Monday, February 28, 2011

Jury trial starts three years later

How long does it take to get to trial in McHenry County? Sometimes, almost three years. Sometimes, longer.

Three cases (four charges) are finally going to get tried this week. The charges go back to April 2008 and February 2009.

A Crystal Lake woman has had problems with a neighbor for several years. The neighbor files Disorderly Conduct charges. The Crystal Lake P.D. accepts them. On four of them (before today's cases) the complainant never showed up in court, and the charges were dropped.

This time? The complainants (well, one of them) are showing up. The charges started out as violations of the City's ordinances. Somewhere along the way the State's Attorney's Office took over.

In an initial court appearance today at 10:00AM, Judge Weech asked the question I have been asking: "Why are these three cases being tried together?"

Noting that the dates of the incidents were all on separate days, Judge Weech said the cases could not be tried together. He said they were all separate incidents, which they are. He said they were "totally separate." Judge Weech was ready to get started and said they'd try the oldest case first.

I couldn't hear the answer from the Assistant State's Attorney, but it didn't seem to be a strong response. I was waiting to hear the defendant's attorney jump in on the judge's side, but he remained silent. Oh, no... does silence mean agreement with the prosecutor? That's how it seemed to me.

And then the defendant's attorney indicated that he wanted them tried together.

That's a strategy I don't understand. Maybe if I had gone to law school, I'd understand it. My concern is that by lumping them all together, the jury might just decide that the defendant has to be guilty of something, or else she wouldn't be there in the first place. So they might find her Not Guilty on three of the charges, but stick her with a Guilty verdict on the fourth.

It's not supposed to work out that way. The jury is to listen to all the evidence and make their decisions based on the facts. So far, I'm not sure that the jury understands that they are going to hear about four charges and three separate dates.

Opening arguments are scheduled for 10:30AM Tuesday. Judge Weech is hoping that the jury will begin deliberations Wednesday afternoon and have a verdict Wednesday night. Otherwise, the trial will continue into Thursday.

Appearance of Impropriety

Thomas McQueen used this phrase in the press release this afternoon pertaining to the new indictments by the McHenry County Grand Jury.

When the top official of a large law enforcement agency says, "I had to go 85 just to keep up with traffic" (in a 65MPH zone), is there any appearance of impropriety?

ISP tickets in Woodstock today

Why were three troopers of the Illinois State Police working in Woodstock this afternoon?

Two of them were stopped with a single vehicle on Route 47 across from McDonald's, and four unhappy campers were sitting on the curb. A few minutes later they were in the back seats of the two squad cars, and my guess is their car was getting ready to be towed.

A third ISP squad car had a driver stopped on Lake Avenue across from Days Inn, just west of Route 47.

Is there a particular reason that three ISP cars were writing tickets in Woodstock today, rather than out patrolling the highways of McHenry County?

Did Woodstock P.D. invite them? Did Woodstock P.D. even know they were in town? Do Woodstock residents want ISP troopers coming into town and increasing the number of tickets written here? We're still a small town here, but we have City Limits and we, the People, can make the rules.

Is the traffic violations problem so bad here that Woodstock P.D. can't handle it?

Thar's the big one.

Doggone it. I should have answered my phone, when I was sitting in Judge Weech's courtroom today waiting for court to start.

I missed all the excitement at the press conference this afternoon AND I missed photos of the special cars in the executive parking area (known to some as Reserved Parking) behind the courthouse.

Now I have to read all about it in the Northwest Herald.

Taxpayers had better be reaching for their wallets and stoking up on some new batteries for the calculators. Let's see, did the bills come in yet for Sept., Oct., Nov., Dec. and Jan. from Skip Tonigan? Maybe they will just arrive with the Feb. billing for an even six months worth of bills. Guesses, anyone? $200,000±? Do I hear more?

Anybody can be charged with anything, and then the legal-expense meter starts clicking away. Didn't the Special Prosecutor think he had enough with the first go-round from the Grand Jury? What was the hurry about the second round?

Are there still worms left at the Fish Here and Earn Money, Too stand at 2200 N. Seminary?

Should school districts consolidate?

When was the last time you went to a school board meeting?

Why is Tuesday night the popular night for school board meetings? Take a look at the scheduling conflict with other public meetings, such as City Council, Township, County Board. It's hard to be everywhere at once; right?

Marengo is in the news. Four schools - in three different school districts! What kind of administrative duplication is there? The killer type! No wonder taxpayers there keep turning down referenda.

McHenry? A high school School District with only two schools in it?

Now look at Woodstock. One early learning center. Six elementary schools. Two middle schools. Two high schools. One therapeutic day school. ONE SCHOOL DISTRICT.

Look at your property tax bills for the past five years. Don't just pay it and ignore it. Of course, you will pay it, because most property taxes are escrowed out of your total bank payment.

Frankly, I don't know how people afford to live in Woodstock or even in McHenry County. Property taxes are out of sight. And that's because people just pay the bill, blow off a little steam about it, and go back to work.

The remarkable women of southern Illinois

After yesterday's 40th-Week missive about Beth Bentley, a woman in southern Illinois wrote to me, saying,

"Gus - I think you were way too hard on Beth's sons. FYI - There ARE going to be several searches commencing once the weather has cleared up so that no one will be in danger of sinking up to their necks in mud, with the boys' assistance/blessing. In case you hadn't noticed from your perch up in the Chicago area, Southern Illinois and Missouri have had some horrific snow as well this winter, plus now we're dealing with flooding. Everyone wants to get out and search for Beth - we also need permission from landowners, which we are working on, as well as cooperation from the local sheriffs (Sheriff Mulch is someone who could sure use some pressure put upon him, btw). Common sense would tell you, Gus, that NO ONE can search until it can be done safely and rest assured that Beth's sons are fully aware of this too - try using some common sense in the future before you make generalizations where her children are concerned. They are doing the best that they can under the circumstances.'

This caused me to think, again, of the remarkable women in southern Illinois. Even though they didn't know Beth, they took an early interest in her disappearance, based on reports that Beth had disappeared from their area. And they hung in there, even with the red herrings about the Amtrak station in Centralia and a pizza order from Beth's phone on Sunday, at a time when she was supposed to be near the train station.

And so my hat is off to them.

And what about "all" of Beth's friends in Woodstock? What about all her drinking buddies from Gus's Roadhouse who all looked so happy in all the party pictures that anyone could see on Beth's facebook page and on the Facebook pages of her (so-called) friends?

Why have all those Facebook pictures been removed? Why have all those pages been shut down? Why did not even ONE of them contribute to the Reward Trust Fund set up at Chase Bank-Woodstock? Not even one! They had money for drinks at Gus's Roadhouse. They bought "stuff" at the fundraiser.

After the initial opening deposit of $25.00 at Chase Bank, ONLY TWO people contributed to the Reward Fund.

Oh, and the Trust document that was so highly touted on the original Facebook page for Beth? All I can say is, it's a good thing it'll probably never show up in front of a judge! First, it never contained all the Terms and Conditions as were described in such glowing terms by the person who said she had been told about it by a person in Scott's office. I kept asking for it to be disclosed, because I knew those terms would never be there.

When the Trust was finally disclosed, it turned out to be a very broad, very simple document. Which is exactly what it should have been. Except it was so poorly drafted that it is an embarrassment to the lawyer who wrote it, assuming it was a lawyer who wrote it. But its poor construction was not the reason that only $140 ended up in that account.

I read a phrase recently that, for me, described the circle of Beth's drinking buddies here in Woodstock: "All hat and no cattle."

Just because you didn't know Beth, and I didn't, is no reason not to take an interest. The Woodstock Police Department is the lead investigatory law enforcement agency. We must make sure that they are doing everything possible (and impossible) to find Beth Bentley.

After all, what if it's your family member who goes missing next?

Capitol Police wimp out

Read this morning's Associated Press (AP) article about the protesters in Madison, Wisc., the order for them to leave the Capitol building at 4:00PM, their refusal, and the decision of the Chief of Capitol Police to let them stay.

According to the AP, Chief Charles Tubbs "said no demonstrators would be arrested as long as they continued to obey the law."

Well, Chief, how about this? By remaining in the Capitol past closing time, even on the first day, they are breaking the law!

