OPINION: Coronavirus hits Orland Village Hall as Pekau challenges virus restrictions
After championing the fight to ease coronavirus restrictions, and suing Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau is dealing with the news that an employee who works with him has been diagnosed with coronavirus. An employee in the Village Manager’s Office has been diagnosed with Coronavirus, but the Village Manager has so far not spoken about it publicly
By Ray Hanania
(UPDATE BELOW — Village officials acknowledge story 7 hours after first contact comment request. Read below)
Less than one week after Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau used taxpayer monies to file a vague and unclear lawsuit against Gov. Pritzker demanding that COVID-19 restrictions be eased, the coronavirus struck close to home.
According to sources, an employee in the Village Manager’s Office at Orland Park Village Hall has tested positive for Coronavirus.
Although this is the first confirmed case of COVID-19 at Orland Park’s Village Hall – other government agencies have reported cases – Pekau’s high profile publicity, his demand restrictions be eased, and his taxpayer-funded lawsuit against Gov. Pritzker’s coronavirus plan has made Orland Park the symbol of a growing movement of people who believe the virus is more of a myth than a threat.
In an email to employees on Wednesday, (June 24, 2020) Village Manager George Koczwara said the Village contacted employees who have come into contact with the confirmed COVID-19 patient informing them of possible exposure.
“I understand the concerns other employees in the workplace may feel and want to provide assurance that we are acting prudently and safely to continue to ensure the workplace remains safe for continued operations,” Koczwara wrote in an email.
“Measures have been taken for a thorough cleaning of Village Hall tonight.”
In the email, Koczwara said employees who have concerns of exposure should “consult with a physician.”
Koczwara did not respond to a request for comment.
Orland Park is in the heart of Illinois’s coronavirus pandemic in suburban Cook County where the state has reported nearly 140,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and nearly 7,000 deaths. About 37,000 of the confirmed cases are in suburban Cook County along with nearly 2,000 deaths.
One infection can dramatically multiply and cause dozens of other infections as symptoms often do not appear for up to 14 days after initial contact. Meanwhile, individuals who have been infected can easily spread the infection during this two week asymptomatic carrier period.
Orland Park, which has a population of 58,000 has had 530 confirmed coronavirus cases (zip codes 60462, 60467), based on only 5,105 tests, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, a one percent infection rate compared to an average of 3 to 6 percent in other communities where population density is greater.
PEKAU EXPLOITS PANDEMIC FOR HIS OWN POLITICS
Pekau has used the low confirmed case and testing numbers in Orland Park to turn the coronavirus pandemic into a political base for his advocacy and attacks against political rivals locally and statewide.
Pekau has attacked all of the members of the Illinois General Assembly, isolating himself and putting Orland Park at political risk at losing support for more generous funding.
And, Pekau has exploited statewide public frustrations against Pritzker to define himself as Pritzker’s chief critic and rival. Some people have speculated that Pekau, a former landscaper, might run for governor.
Founded on this political logic, Pekau has demanded without details that COVID-19 restrictions be removed and that Pritzker ease the burden on the business community, which has been hit hard by the pandemic.
Ironically, the idea to help local businesses was first proposed by a political rival Trustee Dan Calandriello at an April 6, 2020 board meeting long before Pekau saw a political opportunity to exploit the pandemic for his own political agenda. At the time, Pekau attacked Calandriello, who asked the board to make support for helping local businesses a priority, accusing the trustee of “political grandstanding.”
After making an 8-minute blistering personal attack against Calandriello, the youngest member of the village board, several weeks later Pekau announced he was going to make supporting local businesses a priority, taking Calandriello’s idea and making it his own.
In other words, as long as Pekau got credit for it, it was alright to pursue and discuss at the village board meeting. But if someone else comes up with a great idea to help the taxpayers and businesses of Orland Park and he’s not patted on the back or celebrated as the genius author, he doesn’t want it to happen.
Pekau has taken control of the village by eliminating all of the board’s committees and forcing every issue to come before a “Committee of the Whole” in which he also exercises a vote. The COW has significantly narrowed the ability to get things done to his office and voter block of three trustees, giving him a 4 to 3 vote.
To pander to public frustrations, Pekau has announced summer programs including three concerts, although he ended up cancelling one, the opening of the village swimming pool, and an Independence Day celebration where he can reign supreme with supporters.
Pekau continues to bully, harass and threaten anyone who challenges his tyranny, including this writer.
And he does all this on an astronomical salary of $150,000 a year, paid for by the taxpayers.
UPDATE from Orland Park Village
After reaching out to the Village Manager Thursday morning at 8:30 AM, 9 AM and 9:30 AM, the Village put out this press release at 3 PM today in response to numerous news media inquiries:
Village Hall Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19
Orland Park, IL (June 25, 2020) – The Village was notified that a Village Hall employee, despite having no symptoms of the virus, tested positive for COVID-19.
In response, the Village of Orland Park immediately implemented the following measures:
- Following the guidelines set forth by the CDC and in consultation with the Village’s occupational health provider, the employee who tested positive, as well as others who were in prolonged contact with the employee, are self-quarantining.
- The Village hired a professional cleaning company to sanitize and disinfect the Village Hall buildings. Village Hall was professionally sanitized on June 24, 2020.
Since the CDC announcement of the pandemic and establishment of workplace safety guidelines in March 2020, the Village has provided employees in all departments with gloves, masks, and hand sanitizer. Additionally, the Village has implemented social distancing measures, daily temperature checks, and enhanced remote meetings. Employees who feel ill or who display any symptoms of COVID-19 are directed to refrain from reporting to work.
After being closed to the public following the initial COVID-19 emergency declaration, Village Hall reopened on June 1, 2020 and continues to remain open.
The public is always welcome to conduct Village business by phone (708.403.6100) or by visiting the Village’s website at www.orlandpark.org. The following popular services can be performed online and/or over the phone:
- Paying water and sewer bills
- Applying for permits
- Submitting a service request
- Paying a parking ticket
- Reporting a concern
Payments can also be made by remitting payment in one of the following water billing drop boxes.
- In front of the Village Hall on the median strip located just before the circle drive
- At each of the Village’s commuter parking stations located at 143rd, 153rd and 179th Streets
- At the Sportsplex in front of the circle drive
The safety of residents, customers, and employees continues to be the foremost priority for the Village of Orland Park.