bucks.

Let's all go back to school

Watch this. Anyone else want to go back to school?

How far down the road is this technology? I'm still trying to program the remote for my VCR!

Greg Pyle - "Continued" (again and again)

Will the State case against former Deputy Sgt. Greg Pyle of the McHenry County Sheriff's Department ever get to trial?

Last week's court date (August 13, which never even made the Northwest Herald) passed with yet one more "routine" continuance. At issue now is a Motion to dump the judge (just a stalling tactic) and a Writ of Habeas Corpus. Last time I checked, Pyle was still residing in the Boone County Jail, where he has been for almost a year, when his MCSD pay and benefits ran out.

What will happen in this case? Pyle is charged with ten felonies of criminal sexual assault against a child. Will the game of musical judges be played so long that, when he finally tried, convicted and sentenced, he will get credit for "time served" and walk out the door?

What's going on with the Federal charges against him? Is the State's Attorney's Office just hanging out, waiting for the Feds? Why not proceed with its own case.

McHenry County Circuit Court Case No. 12CF00020 was filed January 9, 2012. It is important to note that the "Charge Date" for each of the ten charges is 9/11/2006, more than five years earlier. But didn't something happen in January 2012 that attracted the attention and arrest of Pyle? Why is (are?) no case filed for 2012?

I haven't read the Complaint filed in Federal Court against Pyle. Pyle was out on bond from McHenry County, and Sheriff Nygren reportedly told the media that it was a "coincidence" that Pyle's benefits pay ran out on the day that the Feds grabbed him.

Anyone who believes that probably still believes in the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny.

Pyle's next local court date is September 12.

The Federal Case in being handled in Rockford.

MCSD - Crime and Punishment

An article in the Northwest Herald this morning about workers and sick pay caused me to think of this situation.

Maybe the McHenry County Sheriff's Department will read that article and review how it handles disciplinary matters with deputies who fall out of favor. When a deputy commits a crime, is not arrested, is not disciplined internally, and is allowed to take months of sick leave (is he really sick, or just "sick of work"?), and then allowed to resign instead of getting fired, does this really serve the taxpayers of McHenry County, for whom some still think the Department is supposed to protect and to serve?

Doesn't the Sheriff (we are still paying over $12,000/month for a sheriff elected in November 2010) owe responsibility to the public and to the other employees to treat all employees fairly?

And "fairly" means that, when a deputy commits a crime, that deputy should be investigated, charged, and prosecuted, whether or not he is part of "the A-team". 

The morale at the Sheriff's Department continues to sink under the current administration.

Monday, August 19, 2013

License plate readers - how intrusive?

With all the new invasion-of-privacy worries, thanks to Edward Snowden, we should be reminded that Automated License Plate Recognition systems continue to be used, and we should be worried about how that information will be used.

A long article in yesterday's Richmond Times-Dispatch reports how the Virginia State Police recorded license plate numbers and saved them for three years.

When license plate numbers are collected, whether electronically or manually, how are they used in McHenry County?

At a recent private gathering four deputies responded after a neighbor complained. The supervisor told the three deputies to record all the license plate numbers.

Why? How was that information used? Was it? Or will it be?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Beth Bentley gone 169 weeks

Beth Bentley has been missing 169 weeks now. Beth vanished sometime on the week-end of May 20-23, 2010. Maybe from Centralia, Ill. Maybe from Mt. Vernon, Ill. Maybe from somewhere else. Who really knows?

Can a person who vanished over three years ago be found?

Can what happened on that fateful week-end be learned, even now?

Beth's whereabouts should be meticulously tracked from the moment she left her son's baseball game in Woodstock on May 20, 2010. Where did she go? And with whom? Hour-by-hour. Mile-by-mile.

The trail should be followed. Has it been? Police have been close-mouthed about Beth's movements, and the case is still classified as a Missing Person case. No suspect has ever been named in her disappearance; no "person-of-interest" has ever been named. No crime has ever been alleged. It's a Missing Person case.

Yet Woodstock Police continue to deny Freedom of Information Act requests on the grounds that releasing information might jeopardize an ongoing investigation. What ongoing investigation?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

D-155 bleachers

There is plenty to read in the Northwest Herald about the controversial bleachers at Crystal Lake South High School.