Would law-abiding people in Madison feel in fear for their lives? Just look at the photo with the AP article, as published in the Northwest Herald. Damon Terrell, wearing a muscle t-shirt in the dead of winter, is making a threatening gesture with his right fist.

I say to the Capitol Police, "Clear the Capitol today." Announce at 3:00PM that the Capitol will close at a certain hour. At one minute after that time, begin arresting those who refuse to leave. Every one of them.

In this country we have the right to peaceful assembly. Are those protesters peaceful? They are trespassers. They are breaking the law. Arrest them!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Vote now - don't wait until April 5

Vote now in this survey about supporting (or not) Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker:

Just the "fax", ma'am

There are some days when equipment works just right, and then there are those other days.

Today was one of those "other" days. If you were trying to send a fax to me today, it didn't print. Maybe you are the same person who tried to send a fax to me last week, about Wednesday or Thursday. That one didn't print, either. Hopefully, you got an error message and know that your fax wasn't received.

Until further notice, the best way to contact me is e-mail, snailmail or phone. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Should Woodstock resolve about Huntley hospital?

On the agenda for Tuesday's Woodstock City Council meeting is a resolution to support Centegra Hospital - Huntley.

What in the world for? Where did that come from?

Centegra's PR machine is running at full output, trying to stir up sympathy, favor and support to overpower the decision-making authority for a new hospital in our general geographic area.

Why should Woodstock pass such a resolution? Is there any doubt that Mercy will jump into line right behind Centegra and ask for a smiliar resolution in its favor? And wouldn't Woodstock so resolve in Mercy's favor, too? Why not?

Centegra already has a monopoly in McHenry County, at least in the area of Woodstock-Crystal Lake-Huntley.

How many City Council members would have to recuse themselves? Would the Mayor? Would any (or many) of the Council members have to recuse themselves? Has any ever received anything of value from Centegra? Ever go to an open house and accept a free glass of wine or one of those little hot dogs on a stick?

From City Hall it's 4.0 miles to Centegra Hospital-Woodstock, and it's 9.3 miles to Centegra Hospital-McHenry. Is a third hospital, 14 miles south of Woodstock, really needed for Woodstock?

On Tuesday night, since the item is already on the agenda, remove it for discussion, give it three-five minutes and just say, "No." You don't even have to take 30 minutes to say it nicely.

40 weeks now for Beth Bentley

This Sunday - today - marks 40 weeks that Beth Bentley has been missing.

Beth, a Woodstock wife and mother, disappeared last May, when she was 41.

Some (probably darned few) still might wonder if she disappeared from Centralia, Ill., where she may have been driven by friend and traveling companion, Jennifer Wyatt, on Sunday, May 23, 2010.

Others wonder whether she disappeared after eating at the Frosty Mug in Mount Vernon, Ill. on Friday night, May 21, reportedly with Wyatt, Ryan Ridge and perhaps his brother. A waitress is reported to have recognized them and served them, but not serving alcohol to the younger Ridge because he was not yet 21.

And still others wonder whether she actually even left Woodstock on Thursday night, May 19, after her son's baseball game.

Beth's car was parked out-of-sight in the garage of Wyatt's rental home in Woodstock. They (who? Jenn? Beth?) rented a car for the drive to Mount Vernon. If they really drove from Woodstock to Mount Vernon that Thursday night, what time did they leave Woodstock? Who drove? How far? Did they switch off driving? Were there tolls? Proof? Which roads? What time did they get to Mount Vernon? Then what?

After Beth was reported missing late Monday evening, May 24, was her car still in Wyatt's garage? Was it searched? Would the police have found any clues to her disappearance in the car? Did they find any?

Is the Illinois State Police now involved in this investigation? Or is there any investigation?

Beth's family is mostly silent. Why aren't they screaming for help? Does life just now go on, with everybody waiting for Beth to come back to Woodstock and say, "Hi, everybody. Miss me?"

Why isn't Scott Bentley making a fuss? Why aren't her adult sons causing a stir? The only "noise" is coming from her brother in Arizona, and he's 1,700 miles away.

Who will crack first?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Welles' group to meet March 5

On Saturday, March 5, a new Welles in Woodstock group will meet at the Woodstock Public Library at 2:00PM. Gather in the small meeting room on the lower level.

Ideas are coming together for a major event to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the 1934 Todd Theater Festival and/or the centenary of Welles' 1915 birth in Kenosha.

Woodstock residents Kathy Spaltro and Steve Aavang are planning this project, which intends to educate local residents and visitors about the innovative educational approach taken by Roger Hill (1895?-1990) at Todd School and its effect on Orson Welles (1915-1985).

If you think you might be interested in helping with the planning for this project, head for the Woodstock Library and be there by 2PM on Saturday.

Pet Expo - March 6

A pet expo will be held at Alden's Kennels, between Wonder Lake and Ringwood, on Sunday, March 6, between 10:00AM - 2:00PM. Alden's Kennels is located at 6810 Barnard Mill Road, Ringwood. Head east from Wonder Lake and it's on the left. Come on out and help homeless cats and dogs.

The expo is put on by the McHenry County Animal Welfare Coalition. Presentations and demonstrations will be presented by, among others, Dorothy Vetrovec, Criss Handley, and Carlos Aguirre.

There are opportunities for businesses to promote their services with booths similar those at the business expos that are popular around the county.

For information call Janet at 815.728.0559 or visit the website for Alden's Kennels at

Save the date - April 29

The third annual Visions of Hope Awards presentation will be held on Friday, April 29, 7:00PM, at the Woodstock Opera House. It will be followed by a performance of "Maybe in a Moment" by the Thresholds Theater Arts Performance Group.

Watch for more information before April 29.

There is no charge for the evening, but donations are appreciated. Make your reservation by emailing or calling 815.455.2828

This performance is very likely to be SRO, so make your reservation early.

"Guns save lives" in Chicago this week

This week in Chicago a truck will be rolling along highways and streets in the Loop to inform folks that guns save lives. And on Thursday the truck will roll to Milwaukee.

Promoters claim it costs $16,000 a week to fight New York's Mayor Bloomberg and his efforts to tighten controls nationally on gun laws.

The truck is sponsored by the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Their website at contains more information about the truck and their effort. If you see the truck this week, give them a toot and a wave. Donations can be online.

#1 snow shoveler at WNHS

Guess who was shoveling the snow this morning at Woodstock North High School this morning, as parents were arriving for Parent University?

None other than the Principal, Brian Mcadow.

I'll tell you what - when you see the "boss" out front with a snow shovel, you know you've got an organization with a leader who cares!

I remember my first job with a Chamber of Commerce; I was VP of Membership Services for an 1,100-member chanber in the Kansas City area.. I had been hired in August; when winter arrived and the first snowfall occurred, I asked where the snow shovel was and went out front to clear the walk. When I came back in, the VP of Administration said that I was the first man in her 18 years with the Chamber to shovel snow! That was in 1986, and I remember it like it was yesterday.

So, thanks, Brian!!!

61 attend Parent University

Sixty-one people attended the Woodstock District 200 Parent University this morning at Woodstock North High School.

The program, which was advertised for several months in Woodstock, offered one-hour presentations by speakers on such topics as parenting, co-parenting, bullying, pharming and drugs. After the opening presentation by Dr. Michael Feld, parents had a choice of attending two presentations out of nine, including two presented in Spanish.

For me, it was a tough choice. Dr. Feld's first 30-minute session as keynote speaker was excellent. He crammed much material from his 5- and 6-hour workshops into 30 minutes, and I stayed around for another hour of material. That meant I then had to choose one session from the others. Would I stay for Dr. Feld's second hour or choose another? I very easily could have stayed for Dr. Feld's second hour.

I chose CJay Harmer's presentation on bullying. Although it was a small group in a classroom, it was an active group, with many questions. School Board member Bob Burchfield attended this session, as did four parents. CJay is with Youth Service Bureau and works in many area schools during the week.

But that meant I missed Shira Greenfield's presentation about co-parenting in two homes; Sgt. Bruce Talbot's presentation on Pharming: A Look at Prescription Medication Abuse; Dr. Christine Poulos' talk on Raising Healthy Teens; and Mark Sanders' talks on Raising Drug-Free Kids in a Drug-Using World and Restoring Peace to Parents: Surviving the Turbulent Teen Years.

