Were $100,000 Checks, Cars Okayed Or Not?
In the course of trying to oust the village manager, trustees learn he OK'd a $100,000 check, and a car, for his outgoing predecessor. There's a scramble to find out if the then-board approved it.
In what has become a five-month back-and-forth over whether Niles Village Manager George Van Geem is to stay in his position or not, trustees shed some light recently on one of their concerns.
When trustees first approached Van Geem back in January with a buyout proposal that offered him six months of salary, Van Geem asked for a greater amount, saying the previous two village managers got a year's salary and a car, Trustee Jim Hynes said at the May 22 village board meeting.
That has flabbergasted many of the trustees, since two of them--Louella Preston and Andrew Przybylo--sat on the board when former village manager Mary Kay Morrissey left in fall 2005 and didn't know about the $100,000 bonus, Trustee Chris Hanusiak said Thursday.
"That money to be expended at those levels would have had to have board approval," Hanusiak said.
"It should be in the minutes and there would need to have been an ordinance. There should be documentation."
Van Geem, who was the village's finance director under Morrissey and cut the $100,000 check, says he has an original memo, on paper, from 2005 which authorized him to pay the amount to Morrissey. Van Geem then succeeded Morrissey as village manager after she left in late 2005.
"I have a memo from the mayor (then-Mayor Nicholas Blase, who has since served prison time for a fraud-related felony) saying the board had approved it," Van Geem said. The document is dated Oct. 11, 2005, he said.
Village Clerk Marlene Victorine did not find any references to the bonus in the minutes from that time period, the Journal & Topics reported yesterday.
The paper also reported that, after it requested information under the Freedom of Information Act, the village's FOIA officer, Kathy Thake, provided a December 2005 bill of sale for a 2004 Ford Crown Victoria to Morrissey for $10. The bill of sale was signed by Van Geem.
Hanusiak said trustees are seeking more information, and that they've given questions to Village Attorney Joe Annunzio, who in turn has given them to an independent attorney to research and report back on before the June 22 board meeting.
"These are huge questions for the village," Hanusiak said, adding the board wants to find out who authorized the $100,000 payment to Morrissey.
"A memo (from former mayor Blase) isn't enough," he reiterated. "Blase didn't have that power. It has to be board-approved."