After my article last week, a reader sent this comment:

"Gus, I saw that story about the bleachers.  I do find it appalling and arrogant for one public enterprise snubbing another knowing it is the people fighting the people financially.  I would hope that if they find that the school board did in fact need permits to build and kept building in violation of the stop work order, that the local residents can sue the board members as individuals for depreciated value, not as board members because they have a fiduciary responsibility to do the right thing, but as individuals because they went outside their scope of doing the lawful thing.  I hope there is some action against them individually.
"Secondly, maybe you can find out and report what that property looked like before the new bleachers were built?  I guess what I am getting at, was there already an eye sore there before, the old bleachers, or were the old bleachers situated in a different part of the school's property?  That might have an impact on whether or not the depreciation is actionable.  Did they build that subdivision after the school was there and the old bleachers erected?
"They should have to put up very large mature trees to cover the eye sore either way."
 Apparently, the bleachers originally were at the opposite part of the ball field, away from the homes. How did the construction get so far along before the neighbors started squawking?

When did they first complain to the City of Crystal Lake, and how long did it take for Crystal Lake to swing into action?

Wouldn't you think that the media would have latched onto this and created a summary of dates and actions by now?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Jail Brakers' fundraiser - August 17

Be sure to catch the fundraiser for Jail Brakers this week-end. This valuable, grassroots organization supports families who have a loved one in jail or prison.

Saturday, August 17th, 1-6pm

Shopping at participating stores will benefit non-for-profit Jail Brakers.

Live music 6-8 pm at Liquid Blues Pub, just off the Woodstock Square, where specials will be offered and proceeds benefiting the charitable organization.

Door prize entries available at participating stores.

Also, come see the Car Show on the Square to benefit Helping Paws.

Parking available off square after 3:30 due to Car Show.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Beth Bentley - gone 168 weeks

How many more weeks will it be, before someone comes forward with information about Beth Bentley?

Who could come forward?

What information could cause someone to come forward?

What proof is there that Beth was actually in Mt. Vernon, Ill. on the week-end of May 21-23, 2010? Who says she was there, besides Jennifer Wyatt?

A waitress reportedly served Beth, Jenn, and two men on Friday night, May 21, 2010? Then that report was challenged, and it was suggested that the meal was actually two weeks before that, when Beth and Jenn were reportedly again in Mt. Vernon.

What do Beth's credit card statements show for the two weeks before she disappeared? I was hoping the CHASE Bank statement would become public, after the bank wrote off the account and sold it to a collection agency. That agency filed against Beth but gave up when they couldn't serve her. The collection agency filed only information of a certain sum due and did not submit supporting information.

Presumably, Woodstock Police examined the bank statements, which would have been available from Beth's family. What did they find in the way of charges from May 20-23? Was there a cash withdrawal from an ATM for travel money? Were there gas purchases enroute to Mt. Vernon? Was there a Friday night dinner? Saturday boat rental? What about local grocery purchases or other purchases on Saturday or Sunday?

Do credit card records show any phone service than the primary account for multiple phones? Some thought Beth might have had a prepaid-phone for calls she might not want on the master account.

What about medical records? Did police contact Beth's medical providers (hospital, lab, clinic, doctors)? Did police find a way around confidentiality? Did doctors provide any information that could be turned into leads?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Edward Snowden for President?

Is anyone else outraged over the U.S. Government's snooping on us citizens?

Is Edward Snowden a traitor or a hero?

As more information comes to light about the intrusions by our own U.S. Government, it's looking like Snowden is a hero. Check out today's news.

If the beginning of this paragraph doesn't scare you, maybe you'd better have another latté with a couple of extra shots of something strong in it. "If the NSA wants 'to listen to the phone,' an analyst's decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required,..."

And then, of course, there is the Patriot Act and its provision for self-written search warrants and the provision that you can't tell anyone about it, if you get served with one - not even your own lawyer. How does five years in the Federal pen sound to you? Is this still part of the law? How did it ever get there in the first place?

Wake up, America! "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."

Joke of the Day - C.L. vs. D-155

This morning's Northwest Herald and yesterday's McHenry County Blog provide readers with plenty of humor, if you read between the lines. A battle royale is underway over the nearly-completed, new bleachers at Crystal Lake South High School.