The Parent University was offered to D-200 parents of students in 6th through 12th Grades. The D-200 website reveals a student population of more than 6,300. Middle and high school students account for 3,411, and elementary school students total 3,325; there are 44 students at Clay Academy (D-200's therapeutic day school), 22 students in the MCC Life Connection program (Age 18-21 Transition Program for student in Special Education), and 20 students at "other facilities".

It was a morning of excellent speakers, complete with coffee, bagels, fruit, OJ and door prizes. One mom won two tickets to a Bulls game; her son will be thrilled!

So, out of 3,411-5,000 parents how come only 61 showed up?

SportsPlex - a good idea?

Don't miss the three-part series on McHenry County Blog  ( about the proposed Lakewood Sportsplex. Part 1 was published Friday and contained this:

“As you can see the proposal was, if not a scam, an amateurish, ill-conceived plan filled with errors, unverified assumptions and seems devoid of any substantive research."

Not exactly words of praise or designed to stir the passions of residents, taxpayers and neighbors. Right?

Who wrote it?

Joseph L. Daleiden, former Economic Advisor to the Executive Office of the White House, Office of Management and the Budget, during the Carter Administration, in a critique of the feasibility study submitted by the SportsPlex developers to the Upper Illinois River Valley Development Authority (UIRVDA). Daleiden is also a former Director of Corporate Planning for Illinois Bell and Ameritech.

Part 2 is running today on McHenry County Blog, and Part 3 will run tomorrow.

Friday, February 25, 2011

TIF in Marengo?

Two public hearings on new Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts in Marengo, apparently originally announced for 7:00PM on Monday, February 28, have been moved up to 6:00PM.

The following email message, forwarded to me by a Marengo resident, was purportedly sent by the Marengo D-154 Superintendent. Schools have closed for the day and it is too late to verify its authenticity.

"The meeting time for the City of Marengo's Public Hearing regarding the proposed TIF districts has been changed from 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.  All parents are encouraged to attend the Public Hearing at City Hall on February 28, 2011 at 6:00 p.m.  The school district strongly opposes these TIFs.  Please click on the following link for more information.
Thank you for your support.
Dr. Dan Bertrand
Marengo Community High School District 154
110 Franks Road
Marengo, IL  60152
815-568-6511 x1501"

Note the sentence, "The school district strongly opposes these TIFs."

Are school districts allowed to lobby voters and influence decisions like this? It seems to me that the Woodstock City Council had its neck in a noose a couple of years ago over support for a school initiative here.

In any event, to move up the time of a public hearing, as evidenced by the above un-dated e-mail, is a huge error. If the Public Hearings were originally announced for 7:00PM, then there will be people who saw the announcement of the 7:00PM time and who will show up then - and miss out.

The agenda on the website of the City of Marengo ( shows 6:00PM for the starting date of each Public Hearing. I wonder how they will manage that. The Public Hearings and the City Council meeting will be at City Hall.

Any approval of the TIFs should not occur on February 28, because neither is on the agenda of the City Council meeting at 7:00PM. But they might not let a small matter like that keep them from voting on it at the City Council meeting. Watch carefully, Marengo residents!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Might an OP upset a person?

Last week an inmate of the McHenry County Jail committed suicide. This happened on Friday night, late in the evening. The inmate, 42, had been arrested earlier in the week, after he got into it with his 70-year-old mother in her Crystal Lake home.
The inmate was arrested and jailed, and Judge Weech held a Rights hearing on Tuesday at the jail. A bond hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, February 22, but Puchmelter was pronounced dead before that. His date of death has not been announced.
The inmate, Thomas Puchmelter, was served an Order of Protection. The Order was issued on February 16. It must have been served to him while he was in jail. I don't know where in the building he was, when it was served on him.
What impact do you suppose that service of an Order of Protection might have had on Puchmelter?
What impact would it have had on you? Suppose you had taken a bat to your mother on a Tuesday, perhaps while you were under the influence of alcohol, and then, three days later while you were sitting in jail and presumably had sobered up, you were served with an OP. Might you already have been depressed over your actions? Might you feel regretful? sad? hopeless? Might you have raged at anyone around you? Might you have felt suicidal?
And, if you were raging, do you think that the jailers would have noticed? Would that possibly have alarmed, or at least alerted, them to your mental condition?
Jailers are not there just to keep you from breaking out. While you are incarcerated, you are in their care. Now, they can't prevent all the possibilities of self-harm. But they might prevent some of them.
And, no doubt, the corrections officers in the McHenry County Jail do prevent many possibilities of self-harm.
So, what was Thomas Puchmelter's emotional condition on Friday evening?

Potholes - reminder to report them

Please do your part to report potholes to the proper road authority. This is the season for them; right?

I drove through one in McHenry on Route 120 recently and quickly reported it to the IDOT yard in Woodstock. It was on Route 120, just west of Green Street, in the right tire track of the right, eastbound lane.

Why is it important to report them? Because road authorities will try to weasel out of paying for damage to your car by claiming that a pothole wasn't reported or that they didn't have sufficient time to fill it after it was repaired. Sorry, guys; no pass on either case. It's your road. If you don't maintain it and a driver's vehicle is damaged, you ought to pay for it.

A friend told me this morning that her son's car was damaged to the tune of $1,500. Two tires, a rim, struts. Alignment, of course.

And last week another friend informed me of pothole damage to her car.

And an attorney I know in Hoffman Estates drove through one and had $600 damage.

Do police officers, paramedics, and all government workers promptly report potholes? Who knows?

Report it to the correct road authority. I knew that Route 120 was an IDOT-maintained road, even though it was in the City of McHenry. And I already knew the phone number for the IDOT yard in Woodstock.

Would reporting it to the City of McHenry Streets or Police Department have been enough? Not in my mind. They would probably forward the information to IDOT but, if they got busy before they did so, it might slip through the cracks.

Your choices might be IDOT or a city or the county or a township. It might take a little work to find the right road authority and phone number. If you happen to be on the short end of a $1,000 claim, you'll wish that another driver had persisted and made the report.

Give someone else a chance. Do the same. Report all potholes.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New org chart at MCSD

All over the County taxpayers are screaming about top-heavy government. There are two many administrators, too many managers, too many coordinators, too many supervisors; and too few worker bees.

Considerable publicity about salaries and benefits in the school sector has hit the press lately.

Two new senior positions have quietly been created at the McHenry County Sheriff's Department. Is MCSD operating leaner and meaner? Well, you be the judge.

Two new Commander positions have been created, between the Undersheriff's position and the Captains in the Department. These positions were created for the Patrol and Special Services functions, both of which already existed at MCSD. Both are "non-merited" positions, meaning they are not subject to the Sheriff's Department Merit Commission. Those in the positions are "appointed"; and, should they look cross-eyed at the sheriff or decide that something that's broken really needs to get fixed, then they might get "un-appointed."

So now, where there was none before, there are a Commander of Patrol and a Commander of Special Services. Two lieutenants (most may know that the rank of lieutenant is lower tan the rank of captain; at least, in the military pecking order) have been "appointed" to be Commanders.

How much do captains at MCSD earn?

Will a "Commander" earn more, even though his actual rank in the department is lower than that of captain? (Remember when the sheriff hammered away at challenger Mike Mahon about his title of Director of a unit at the Cook County Sheriff's Office (vs. his rank of Sergeant)? It was all smoke and no fire, but Nygren kept beating the air about it.)

Where is the money coming from for these two positions? I don't recall a request to the County Board to fund two new, highly-paid positions.  Will other deputies be promoted to fill the positions vacated by the appointees to Commander, or will the newly-appointed Commander merely continue to perform his same duties, but under a higher rank and with an increase in pay?

Wish you worked for Dorr Township?

Don't you wish you worked for Dorr Township?

Take a look at the 2011 Holiday Schedule, which was approved by the trustees at the December 14, 2010, monthly meeting. I had asked at a recent monthly meeting that the Schedule to be shown in the Minutes, so that anyone could see what the trustees are so generously providing to the employees, but my request fell on deaf ears.

