Pekau silences accountability to expand his political power
By Ray Hanania
Mayor Keith Pekau has launched a campaign to silence his critics and expand his power by reducing accountability in Orland Park, the largest municipality between Chicago and Joliet.
His most recent effort to expand power is to remove Orland Park from the “confines” of state laws that define a “professional” and experienced Village Manager.
The Village Managerial System has been in place in Orland Park since 1983 and has been the backbone of every major advancement Orland Park has seen, nearly all implemented by the former Mayor Dan McLaughlin. Although McLaughlin made one crucial mistake which resulted in Pekau’s accidental election, McLaughlin’s 22 years in office were marked with distinction and achievement nurturing Orland into the great city it was when Pekau stumbled into power on his road to authoritarian control.
Since his election, Pekau has done little to advance Orland Park other than announce a few new businesses, give big-buck contracts to cronies and political donors, and bully his critics into silence.
Pekau’s biggest achievement is how he has undermined Democracy in Orland Park by consolidating power and silencing diverse voices and criticism that ensure openness and transparency. And, by giving taxpayer contracts to his donors and cronies.
Under his “rubber stamp board,” Pekau eliminated all village committees. Orland Park previously had several committees that brought together elected officials, department heads with specialized knowledge and community leader volunteers who helped address specific issues and needs.
Pekau replaced them with one new bully pulpit for himself called the “Committee of the Whole.”
By creating the Committee of the Whole, Pekau has block creative voices and ideas, giving him total dictatorial control over every issue.
There is no longer a diversity of ideas in Orland Park. Just one idea. Pekau’s idea. With no independent trustees, Pekau does whatever he wants, not only skirting Robert’s Rules of Order to inject his opinions into every discussion when he wants, but also ensuring that no one can challenge his flawed thinking without being attacked personally.
Under his predecessors, including McLaughlin, the mayor and village policies often faced challenge and criticism. Challenge and criticism breeds accountability. If something wasn’t right, there was always at least one trustee, or columnist, who challenged the policy and bringing alternative ideas to public light.
Pekau doesn’t want that. Pekau believes he is above accountability and challenge. Critics are personally attacked, and he rarely addresses the issues raised.
Despite Pekau’s tyranny, here are the facts: Eliminating the Village Managerial form of government strips away the professional guidelines that help ensure that taxpayers and residents of a village get someone who knows how to manage an important municipality. Instead, village government will rely on a mayor whose “vast knowledge” is limited to lawn care.
Pekau placed a referendum on the April 4 ballot that reads: “Shall the Village of Orland Park retain the managerial form of government?”
The referendum is written like a double negative to confuse some voters. The resolution should have been written simply as: “Shall the Village of Orland Park eliminate the managerial form of Government” with a clearly understood meaning.
Pekau wants you to think a “No” is the right vote. But under Pekau’s wording, to keep the Village Managerial System you must vote Yes!
Pekau wasn’t waiting to find out if he confused the voters enough. He introduced a law that didn’t say “IF” voters elect to “not retain” the system, but said “Voters have decided” and he went on to explain what he plans to do.
The Pekau ordinance details how he personally will name a new Village Manager that doesn’t have to meet state experience qualifications and only listen to him. (Read the law for yourself and don’t believe Pekau’s exaggerations and falsehoods.)
That new Village Manager would serve until Pekau is removed from office and would get a contract just like the one he is trying to eliminate.
Pekau falsely claims the current Village Manager position operates without accountability. The truth is, under the current system the Village Manager is accountable, but also is of independent professional thought. The mayor and trustees can, at any time, reject recommendations and proposals he (or she) makes.
In other words, under the state-defined, experienced professional Village Manager, the board and mayor HAVE power over him (or her), making the Village Manager accountable.
Under Pekau’s Village Manager law, rubber stamped by his board without even a peep last week, the “Pekau Village Manager” would serve at Pekau’s direction. Pekau, the lawn care man, will be the new Village Manager.
If he wins this referendum, it can apply to any experienced position. For example, why require an experienced police professional to be the Police Chief? Pekau can simply appoint a crony from the lawn care industry or a sycophant.
And why have an elected Board of Trustees? Pekau can eliminate them, too.
Pekau wants power and to control every independent government, too, targeting the school boards, library and fire district (where I do some media work). And he has attacked good journalism like slandering the Illinois Review online news website which offers salient and insightful perspectives on conservative politics that exposes Pekau as a fraud. They have some of the best writers on local and regional politics that you won’t find anywhere else.
Vote YES April 4 on the Village Manager resolution. Reject all the candidates Pekau has endorsed.
(This column first appeared Monday Feb. 27, 2023 in the Southwest News Newspaper Chain which includes the prestigious newspapers, “The Regional Newspaper,” the Des Plaines Valley News and the “Southwest News-Herald.”)
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter. A political analyst and CEO of Urban Strategies Group, Hanania’s opinion columns on mainstream issues are published in the Southwest News Newspaper Group in the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers. His Middle East columns are published in the Arab News. For more information on Ray Hanania visit www.Hanania.com or email him at email@example.com.)
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