A picture is worth 1,000 words. See the Northwest Herald article for the "whole story", right in one photo. You can see clearly the rear and the height of the new stands, which D-155 claims it needed for extra spectator seating.

Oh, and D-155 threw down the A.D.A. card, too. Just talk a look at the photo of the new bleachers. Notice how easy it will be for a person on crutches or in a wheelchair to get to the top row of the bleachers. That argument is like a sponge - sopping wet.

Crystal Lake's mayor, Aaron Shepley, says a stop-work order was issued. D-155 Supt. Jeff Puma says they didn't receive a stop-work order from the city. That's a simple one. Track it. Maybe it was "lost in the mail". Or maybe the dog ate it.

Is there one person who thinks the height of the bleachers will be reduced? Or that they will be moved to the required 50-foot setback? Or that the project size will be cut back? It's a done deal!

The City of Crystal Lake, by pussy-footing around as soon as construction started without the required City Permits, lost the battle, meaning that the residents whose properties abut the bleachers have lost value and lost enjoyment of their own property.

D-155's lawyer, Dean Krone, told the City of Crystal Lake that "municipalities cannot enforce zoning restrictions on state property" and that "cities cannot regulate areas of statewide concern."

OK, who holds the title to the real estate on which Crystal Lake South High School is located? Is it the State of Illinois?

When did the function or operations of D-155 become an area of "statewide concern"? Good try.

Since Crystal Lake doesn't want to spend taxpayer dollars fighting D-155, it should cut checks today to the property owners for their lost values. Say, about $100,000 each.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Woodstock nixes stop sign

Many thanks to the Woodstock City Council for its 0-6 vote last night on the agenda item regarding stop signs on Country Club Road at Club Road (entrance to Bull Valley Country Club).

Two people showed up to speak against the signs; no one spoke in favor.

Continue to use caution on Country Club Road and be courteous in allowing traffic to exit from Bull Valley Country Club, as well as turning traffic off Bull Valley Road. Also, watch for slowing and stopped eastbound traffic on Country Club Road.

Driver courtesy will go a long way toward reducing crashes and stalling any effort in the future toward additional stop signs there.

Thanks again, Woodstock City Council!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mental Health Court graduates nine

The McHenry County Mental Health Court graduated nine participants this evening in a ceremony in Courtroom 204 at 6:30PM.

Judge Weech and the Mental Health Court team were present, as were McHenry County State's Attorney Lou Bianchi and several members of his staff. Chief Judge Sullivan and McHenry County Board Chairwoman Tina Hill also attended.

Those graduating tonight expressed appreciation to the team that got them onto the straight-and-narrow path. It definitely wasn't a cakewalk. There is a strong program of evaluation, treatment, abstinence from drugs or alcohol, personal development programs and counseling.

At a previous court hearing, the nine defendants were told that their charges would be dismissed in court this morning. This is one of the huge benefits for completing the rigorous program in this specialty court.

I have attended and observed many court dates of the Mental Health Court since May 2011, and I have witnessed tremendous growth by many participants. The Court program has a high success rate, and that's due to the dedication of the staff and their willingness to keep working with participants, even through very difficult times.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Why no fair hearing on ethics complaint against Zinke?

To understand how the Ethics Commission failed on July 25, one need only to read the opening paragraphs on the McHenry County website:

"The McHenry County Ethics Commission was created pursuant to the McHenry County Ethics Ordinance, which was promulgated under the Illinois State Officials and Employees Ethics Act, 5 ILCS 430/1-1 et. seq.   The Commission was created to provide a neutral forum for the independent and apolitical review of possible violations of the McHenry County Ethics Ordinance.  The Commission is charged with the obligation to investigate complaints, conduct hearings and deliberations on allegations of violations of the County Ethics Ordinance, and to adjudicate complaints or refer complaints to the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office.

"Under the McHenry County Ethic Ordinance County “officers” cannot:

·        Perform “prohibited political activities” during any “compensated time”
·        Intentionally use County property or resources in connection with any
          “prohibited political activity”
       ·        Require another officer or employee to perform a 'prohibited political activity'”
Taking apart just these two paragraphs, why don't you decide whether the Ethics Commission provided a neutral forum for its independent review of Cal Skinner's complaint against Undersheriff Andy Zinke.