Last year the Northwest Herald surveyed the public bodies in McHenry County and awarded First Place to Dorr Township for its holiday schedule, then at 14. And now it is at 15 for 2011, when you count the January 1st holiday (which was celebrated in the previous year).

The first holiday on the 2011 list was Martin Luther King Day (sic), January 17. This caused me to wonder when the January 1st holiday was celebrated (awarded as a day off); perhaps, since January 1 was a Saturday, employees got that day (January 1, 2011) off on December 31, 2010. So, in which year is that holiday counted? Isn't it a 2011 Holiday, but celebrated on December 31?

OK, here's the line-up for 2011.

(New Year's Day - January 1 (not on the Schedule))
Martin Luther King Day (sic) - Jan, 17
Lincoln's Birthday - Feb. 11
Presidents' Day - Feb. 21
Good Friday - April 22
Memorial Day - May 30
Independence Day - July 4
Labor Day - Sept. 5
Columbus Day - Oct. 10
Veterans Day - Nov. 11
Thanksgiving Day - Nov. 24-25
Christmas Eve - Dec. 23
Christmas Day - Dec. 26
New Year's Eve - Dec. 30

Compare this with the private sector. Common holidays in the private sector are
1. New Year's Day
2. Memorial Day - May 30
3. Independence Day - July 4
4. Labor Day - Sept. 5
5. Thanksgiving Day - Nov. 24
6. Christmas Day - Dec. 26

Township holidays - 14
Private sector holidays - 6

What's wrong with this picture?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Endangered and Missing? or not?

On Monday I wrote about the website of the Illinois State Police for Missing Endangered Adults.

The website is at or, if you don't like to click on links, go to a search engine, such as Google, and search for "Illinois State Police Missing Adults."

Beth Bentley is a missing endangered adult. On November 11, 2010, the Woodstock Police Department issued its third version of the posting as "Missing Adult - Endangered."

This week I addressed the Woodstock Police Department about why Beth Bentley is not listed on the Illinois State Police website for Missing Endangered Adults.

The answer?

"Beth has been entered on the following:
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
And (the Department understands) that family members have entered Beth on the CueCenter missing website."

But where is the answer to my question? Why isn't Beth listed on the Illinois State Police website for Missing Endangered Adults???

And why would she, age 41 when she went missing, be listed on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children? Hint: if you go to that website at, you won't find Beth.

I wrote to the Illinois State Police to ask how a missing person gets listed on their website. Here's their reply:

"To list a person on the ISP website as a missing person, the investigative agency has to complete a request and submit supporting documentation.  That request is processed through chain of command for approval before posting by the website administration."

Woodstock P.D. is the investigative agency.

Now, the Woodstock Police Department is not going to do anything on the Beth Bentley case just because I ask them to. So, who should ask? Who should insist?

What the hell kind of outcry is it going to take around here?

Wednesday! Mobile food pantry - Johnsburg

If you know anyone in need of assistance, please share this information with them. There is a heavy demand for food pantry services, and most pantries ask that those in need use the service of the pantry in their own community. This one will be in Johnsburg.

Retired members of the Johnsburg Rescue Squad are sponsoring a free food distribution at 4pm Wednesday, February 23rd.

Distribution will be made to those in need of assistance on a first-come, first-served basis.  Anyone who wishes to participate must be at least 18 years old to receive a ticket for food, and only one ticket is allowed per family.  Recipients are asked to provide their own storage containers, such as a large box, tote, laundry basket or garbage bags. 
The distribution will take place at the Johnsburg Community Club, 2315 W. Church St., Johnsburg.

Avoid court (and costs), if you can

Today I was helping a young man deal with a couple of traffic tickets. He had been issued a speeding ticket recently, and he didn't have proof of insurance in the car, so he got a ticket for that, too.

No problem. He deserved both.

The tickets were marked Must Appear, but the officer had told him that he could take proof of insurance and his insurance ticket would be dismissed.

When I called the courthouse last week for information, a court clerk explained that he, the driver, could take proof of insurance to a window on the first floor. Of course, it would have to show that the insurance was in effect at the time of the traffic stop. When we got to the courthouse today, it turned out that the faxed copy of the insurance card from his agent was not acceptable as proof of insurance.

He needed to have 1) the actual insurance card; 2) the policy; or 3) a letter from the insurance agent on insurance agency letterhead.

Here's the exact information:

So today's trip was wasted.

The court clerk was very helpful on the phone last week and explained that, after the insurance ticket was dismissed, then the speeding ticket could be changed to "Payment", avoiding a court appearance and saving the new level of minimum court costs - $125.

I believed that it would be important for this driver to go to Traffic School and to obtain Supervision as part of the judgement for his Guilty plea, because then (hopefully) his speeding ticket would not be reported to the DMV at the Illinois Secretary of State's office. Ticket information is used by insurance companies to calculate risk and premium rates.

Here are his choices:
Pay $120 and be done with it. Conviction goes on the driver's license record; or
Pay $155 and attend the four-hour Traffic School class (includes Supervision); or
Pay $170 and take the four-hour Traffic School class online (includes Supervision).

If you know you're guilty, or you believe you'd lose in court if you fought a ticket, then you want to pay at the window and avoid getting soaked for an extra $125 for saying Hello to the judge.

If you're a gambler or believe you are not guilty or that you can beat the charge in court, then you can roll the dice and go for a win. If you are successful in court, you'll be found not guilty and pay no fine and no court costs. If you lose, do not pass Go, do not collect $200, fork over an extra $125 to keep the lights on in the courtroom and hope the judge will then grant Supervision.

Island Lake trustee candidate taking some heat

Chuck Cermak is taking some undeserved heat in Island Lake right now about his campaign information that he is a member of the Island Lake Chamber of Commerce. Apparently, he submitted his application and $50 check (only $50.00???) to a Board member in January, and that Board member didn't turn it in promptly to the Chamber's director. Chuck's membership application was approved last night.

When people (supporters of other candidates) started sniffing around, they could not confirm Chuck's membership in the Chamber. The Chamber's director didn't know anything about it, because it hadn't been turned in and the Board had not approved Chuck's membership.

When I joined the Chamber of Commerce in Woodstock on March 1, 2006, I certainly believed I was a member after I entered my application online and paid the membership fee by credit card. Why would I have thought otherwise?

Chamber membership is not a club. It's not like joining the Bull Valley Country Club, where some guys on the Board of Directors might decide they don't want a red VW Beetle or a motorcycle in the parking lot, or a guy with a beard in the clubhouse or, heaven forbid, a blogger among their members!

A Chamber of Commerce is a business organization. Any legitimate business ought to be able to join. The membership should become effective upon submitting a properly-completed application and payment of membership dues with good funds.

The decision belongs with the director or executive director of the chamber, not the Board of Directors, and he or she ought to be instructed by the Board that every application is to be accepted, unless there is a solid reason to question or investigate it. If it's a prostitution service fronting as a massage therapy business, okay, keep it out. If it's the Woodstock Chapter of the National Bank Robbers Assn., okay, keep it out.

The Board of Directors of the Island Lake Chamber of Commerce met last night and accepted Chuck's application for membership. If, indeed, Chuck submitted his application and check to a Chamber Director who sat on it, failed to notify the director and didn't turn it in promptly, then Chuck deserves an apology from the Board of Directors of the Chamber and from the Daily Herald for its article on February 18.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Rockford Area Crime Stoppers

Look at the kind of information that is available for the Rockford Area Crime Stoppers Program. An online search on the website of the Illinois Attorney General produces this information. No big deal. No fight for information. All the directors are named, and the financials for five years are shown.

Compare that with the availability of information from the Crime Stoppers for McHenry County and the Woodstock Area Crime Stoppers organizations. Neither group is registered with the Charitable Trust Bureau of the Illinois Attorney General. I wonder why the Rockford Area Crime Stoppers would register there and our two local groups do not.

Crime Stoppers for McHenry County is hiding behind a P.O. Box.

I have finally learned that the Woodstock Area Crime Stoppers can be reached through the Woodstock Police Department. The President is a former chief of the Woodstock P.D. and is a deputy in the Sheriff's Department's Marine Unit, which is shut down until May.

Thanks to the publisher of the Boone County Watchdog for the information! Check out his blog at

Suicide attempt at the County Jail

An attempted suicide occurred at the McHenry County Jail on Friday evening, and so far no word has been carried in the mainstream media about it. Corrections Officers are trained in life-saving procedures, and they would have been expected to make strong efforts to resuscitate the man. I suspect that there would have been minor delays in the arrival of paramedics, due to the facility's being a jail.

The inmate, 42, had been arrested earlier in the week following a domestic violence incident at his home in Crystal Lake.

After his arrest a Rights hearing was held on February 17, and a bond hearing was scheduled for February 22.

More details will follow as they become available.

Simple solution to Squatter's Rights

An interesting and hypothetical situation is posed on today. I commend it to your reading.

Recently, sheriff's department employee Bryan Krause bought his boss's house. Sheriff Keith Nygren sold his house in Hebron (his McHenry County residence, which is needed for him to hold the Office of Sheriff) to his subordinate and supervisor of the Sheriff's Vehicle Garage, Bryan Krause.

Now, Nygren needs a residence in McHenry County. Without it he can't hold the office of Sheriff and collect his nearly $150,000/year pay. Did Nygren make some deal to stay in the house? Supposedly, Krause would like to live in the $250,000 house. Well, it might not be a $250,000 house; that's just what he paid for it. The other houses in the neighborhood are worth about $160,-180,000.

What if Krause wants to move in (to his own house) and Nygren won't move out.

The solution is simple. While Nygren is at work, Krause changes the locks.

Bingo. The next step would be to move all Nygren's household furnishings out to the curb. Of course, being a nice guy Krause might do this on a fair-weather day.

Krause wouldn't have any reason to fear retribution or retaliation at work. After all, everyone knows that all activities are honest, fair, above-board, legal and not conducted in any way that might demean or harm any employee.

And being as how Krause is probably a really nice guy, he'd probably give his boss a day or two to get movers to come and carry everything out of the house - carefully.

By the way, where is Krause's furniture from the house he sold in Marengo in November? Surely, he isn't paying storage fees somewhere, is he?

Want to be a Weather Spotter?

The McHenry County Emergency Management Agency, in conjunction with McHenry County College, is presenting a free “SEVERE WEATHER SPOTTERS CLASS” on Thursday, February 24, 2011 at the McHenry County College Conference Center. There will be two sessions with the afternoon session from 1:00 PM – 3:30 PM and the evening session from 7:00 PM – 9:30 PM.

Guest Speakers for this event will include: McHenry County Emergency Management Director Barry Valentine and Mr. Jim Allsopp from the National Weather Service.

Barry Valentine will be discussing the procedures that are implemented at the McHenry County Government Center in the instance of severe weather. This will be followed by Mr. Jim Allsopp discussing the nature of severe weather systems, the do’s and don’ts during severe weather, how to report severe weather to the National Weather Service, and the role of the National Weather Service.

The McHenry County Emergency Management Agency (MCEMA) does ask that individuals register in advance. The course is free.

Register by phone at 815.338.6400 or complete the online form to be found on the County's website at Click on Departments, click on E, and then click on Emergency Management. Then click on the blue llink for Emergency Weather Spotters Courses; print the form, complete it and fax it to the MCEMA.

OK, so maybe it won't be like being a Storm Chaser for, but you could learn something and be helpful.

RR signs - could be better

Yesterday I wrote about the information signs to be posted at railroad crossings in Illinois - signs that provide the telephone number to call and a crossing location identifier. The placard shown in yesterday's article informed viewers in prominent letters that the Crossing Hotline telephone number was the tollfree number shown. It was a professional sign with an adhesive backing.

Let's take a look at how the Union Pacific has marked three of the grade crossings in Woodstock. Can we expect better out of the Union Pacific. First take a look at these markings on the signal box on North Jefferson Street at East Judd Street, in Woodstock (upper photo). Your eyes are drawn to the street names, and the DOT crossing number is just below them. If you were standing in front of that box in a panic because a gasoline tanker was stalled on the tracks and it was almost time for the afternoon freight train to come through, would you quickly see and recognize the tollfree telephone number on the other door, at the top?

Now look at the signing on the signal box at the crossing at East Calhoun Street and South Madison Street (lower photo). On the side of the signal box facing the corner and away from the tracks is a professionally-made placard with the tollfree hotline number.

And? And nothing else.

You must go around to the other side of the signal box to see the DOT location number. If you are in a panic, will you think to step around to the other side of the box and stand between the box and the tracks? Not hardly!

So now that you know about these boxes, if you see any emergency related to grade crossings, report it. If the gates don't operate properly (e.g., they don't go down when a train approaches), report it.

Who spins the news?

Is it the reporter of a newspaper who spins the news, or is it the editor who approves what a reporter writes?

Are Northwest Herald reporters told to write news stories a "certain" way? I guess if you are a reporter who doesn't write what your editor wants (or tells you to write), you probably don't last too long.

What was going on in yesterday's Northwest Herald article about the candidates for Associate Judge of the McHenry County Circuit Court? There are 15 candidates, and Woodstock attorney Bill Bligh edged out the pack in the eighth ("overall") question with 75.82% of opinionated responses replying “yes.” That question was, "Do you believe this candidate meets acceptable requirements for the office?” (What a softball question! What were the other questions?)

Who voted in that poll? Ballots were sent out to members of the McHenry County and Illinois State Bar Associations who practice in McHenry County and to any other attorneys who requested a ballot. Now that ought to have made it a valid survey! The article didn't report how many surveys were sent out or returned. The open seat on the Court will be filled by selection by the McHenry County Circuit Court judges.

What was "interesting" about the article is that Bligh's name didn't surface until the seventh paragraph in the story.

It was apparently more newsworthy that another candidate on the list, McHenry County Assistant State’s Attorney Thomas Carroll, was described as a "key witness against Bianchi..."

Why do I object to that? First, it has nothing to do with Carroll's being a candidate for a judgeship. Secondly, is Carroll a witness who stepped forward and said that his boss committed a crime and that he was there to make sure his boss paid for it? Or did Special Prosecutor Henry Tonigan select Carroll as a possible witness against Lou Bianchi?

Throwing that description of Carroll into the article is a calculated and cheap shot at both Tom Carroll and Lou Bianchi. Does it reduce Lou Bianchi chances for a fair trial? Does it reduce Tom Carroll's chances for selection as Associate Judge?

The Northwest Herald is advertising for sales personnel right now. It describes itself as "McHenry County's premier provider of print and digital news and information, saying it relies on ground-breaking and innovative thinking to bring its audiences and advertisers together." Comments, anyone?

Beth Bentley - 39 weeks missing now

Yesterday marked the 39th week that Beth Bentley has been missing. From where? Mount Vernon, Ill.? Woodstock, Ill.? Some place in-between or nearby?

Beth was 41 when she disappeared. Who is keeping the pressure on to find her?

There is no indication that the law enforcement agencies in southern Illinois are doing anything. Which ones could be working the case? Mount Vernon PD? Centralia PD? Jefferson County Sheriff's Department? Illinois State Police?

There is no indication that the Woodstock Police Department is doing anything now to find her. Beth was classified as Missing Person-Endangered, but her missing status has never been placed on the website of the Illinois State Police for missing adults. WHY NOT?

How many adults are missing in Illinois? You can check for yourself. Search for "Illinois State Police Missing Adults". Choose the Illinois State Police (official) website. How many? You'll find ten (10). That's all; ten. The oldest case is 1988; the latest is Stacy Peterson (2007).

Is Beth Bentley there? No!

From the State Police website comes the following: "If you have information concerning any endangered missing adults in Illinois, please do one of the following:

- Call (800)U-HELP-ME (843-5763) - nationwide
- Send an e-mail message to the Illinois State Police at Your information will be treated as confidential. Please remember to include the name of the adult in your e-mail message."

I wonder what would happen if hundreds of people emailed the State Police, asking them to list Beth. And if the same hundreds emailed the Woodstock Police Chief or called him to ask why Beth is not so listed.