Here we go:

"The Commission is charged with the obligation to investigate complaints, conduct hearings and deliberations on allegations of violations of the County Ethics Ordinance, and to adjudicate complaints or refer complaints to the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office."

The Commission had the obligation to investigate Skinner's complaint.

It had the obligation to conduct a hearing. (That's what the language says.)

It had the obligation to deliberate on allegations of violations. (It did not do so openly.)

It had the obligation to adjudicate complaints.

Zinke wrote his e-mail on "compensated time" and he was alleged to have used "County property or resources". His email was clearly about his bruised feelings related to his political activities.

Had the Ethics Commission conducted a full and fair hearing and then ruled that Zinke had not violated the rules, policy or laws, then all we could do is say we disagree. As it is, we must complain now that Cal Skinner did not get a fair hearing and the cloud over Zinke has not been removed.

How the Ethics Commission failed

The McHenry County Ethics Commission failed its own test on ethics, when it conducted such a shoddy meeting on July 25.

As more details about its rules and procedures come to light, it is even clearer that the Commission did not know how to conduct its hearing into Cal Skinner's complaint against Undersheriff Andy Zinke.

There was an attorney present from the State's Attorney Office to advise them.

The County Board liaison was there.

The Ethics Commissioners had plenty of time to get ready for the hearing.

And they failed.

In meetings of many, if not most, "public bodies", the public comment period is the time when matters not on the Agenda are discussed. If you want to chip in with your 2¢ worth on an Agenda item, you hold your tongue until the item comes up. That's a good way to do it.

The County commissions apparently require those who wish to speak during the public comment period to sign in. Then the chairman will call speakers in the order in which they signed in.

At the July 25 hearing, there was a clipboard and sign-in sheet. Mark Gummerson signed in as the first speaker; Rebecca Lee (from Gummerson's office) signed in as the second speaker. Then the clipboard "accidentally" ended up underneath Rebecca Lee's three-ring binder.
At County Board meetings, the sign-in sheet is outside the door and where anyone can find it.

When I informed Commission Chairman Spencer that I hadn't known of the sign-in requirement and hadn't seen the sign-in sheet because it was under Lee's binder, Gummerson quickly said that had been unintentional.

When Attorneys Gummerson and Lee launched into Zinke's defense, the Commission Chairman should have stopped them in their tracks and told them to wait for the hearing to open.

The Commission failed to explain to those present, including Complainant Cal Skinner, that it was critical to speak during the public comment period and before the Commission ran for the Closed Session.

Frankly, it looked like they didn't even want to be there in the first place, so the shock was less when they came back into open session, voted against moving the complaint forward, and left.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Wake up, America!

"The We The People Stimulus Package"
Featured Thomas Paine (portrayed by Bob Basso, author of Common Sense

Watch this National Tea Party fiery video; it's only 6 minutes. You might not be a Tea Party follower, but is there anything in that video with which you can disagree?

"The biggest traitors among you hold elective office." Pretty strong stuff.

"Require all laws that apply to the rest of the country to apply equally to Congress." Gee, what a novel idea!

Traffic crash reports - how detailed?

When a vehicle crash occurs, police are usually called to the scene and make a report.

How detailed should a Crash Report be? Crash reports must be completed following injury crashes and if a crash involves damage beyond the minimum State threshold.

The crash report is filled out for various reasons. It documents what happened.

How does the investigating officer learn what happened? Typically, he'll gather information from the driver, any passengers and any witnesses. And he should observe the crash scene and record his observations.

Reports can be brief, but they should be complete.

OK, let's hear your opinion about this report: "DU#1 was traveling north bound [sic] on Dean St. and struck a sign, on the right side of the roadway while avoiding a deer." (End of Report)

"DU#1" represents Driver of Unit #1. 

Brief? Check.


This single-vehicle crash occurred on Monday morning, July 15, 2013, at about 4:31AM.

The vehicle involved was McHenry County Sheriff's Department squad car #560, which was being driven by Deputy Jason Novak.

Perhaps this explains why the police report is so brief and vague. Not because it was Deputy Novak driving, but because a law-enforcement officer was driving. Is the Thin Blue Line alive and well in McHenry County?

What might have made this crash report more complete?