To save your time, theirs and his, I shall email him today and ask. If I hear from him by Wednesday at 5:00PM, I'll post his reply in a new message on Wednesday. Please delay contacting him or the Illinois State Police until Thursday, so as not to flood their e-mailboxes.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hidden Wounds helps vets with PTSD and TBI

When I was in Columbia, S.C. late last year, I met John Bigham, co-founder of Hidden Wounds, a non-profit organization created to help returning veterans who are suffering from PTSD and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). John and his daughter, Anna, started Hidden Wounds after his son (and her brother), Mills, died about a year after returning from Afghanistan.

Hidden Wounds' website is at  They are embarking on a fund-raising effort to assist a veteran whose in-patient treatment is estimated to cost $800/day for six weeks. I've placed a Payment button on this blog to make it easy for you to help a little.

I'm not involved in any way other than to ask your help. Any donation via the button on this blog is not tracked by me, and I will have no knowledge of any donation or receive any benefit as a result of your gift.

If you would be generous with $5 or $10 (or more), I know that Hidden Wounds will put it to the use intended. Thank you!

For all you pilots out there ...

Ask; always ask. Never assume...

His request approved, the CNN News photographer quickly used a cell phone to call the local airport to charter a flight. 

He was told a twin-engine plane would be waiting
for him at the airport. 

Arriving at the airfield, he spotted a plane warming up outside a hanger. He jumped in with his bag, slammed the door
shut, and shouted, "Let's go." 

The pilot taxied out, swung the plane into the wind
and took off. 

Once in the air, the photographer instructed the
 pilot, "Fly over the valley and make low passes so I can take pictures of the fires 
on the hillsides."

"Why?" asked the pilot. 

"Because I'm a photographer for CNN,"
 he responded, "and I need to get 
some close up shots." 

The pilot was strangely silent for a moment.
 Finally he stammered, "So, what you're telling me, is ... "You're NOT my flight instructor?"

(Author unknown)

Homebuyer to retire from MCSD

The blog, MCSDExposed, reported yesterday that McHenry County Sheriff's Department employee Bryan Krause is expected to retire soon from the sheriff's department. You can read the story at

Krause, as you may know, bought Sheriff Keith Nygren's McHenry County, Ill. home on December 3rd, only two days after Nygren took office for his next four-year term, to which he was re-elected only a month before that.

Does this mean that Krause will live in his own home in Hebron, for which he just paid $250,000? Will Nygren move? Does Krause want Nygren to move? Does Nygren really still live in the house? Was that really still Nygren's residence after the date of sale, December 3?

Good luck, Bryan. I hope you enjoy the privacy of your own home.

Train wreck - about to happen?

What do you do if your car is stuck on a railroad crossing, and then the bells ring, lights flash and the gates come down? Get out and run!

If you get stuck on a Union Pacific crossing, such as the Metra rail service through Woodstock, and there is no train in sight, you might be lucky enough to find a sign like the one to the right, showing a telephone number to call and a location identifier to give to the emergency operator.

Frankly, I've never notified one of these signs in the Woodstock or Crystal Lake areas, but I'll start looking.

Thanks to a Chicago Tribune article and a link to a TribLocal article, I read that Chip Pew, state coordinator for Operation Lifesaver, a non-profit group dedicated to reducing fatalities and collisions at railroad crossings, said that, first, you get out of your car and run for it. If there is time, find a silver box-type structure that is supposed to be near every crossing in the state. It contains a sign with a tollfree telephone number and a unique numbered address (location) for the crossing.

Telling the operator that you are at "the Calhoun Street crossing in Woodstock" is not the right information. While it's better than nothing, you could reach an operator, possibly even out-of-state, who won't have a clue what you are talking about. If you provide the unique identifier on the notification sign, the operator at the Union Pacific site should be able to notify an engineer quickly of any emergency.

If you can't find the sign, dial 9-1-1 and tell the dispatcher what's going on and exactly where your call is stuck.

If you abandon your vehicle, run away from your vehicle on a 45° angle back toward the train. This will place the point-of-impact past you and help protect you from flying debris.

Reminder: when the gates go up after a train passes, wait until the red lights and bells stop. Read the sign there while you are waiting. The gates might just start back down for a train approaching from the opposite direction. Waiting might also save you $250.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

District 300 paid for that?

"Consultant tells district to make shift toward teaching, learning."

Carpentersville District 300 paid for that advice? Did they hear it? So what do they do? They are scratching five administrator positions and creating five new assistant superintendent positions for teaching and learning. Hello? What do they think those are? They sure sound like "administrator" positions to me.

But you know? You could probably fill in any District name and number, so I don't feel like I'm picking on Carpentersville.

Maybe I'm reacting to the high salaries in McHenry District 156. Or to my feelings about many administrators in other districts. In my opinion, a bunch of them are not worth what they are being paid. When I attend meetings and price out the cost of the meeting, I am appalled.

Next time you go to a meeting at a school, make a list. Guess at their pay and their hourly rate (you'll be low). What do they contribute to the meeting? What does that meeting "cost"? Now, add 30% for benefits. And don't forget their travel time. Plus the cost of the substitute teacher.

If schools had to operate on a business model (efficiency, productivity, cost/benefit ratios, etc.), they'd be chasing Borders' down the drain. And the scary part is, when those administrators get out of the way, their replacements are going to cost you/us even more!

Spinning wheel - got to go 'round

And around and around she goes, artfully kept in motion now by spinmeisters subsidized by the McHenry County taxpapers.

Now the McHenry County Sheriff's Department is putting out-sourced legal counsel to the task of spokespersons for Sheriff Nygren. How much longer will taxpayers put up with this nonsense? And the Northwest Herald editors keep falling for it. Or maybe they aren't "falling" for it? Are they supporting it? Is there such a thing as an investigative reporter at the Northwest Herald? Has that paper ever considered a reporter for such a role?

The latest? There isn't any "investigation" into racial profiling at the McHenry County Sheriff's Department. It's a "review". Cough, cough; please pass the gas mask.

And who says so? "Attorneys for the department". Oh, you mean the McHenry County State's Attorney. You mean "the" attorney for the Sheriff's Department.

No way.

Now the spokespersons for the Sheriff's Department are private, out-sourced attorneys in private private, James G. Sotos (James G. Sotos & Associates, LTD.) and one of his staff attorneys, Elizabeth K. Barton (John Marshall Law School, 2008).

The Northwest Herald article in today's paper referred to a "court document". OK, which court? U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois, Western District, in Rockford?

Reportedly Barton "argued" (in a court filing) that internal investigation materials shouldn't be released (made public) because they are relevant to an ongoing police investigation. What? "Investigation"? I thought it was a "review." Very cool that the Sheriff's own attorney uses the word "investigation". Police don't "investigate" unless there is some suspicion of illegality. Do they?

But how do you impartially investigate yourself??? Isn't the outcome fairly certain? Isn't the purpose of the "review" to show that no racial profiling occurred? Soon we will hear again, "No evidence of racial profiling was found." Ho-hum.

Were any of those 51 deputies foolish enough to complete the questionnaire? Did any of them first ask if they were suspected of any illegal act? Didi they violate their oath of office? Did they falsify official documents? Were they read their Miranda Rights? "Anything you say (or write) can and will be used against you in a court of law?"

Hey, deputies, how do you feel when you hear those words (instead of saying them)? Did you call your lawyers and ask how (or whether) you should complete those questionnaires? If you have the constitutional right to remain silent, you had better give it up only upon the advice of your attorney (and maybe not even then).

Aww, it was just a simple mistake that over 5,000 tickets show certain drivers' names as Caucasian. Names like Gomez, Zepeda, Villaloboz, Martinez, Sanchez, Mendez, Maldonado, Hernandez, etc. Over 5,000 "simple mistakes".

Where was the supervisor who checked over a deputy's work at the end of the shift? How did they overlook 5,000 "mistakes"? Did they not ask their deputies how they ascertained that Gomez was Caucasian and not Hispanic? Didn't they ask, even once, about an emerging pattern of mislabeling of drivers' races?

A little humor in McHenry

Yesterday morning I enjoyed breakfast at the Green Street Cafe in McHenry. Service was good; the food was hot; prices were reasonable.

And an added benefit was a chuckle at the counter, when I spotted this jar.

D-156 pay outrage

What is first in the sights of a new watchdog group in McHenry County? It's the referendum on the April 5 ballot regarding McHenry (High) School District 156. If this group and this issue don't get traction in McHenry County, are the residents brain-dead?

The first issue (for many) is the size of this school district. Many of you already know. How big is this school district? Ten schools? Five? Three? Two.....  Two schools! Only two schools. Two high schools.

Wait until you see the hand-out being distributed by McHenry Citizens Taxwatch. Be sure to get one!

Check out the Top 20 Teacher and Administrator annual salaries at D-156 for 2009. They range from $162,786 down to $100,105.

The average annual salary is $112,144
Teachers work 180 days per year
The "average person" works 240 days per year
These top 20 average $623/DAY earnings.

This new watchdog group will also help you learn just how rich the retirement pay scheme is for D-156 teachers and administrators.

For more information, be sure to attend the townhall meeting on March 13, 2011, at 1:00PM. Tax fighter Jim Tobin is the keynote speaker. Visit  N.B., the website is .org (The organization is aware of the error on its signs, and a .com domain will be established to facilitate access to the new website.)

Maybe this new group should be represented with residents from every school district in McHenry County!

Island Lake trustee candidate Joe Ptak

Island Lake businessman Joe Ptak is a candidate for trustee on the Island Lake Village Board. The election is April 5. Joe is very concerned about how the Village of Island Lake is currently being run. Joe recently sent me the following email, which is quoted in its entirety.

From Joe Ptak:

Our past two (2) mayors have been indicted, along with other village personnel.  In the last three (3) years our town has spent $684,316 for "legal" services ($250,000 in 2010).  People tell me we live in a small corrupt town (pop. 8,080), with a shady past, and I should be careful with what I say.
Since 2000, our town has lost 6% of its total population, while all surrounding towns have experienced a growth in their population. 
Twice in my life I have had to take the following oath...once as a new citizen to our country and once when I volunteered to serve in our military:
"...I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;..."
I intend to take that oath one more time as a new Trustee on the Island Lake Village Board.

The pay for VOIL Trustee is $100.00 per meeting.  The cost of freedom is much higher.
Please help my running mates Shannon Fox, Thea Morris and me to reclaim our small but proud town.

Wisc. Dems shirk duty

What a joke that is taking place in the Wisconsin legislature?

Wasn't it just a few years ago that the Dems fled Wisconsin to avoid their legislative duty? Or was it the Republicans who fled that time?

If Gov. Scott Walker sent the State Police out to find the legislators who are AWOL, 'cuff them and haul them back to Madison, does that order stop at the Illinois state line? Wisconsin legislators are said to be holed up in Rockford (some at the Clock Tower Inn). Should they be "captured" and "escorted" back to the State line, and then pushed across the invisible line into the waiting arms of the State Police?

Gov. Walker needs to be taking a look at "peaceful assembly" of the People and start arresting those who disrupt the process of government in the State House. And school district officials need to dock the pay of teachers who are AWOL from classes. Fire a few of them. Their contract says they will be at school and teaching. They weren't? Just use the words of The Donald. "You're fired!"

When our own state legislators grow some backbone and start taking serious action to restore solvency to the State of Illinois, will we see massive protests from the "Haves"?

Watch what's coming in terms of news about pensions for teachers and administrators in Illinois. If this state isn't bankrupt already, it won't be long.

Borders' - bitter news?

Was the headline on the editorial page of the Northwest Herald today right? It read, "Borders' loss bitter news". Should the headline have been "Borders' losses bitter news"?

Two days ago local readers were treated to this sentence in the Northwest Herald: "It owes tens of millions of dollars to publishers, including $41.1 million to Penguin Putnam, $36.9 million to Hachette Book Group, $33.8 million to Simon & Schuster, and $33.5 million to Random House."

Ho-hum. Next article?

Look at this in another format:

$41,100,000 Penguin Putnam
$36,900,000 Hachette Book Group
$33,800,000 Simon & Schuster
$33,500,000 Random House


Consider what that unpaid debt means not only to the Borders' employees who will lose their jobs but also to the employees of those publishers and to the authors of the books that won't be sold.

At what point, a whole lot sooner, should the publishers have stopped shipping to Borders?

The editorial concluded with "The manner in which many people consume the written word is changing..."

It changed years ago, when school stopped teaching students to read and stopped requiring students to read, and when parents let TV and videogames take over their childrens' lives. Someone once said the person who doesn't read is no better than the person who cannot read.

Kids have learned history from The Simpsons. They think South Park is a good model. They believe what they read on the internet. Use a dictionary? Ha! Just Google it. Research your paper? Nah, just copy-and-paste. And the teachers let them get away with it!

What will the library of the future look like? Maybe it will just be an old building filled with dust.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Another request to Judge Graham for clarification

Be sure to read Thursday's about who might finally be thinking of McHenry County residents, taxpayers and their pocketbooks.

Could it be the Special Prosecutor, Henry Tonigan, who apparently hasn't billed the last four months of legal work yet? Will he wait until the 4th of July and hope all the fireworks happen at the same time?

Could it be the County Board?

No, this time it's the Illinois State's Attorney's Appellate Prosecutor. FEN reported today that ILSAAP Director Patrick Delfino had filed a motion seeking clarification around the topic of Special Prosecutor Henry Tonigan.

According to FEN, Appellate Prosecutor Chuck Colburn will be in Judge Graham's courtroom on Wednesday, February 23.

I don't know all the details but, from what I understand, ILSAAP possibly could have taken on the duties of Special Prosecutor as part of its charter or duties, for which McHenry County already may be paying $30,000/year. Getting them for $30K, instead of $230K (so far) and more bills coming from Henry Tonigan, is starting to sound like it would have been a pretty deal for McHenry County taxpayers.

Was there any reason that ILSAAP couldn't have taken on those duties, when Judge Graham was ready to flip the coin and choose a Special Prosecutor?

Crime Stoppers secrecy continues

Requests to Crime Stoppers for McHenry County for information continue to go unanswered. Recently, I emailed Mary Torscher, who identified herself last October as Secretary of the organization in her sole response. I asked whether Crime Stoppers for McHenry County is a Federal 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization and, if so, its FEIN.

Has she replied? Has she even acknowledged my request? No, on both accounts.

There is a national Crime Stoppers organization called Crime Stoppers USA. On its website they list "McHenry County Crime Stoppers" as a member. A membership requirement is 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status from the IRS.

The problems?

The business name is not "McHenry County Crime Stoppers". The Illinois Secretary of State has recorded the legal name as "Crime Stoppers for McHenry County". Correct legal names are important.

And IRS has no record of either name.

IRS does list a McHenry Area Crime Stoppers, but this is the old program of the McHenry (Ill.) Police Department, not the County-wide Crime Stoppers group. Even Crime Stoppers USA confused the old McHenry Area Crime Stoppers with Crime Stoppers for McHenry County. Now they know that they are different.

Ths wouldn't be such a big deal, except for the stone-walling by the Crime Stoppers for McHenry County organization. By hiding out behind a P.O. Box and refusing to respond to letters (and emails, since I found Torscher's email address), it is beginning to feel like they have something to hide.

Do the board members know that the Secretary is ignoring legitimate inquiries?

If the organization is not a 501(c)(3) organization, it is not eligible to be a member of Crime Stoppers USA. Will it be eliminated from membership until it can meet that requirement?

Where are the financial records of Crime Stoppers for McHenry County? How much does it take in in a year and from what sources? Is it soliciting "donations" and leading contributors to believe that their contributions are tax-deductible? What are its expenditures?

Are an annual meeting and banquet planned for this month? Will it again be at the Woodstock Country Club? What does a fete like that cost? How much money did Crime Stoppers for McHenry County turn over to the McHenry County Sheriff's Department last year for equipment and training that the taxpayers ought to be paying for?

Why does it not care about concerns about the operation of the anonymous tip line? Three callers last year were less than satisfied, yet the organization expressed no interest in knowing what the problems were.

The only legitimate confidential part of Crime Stoppers is the identity of a caller to the tip line and the tip provided to law enforcement. Crime Stoppers is not a "black" operation. Its funding, operations and membership should be transparent.