Among other things, the driver's statement of his speed and complete explanation of what was happening just before the crash.

The investigating officer's report indicates the speed limit was 35. Actually it was 45MPH, and the crash occurred right at the beginning of the 35MPH speed zone. The report says the crash occurred 400 feet south of U.S. 14; it may have actually been 1,000 feet south of Davis Road. This picky point may not be too important, because Woodstock's 35MPH speed limit sign and post were probably at the beginning of the 35MPH speed zone, and the sign's condition is a clear indicator that the crash occurred right there.

The reason that this could be important is the likely speed of the vehicle when it left the road. It flattened the sign and signpost, and debris on the east shoulder indicated the car continued some distance up the shoulder.

The report doesn't state how the officer knew (believed) the driver was avoiding a deer. If that's what the driver said, then the report should say so.

The report doesn't state and the diagram doesn't show
1. where the vehicle left the roadway or
2. where the vehicle stopped after smashing the sign and signpost.

Did the driver (deputy) swerve off the road to avoid a deer? Did he hit his brakes? If he swerved off the road, did the squad car go into the field after running over the sign?

Evidence at the scene (the flattened sign and signpost) indicated that the squad car was traveling pretty much parallel to the roadway. Was the deer some distance before the speed limit sign? Did the deputy swerve there to avoid a deer and then steer straight down the shoulder?

How far ahead of the car was the deer, when the deputy first saw it? Was it standing in the road, walking across, or did it bound suddenly from one side of the road across the roadway?

All of that ought to be in the crash report.

I asked the question in a previous article, was there a "black box" (event data recorder) in the squad car and were the contents evaluated? The Crash Report of the Woodstock Police Department is silent about that. Perhaps a FOIA request to the McHenry County Sheriff's Department would reveal the diagnosis of the black box. If there was one in that squad car, prudence would dictate that the Sheriff's Department would examine it and use its contents to evaluate the driver's actions at the time of the crash.

What does a black box reveal? Speed, acceleration, braking, etc. Would it disclose sudden swerving, as might happen to avoid an animal? Click on the link in the previous paragraph for an NPR article about black boxes.

I wondered whether Deputy Novak activated his overhead emergency lights upon coming to a stop. Doing so would warn approaching drivers of an accident scene. If he did so, the previous 30-60 seconds of the dashboard videocamera recording (if there was a dashcam) would have been preserved. The deer would have been seen in the headlights.

Squad 560 was equipped with the Automatic License Plate Reader. Does it have a videotaping mechanism like a dashcam? Or is it only a license plate number recognition device that doesn't store actual images of a plate, only the digital recognition?

It may be that all Woodstock PD crash reports are as brief as this one. In any event, it passed muster with the investigating officer's supervisor and made it into the records.

Beth Bentley - missing 167 weeks

Beth Bentley vanished on May 23, 2010 - that's 167 weeks back.

What happened to Beth on that Sunday? In the report to the Woodstock Police Department the next night, it states that she was dropped off on Sunday about 6:00PM near the Centralia (Ill.) Amtrak station.

The whole story is fishy. Her best buddy (friend, employee, beneficiary of financial gifts, traveling companion, alibi at other times) said she didn't know Beth's plans, when she (the friend) dropped Beth off near the train station. Didn't know? Didn't know whether Beth was meeting someone? Thought Beth never intended to take a train from that station?

Beth supposedly just got out of the car (a rental car, at that. In fact, a car rented by Beth, since Jenn Wyatt did not have a valid driver's license). Oh, really?

And what about the young men whom Beth and Jenn went to visit in Mount Vernon? Did Beth and Jenn really leave Woodstock on Thursday night (May 20)? What time did they arrive at the house just outside Mount Vernon? 3:00AM? 4:00AM? 5:00AM? Were they exhausted from the overnight drive? Who drove? Did Jenn drive any part of the 300-mile trip, even though she didn't have a valid driver's license?

Or were they "wired" from the drive and glad to arrive in Mount Vernon. Time to par-teeeeee?

In three years, three people have had plenty of time to get their stories lined up. But, in those same three years parts of the stories, if not true, will start to unravel.

Are the police still investigating? What police? Woodstock PD? Jefferson County (Ill.) Sheriff's Office? (The Ridge house was in the county, outside the city limits of Mount Vernon.) The Mount Vernon PD? Centralia PD? Illinois State Police?