Family Service retiree honored

Yesterday Ed Rickert was recognized and honored at Family Service and Community Mental Health Center for his 30 years of service. A reception was held at 5:30PM for him at the Family Service offices in McHenry, where Ed was thanked (and lightly roasted) by co-workers and friends.

I met Ed several years ago, after I encountered a few snags in service to a family member and went over heads to the person in charge. Often I just asked to be directed to someone who would solve a paperwork problem, but Ed never passed the buck. Although he was a senior administrator by that time, he was generous with his time. He always returned phone calls and replied to emails and was committed to a satisfactory and appropriate solution.

At the time of his retirement on January 31 Ed was Vice-President of Special Programs. He had been heavily involved in the creation of McHenry County's Mental Health Court, and one of his final efforts was to see a veterans' program for mental health services get underway.

Recently I shared a story about Ed's help with a committee on which I serve at Family Service. Ed's understanding, compassion and listening skills led quickly from a family member's refusal to a complete resolution on a paperwork issue.

Ed's co-workers said that Ed will be missed. Here are some things to miss, Ed. Meetings that start too early or run too long. Many days of emails and phone calls to be returned by 5PM. And, most importantly, be sure to miss those little fish in the pond and hook the "keepers" with that new rod and reel. Thank you for your friendship and all your help!

Woodstock PD February traffic initiative

The traffic focus of the Woodstock Police Department in February is violations of center lane usage and medians in Woodstock.

Woodstock Police probably don't have a ticket quota, but maybe they should have one. If they did, they could meet it easily in several locations on northbound Route 47. One of them is from the Citgo station by Burger King to the bp station at the light by McDonald's. Another is in front of the Shell station (just south of Wendy's), where drivers blast past stopped cars to enter the left turn lane at the light at Judd St./Irving Ave. I have seen northbound violators as far south as the front of Ace Hardware.

The problem is, while an officer is writing one ticket, five-to-ten more violations occur. Would a solution be a change in traffic laws and use of mobile photo enforcement? You know - a Big Brother approach? (I can hear the screams already.) Big Brother just catches the violators, so what's the problem with that?

Change the laws to make the vehicle owner also responsible for the operation of his vehicle, and then just mail the ticket and attached video to the owner of the vehicle. Post it; enforce it; and watch the violations drop off. Result? Safer roads for all of us.

It's working with red-light cameras. Why not expand the use to center-lane violators?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Q. Why doesn't Tonigan bill monthly?

A. Because he doesn't have to.

What would be behind the thinking of Special Prosecutor Henry Tonigan in his pattern of bunching billings and presenting them when he feels like it?

One answer might be that the public outrage blows over and pretty quickly becomes "old news".

And why does Judge Graham allow that?

Judge Graham seems to have given Tonigan a blank check, and it's a check that the taxpayers of McHenry County are on the hook for; apparently, they must make it good.

Since first being appointed as Special Prosecutor, Tonigan has submitted only two bills, and the total is almost $221,500. And he hasn't even billed yet for September, October, November and December 2010. How much will that billing be for? $140,000?

Why doesn't Judge Graham order even such a reasonable requirement as monthly billings?

The County Board is just blowing smoke at Judge Graham with its powder-puff Resolution. It sounds almost like, "I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house down." Only Tonigan is in a brick house.

The County Board needs to stop playing "nice" with our money and grow some backbone; it should go to court and formally - legally - request Judge Graham to order monthly billings, with detail as to what attorney worked on which matter, on what day, at what hourly rate, and for how many minutes. And how much is out-sourced, with the same detail.

Stone-walling a blogger just doesn't work

Check out McHenry County Blog ( this morning, where Cal Skinner writes about the decision of the Public Access Counselor in the Office of the Illinois Attorney General, who ruled in a February 14 letter against Sheriff Nygren in Cal's request for SWAT training records for Deputy Eric Woods. Woods, as you'll recall, is the deputy who was injured at the sheriff's department shooting range when an unsafe practice was conducted by the SWAT team.

Woods was off work for several weeks and incurred what was probably significant medical expense - paid for, of course, by the sheriff's department (or workers' comp).

Sheriff Nygren called Woods' injuries "road rash". I'll bet Woods isn't laughing over that one.

The Public Access Counselor ruled that the Sheriff's Dept. improperly denied Cal's request, the appeal for which was dated April 29, 2010. That's more than nine months ago! All Cal wanted to know was Woods' previous SWAT training dates. Then the sheriff's department started a little do-sa-do and tried to dance all over the square to avoid providing the information. Will it now continue to deny it and force Cal into court for the information?

In a comment on Cal's blog, "AZ Supporter" asked what Cal hoped to learn, asking "That accidents happen"?

I answered that one for him with my own comment:

"No, AZ Supporter, accidents don't "happen". Woods' injury at the range that day wasn't an "accident." OK, it was accidental. Nobody intentionally shot on a metal target, expecting his round to ricochet and strike Woods. It was an accident "waiting to happen", due to carelessness and failures in training and supervision.

"Look at the stupidity and wasteful expense in fighting Cal's request. It's mismanagement at the extreme and an effort to stone-wall. Sure would be interesting to know how high up the decision was made to deny information. Above Lt. Miller, who was on the scene and therefore should not have participated in the denial? Was Undersheriff Zinke involved in the denial? How about Nygren?

"There is a whole, new FOIA request, Cal - all the documentation at MCSD surrounding the denial."

Is Cal trying to put to rest the rumor at the time of the injury that Woods' was being subjected to hazing or initiation? Was the day of the injury his first practice with the SWAT Team?

Good going, Cal. I hope you get the answer to your original request!

Homeschoolers don't want "registration"

Illinois law allows homeschooling. Should the State keep its hands off? Read the following message from the Home School Legal Defense Association (, sent after yesterday's lobbying (educational) effort in Springfield, Ill.

"4,000 Homeschoolers Say "No" to Registration Bill

"Dear HSLDA Friends and Members,

"An awe-inspiring 4,000 homeschoolers flooded the Statehouse today as Sen. Maloney did his best to get the Senate Education Committee to support his plan to mandate registration for homeschoolers.  But the committee did not vote, so homeschoolers must continue to press for the withdrawal of the bill.


"Please call your own senator and ask him or her to contact Sen. Maloney and ask him to withdraw--NOT AMEND--his bill.  Use our legislative toolbox at to find your senator.


"Sen. Maloney has stated he intends to amend his bill so it impacts homeschoolers only--not other private schools.  There is no way to amend his bill to transform it into a good bill.  Its objective is to push government control into your living room and kitchen, and that is unacceptable no matter how he may amend it.

"Prior to the hearing this morning, the entire auditorium filled up quickly for the 9:15 a.m.  Home School Freedom Summit in the Howlett Building.  After that, homeschoolers poured into the Statehouse. They filled the committee hearing room, then completely filled that entire floor of the Statehouse, even pushing up into the upper galleries. Security estimated the crowd at 4,000. 

"While waiting for the hearing to start, the crowd beginning singing.  Strains of "America the Beautiful," "God Bless America," "Amazing Grace," and "The Star-Spangled Banner" drifted into the committee room.  No one present will ever forget the huge, orderly, but passionate crowd, the singing, and the sense that their presence made a powerful statement in defense of liberty. No Illinois senator or representative will forget that statement, either, I believe.

"Recognizing the crowd, staff agreed--for the first time in the history of the Illinois legislature--to leave the doors to the committee hearing room open during the hearing (if the crowd would stay quiet)!  The hearing went longer than scheduled.  Homeschool leaders testified powerfully against the bill. Sen. Maloney testified that officials "needed to know" who was homeschooling, though it was never entirely clear why. 

"Some senators worried about homeschoolers "falling through the cracks." But if "falling through the cracks" means kids ending high school without a diploma, without being able to read, without being able to enter college without remedial classes, and with a juvenile justice record,  then "falling through the cracks" is quite common in public schools. The sad truth is that the public schools do not have the solution to "falling through the cracks!"  Why have the least effective system of education supervise the most effective system?

"The senators on the committee seem closely divided between "for" and "against" on SB 136.  The change of a single vote could have dramatic consequences.  The efforts of every single homeschool family in the state are urgently needed."

The above message was sent over the name of Scott A. Woodruff, HSLDA Senior Counsel.