Ever see any posters around town? Have you seen any age-progression drawings that show how Beth might look now, three years later?

An apology to Sen. Dan Kotowski

Yesterday I was all hot and bothered after reading the Illinois State Sen. Dan Kotowski plans to go for a law that will prohibit firearms in places of worship. I wrote here and I commented online to newspaper articles, and I also emailed Sen. Kotowski.

I wasn't very kind with my comments, although I hope my email to Sen. Kotowski was civil. Shortly after I emailed him, he called me.

He explained that he didn't intend to withdraw his proposal, because he believes that guns have no place in places of worship.

On that, I agree, and I told him so. My preference is that there would be no firearms in churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, etc.

At the same time I am concerned about any State prohibition. What defense does anyone in the congregation have, if a Bad Guy comes in shooting (or threatening to shoot)?

The members of the Sikh congregation in Milwaukee recently experienced that. So did members of a church in Colorado Springs, Colo. And there are other examples.

But what I had allowed myself to do was attack Dan as a person, because I was in strong disagreement with his views. That was wrong.

He has his reasons for believing as he does. I have mine, for believing as I do. Taking what I'll call "cheap shots" at him from behind my computer was not fair.

I am reminded now to argue with and about issues. I thought about deleting my previous article. I won't, but I'll append a message to direct any readers to this apology.

Dan, thanks for your call yesterday.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Charged for gas before fuel pumped

About 1-2 weeks ago I read a news article about someone who noticed that the gas pump had rung up the beginning of a purchase before any fuel was pumped. I must admit that I was skeptical.

No longer. It happened to me this afternoon in McHenry. I stopped at the Clark station at 4713 West Elm Street. Before I swiped my card, I removed and discarded the previous customer's receipt; then I swiped my card, removed the pump handle and selected the fuel grade I wanted.

Before pumping, I noticed that the pump had cleared to zero and then was reading a sale of 0.063 gallons fof $0.24. Wait just a minute! I hadn't even placed the nozzle in my fuel tank yet!

It wasn't the 24¢ that I was concerned about, but the fact that the pump was charging me before I started the fuel flow! So I got the attendant and asked him to re-set the pump. He was polite enough and was trying to be helpful, but I don't think his training had included how to do that.

But he got it figured out, and the pump was back to zero. He told me to pump my gas and then come inside to pay for it. I removed the pump handle again and pointed it toward my gas tank, and the pump jumped to 0.031 gallons and $0.12!

At that point I thanked the attendant and headed up the street to buy elsewhere.

Has anyone else experienced this?

Kotowski - a danger to your safety

Ill. Sen. Dan Kotowski
On the surface this man, Dan Kotowski, doesn't look too dangerous. But he is.

Kotowski is a Democratic Illinois State Senator (D-28) with a district office at 350 S. Northwest Highway, Suite 300, Park Ridge, IL 60068.

Want to call him? (847) 656-5416.
Want to email him? (unpublished on his State senatorial webpage!)

Why is he dangerous?

He attempted to railroad the concealed carry bill, and he hasn't given up.

According to a long Associated Press article on Friday (only partially published in the Northwest Herald print edition today), Kotowski wants to ban guns from places of worship. Supposedly, he told the AP reporter that "providing churches with a specific exemption was an oversight that some lawmakers were unaware of until the legislation was debated."

How's that for a statement that doesn't mean anything? Lots of words. No meaning.

OK, so legislators were aware of it when the legislation was debated. And they decided (read: negotiated) to leave it out.

Sorry, Danny boy, you lost. Now you are whining. Just shut up!

I don't wish harm to anyone or any organization. But if Kotowski, identified in the AP article as a "former gun-control lobbyist", gets such a stupid change in the new concealed-carry law passed, I hope somebody will identify Kotowski's church so that the police can increase patrols during services and protect the congregation, which will feel much more at risk - thanks to Kotowski.

Making a gun-free zone out of a church?  Dumber than dumb!

NOTE: (8/4/13 10:47AM) Readers, please read my apology to Sen. Kotowski. I should have stayed on the issue, and it was wrong to make the personal attack on him.

A Gift for you - Raise the Bar

(c) Axiogenics LLC
A friend of 30 years called me from Denver last Tuesday and asked me this question: ~ How would I like to have more of what I want in my life, and less of what I don't want?

And so, today, I ask you the same question: "How would you like to have more of what you want in your life, and less of what you don't want?"

Answer the question now. Out loud. Go and look in the mirror and ask yourself that question.

Is there a catch? A price?

You bet. And you can afford both.

What would you be willing to do to improve your life? What if you asked yourself this question frequently throughout every day - "What choice can I make and action can I take, in this moment, to create the greatest net value?"

Here's my invitation to you. Go to

Read the webpage. Watch the 8-minute video. Sign up at the bottom. Then watch a video and sign up for The Fundamentals of Value Generation program. You can afford it.

There is no gimmick here. What's in it for me if you sign up? The pleasure of knowing that you are moving on the road to improving your life.

Each week there is a telementoring webinar, and it is archived for the convenience of those who can't (or don't) call in at 12:00PM on Wednesdays. I just listened to the June 26th call. Wow! One of the best 1-hour calls I've ever been in on. It's there for you to hear now (but listen to the older ones first, before they are removed).

Friday, August 2, 2013

LITH woman gets 5th DUI (3 in July)

"Houston, we have a problem." Only Houston doesn't; McHenry County does!

The Northwest Herald reported today that a Lake in the Hills woman, Tiara Norris, 30, was arrested in Kane County on her 5th DUI! Three of the DUIs (two were in Gilberts (Kane County)) were in July (last month).

According to the Northwest Herald, in May 2012 Norris was sentenced to two years probation for aggravated DUI. The paper says the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor.

Don't most probations contain a condition that the person is not to violate any laws? So, when Norris was arrested on the next DUI, why wasn't the McHenry County State's Attorney Office in court to revoke her probation?

The Northwest Herald did not open a Comment section. I wonder why ...

Here's her McHenry County Court record for driving:

4/27/11 Speeding 11-14. $120 fine.

8/27/12 Lake in the Hills. DUI (2) dismissed. Summary Suspension (rescinded). Endanger life/health of a child. Dismissed.

9/5/12 Crystal Lake. Failure to reduce speed; nolle prossed. Failure to give info/render aid; nolle prossed. (Was this a hit-and-run?)

12/12/12 Aggravated DUI with passenger under 16 (Class 2 Felony); nolle prossed. Endanger life/health of child; nolle prossed. Driving under the influence (Class A Misdemeanor): $3507 fines, costs, fees. 174 days in jail (stayed). Judge Graham. (She got a huge break here!)

5/7/13 Improper traffic lane usage. $170 fine, costs, fees. Online 4-hr. traffic school. (Why not make her go and sit in a class?)

Kane County:

July 2013  Three (3) DUIs!

Woodstock set to approve new stop signs, Country Club Rd.

OK, folks. Now's your chance. Speak now, or forever hold your peace.

On Tuesday, August 6, the Woodstock City Council is to ponder the weighty question of whether to roll over on the request of one (just one!) Bull Valley County Club (City of Woodstock) resident, whose time is so precious that he can't spare seconds to turn onto Country Club Road, and approve installation of two stop signs to stop all traffic eastbound and westbound on Country Club Road at Club Road (entrance to Bull Valley Country Club).

These new stop signs would require all cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, stage coaches, baby carriages, etc. to stop 24/7/365. So, whether there is any traffic in the 40MPH speed zone there late at night, early in the evening, on weekdays or week-ends, you (that's y-o-u) will be required to come to a full stop and proceed only when safe to do so.

Another possibility, of course, is to leave it as it is, which is what the City's engineering firm recommended earlier in the year, when the request was first made. A study was conducted and the accident (i.e., crash) data were analyzed. Incidents of risk were NOT at the threshold to call for action. In other words, the stop signs were not recommended.

Yet the Woodstock City Council decided to proceed.

And now the Council is set to vote on Tuesday night, when the City Council session starts at 7:00PM at City Hall on August 6.

If you care, now is the time to communicate with your City Council members. Keep in mind that Woodstock does not operate on a Ward system. All Councilmen (and women) are elected at-large. Therefore, there is no one council member to pounce on or who will carry your banner.

You can call City Council members at home. Their phone numbers are listed on the City's website at  Click on "City Council" to see their names and phone numbers.

You can email them. Here are their email addresses:,,,,,,,

If you do nothing, they'll approve it.

Of course, they might approve it anyway, even if hundreds of residents contact them and say "No." The vote is likely to be part of the Consent Agenda and stamped with a blanket approval without discussion. If you go to the meeting, ask for Item D-7 to be pulled for discussion. It will help if you call 3-4-5 council members ahead of time. Even if you request that D-7 be pulled for discussion, it takes the formal request from a Council member to get it pulled for discussion.

This one will be up to you. I have a conflicting meeting scheduled for the same time that is more important to me, and I shall not be at this City Council meeting.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Mind your speed in Bull Valley

You may want to mind your speed as you enter Bull Valley westbound from McHenry on Bull Valley Road.

There used to be a 40MPH speed limit sign just west of Draper Road, and it has been missing for a while. Today I reported the missing sign to the Village of Bull Valley, and they will check out whether it is, indeed, missing and needs to be replaced.

The speed limit east of Draper Road is posted as 45MPH, and that's in McHenry. I don't know how many Bull Valley police officers maintain a near-zero tolerance for speeding. In the past I've reports of drivers being ticketed for less than 5MPH over the speed limit. Those days may be in Bull Valley's history book now.

But let's say you are accustomed to getting away with 9 over, and so you're westbound on Bull Valley Road in the 45 zone at 54MPH. McHenry PD might not stop you.

When you hit Bull Valley at Draper Road, though, if you don't slow down, you'll get to meet one of Bull Valley's finest who will welcome you with wide-spread arms and issue greetings to you for 54 in a 40.

I saw a Bull Valley police car stopped on westbound County Club Rd. well inside Woodstock this morning. Assuming he was running radar, where was he parked that he got so far into Woodstock before the driver stopped?

Your best choice? Drive not in excess of the posted speed limit - wherever you are.

River Road alert - tickets, tickets, tickets

If you are driving near River Road and Miller Road (just outside McHenry) this (Thursday) morning, be sure not to be talking on your cell phone in the Work Zone.

A special detail of McHenry County Sheriff's deputies is attending a ticketing convention there. They'll be writing tickets (read: drumming up court fines and costs). Deputies are being pulled off regular patrol assignments to work this detail.

MCSD used to have a traffic unit that had the primary responsibility for enforcing traffic laws by writing tickets. Shortly after the double-fatal accident on July 1, 2012, just outside Woodstock, that unit went down the drain.

To my knowledge, there has been no rash of crashes or injuries in Work Zones on County roads recently.

As many as six deputies are on Miller Rd. between Green St. and River Road. You probably won't recognize them because of their casual dress. Compound that with the reflectorized vests that hide any badge or t-shirt emblem and that cover up their weapons. You would think that deputies on traffic enforcement would be wearing regular MCSD uniforms to identify themselves clearly and quickly to any driver signaled to stop. They also ought to be wearing their "100 lbs." of gear, including their bullet-resistant vests (not that any driver in McHenry County would be so upset at the prospect of a $165 ticket that she might start shooting).

Would you stop for a man with a gun in the roadway wearing a blue t-shirt? Or for what looked like a construction worker (orange vest, red hard hat) in the roadway? Or would you just hold up the roof of your car with your middle finger (the Zinke wave) and drive on?

Who all gets a piece of the pie, when a driver gets a $165 (or is it $375) ticket? There is a long list of offices and groups that share in the fines and court costs. Does the local jurisdiction (for example, it is unincorporated McHenry County (Nunda Township there) gain financially for all the tickets written this morning? If they do, by how much?

Pulling regular deputies off their regular assignments to drum up revenues for a township means the rest of the residents in the County get reduced protection and slower response times.

If a driver chooses to fight the ticket, how many deputies will have to show up in court? Does the deputy who wrote the ticket (and didn't observe any cell phone usage violation) have to appear for trial? Does the spotter (who didn't write the ticket) have to appear? If the driver loses in court, how much (in total court costs plus the fine) will a ticket cost him?

Who made this decision that this is such a high priority to assign so many deputies there and to thin out protection to the rest of the county? Sheriff Nygren? Undersheriff Zinke? What motivated him to do this? How many tickets will be written today?