VERMILION CO., IL. (ECWd) –
March 10th. Vermilion County Board Meeting.
Complaints against the Vermilion County Board Increase – Dramatically!
It’s not just the wind victims anymore!
The March meeting began on time this month at 6 pm by Chairman Marron with a larger crowd than usual. The meeting started with 25 members present, 1 absent and 1 vacancy. Board member Miller was absent (excused), but showed up later in the meeting.
The vacant county board seat in District #7 was filled by Cari West-Monson. She was sworn in by the Honorable Judge Tom O’Shaughnessy. Judge O’Shaughnessy reminds West-Monson and all board members of their duties as board members to never forget that their constituents need the board’s support and compassion as they seek help from the Vermilion county board.
Under agenda item #11, Sheryl Reifsteck Regional Superintendent of Schools, presents Sheriff Hartshorn with a check for $17,000 for the D.A.R.E. program in Vermilion County.
Audience comments – Chairman Marron reminds everyone that there is a 30 minutes time limit with 5 minutes allowed per person
The first to speak is Gerald R. Block, former chairman of the Vermilion county board. Mr. Block feels that the politics of the board changed in 2012 and at that time Nikki Bogart told Mr. Block that she would be fired. Mr. Block was told at that time by Chairman Weinard that he was being pressured to fire Bogart, but as long as he was chairman her job was safe. Unfortunately for Bogart she was fired within a few weeks when Mike Marron took over as chairman – for no good reason given. Mr. Block quotes former chairman Weinard on the firing as stating that Bogart was “valuable and competent” – yet she was fired within weeks of Marron taking over? What changed? (The audience applauds as Mr. Block steps down).
The second to speak is Molly Bogart. Ms. Bogart asks the board to have a conscience regarding the recent firing of Nikki Bogart by Mike Marron. She asks that they don’t act as Republicans or Democrats, but represent all of their constituents and do what is right. She ask that the board do the job to which they have been elected and don’t be a puppet to those whose goals have been divisive and destructive to our community. Your job is to look out for what is best for our county rather than blindly follow those whose goal is to advance their own agenda. (Applause follows Ms. Bogart’s presentation)
Number three is Arthur Cronkite from Vermilion County. Mr. Cronkite starts with a brief history of the wind turbine victim’s abuse by the Vermilion county board. He starts with character assassinations of Darrell and Kim Cambron and moves on to the betrayal of Ted Hartke by the county board and the lies and deception by Invenergy attorney Mike Blazer in testimony before the county board and his close relationship with Vermilion county assistant state’s attorney Bill Donahue. Mr. Cronkite also reminds the board of Mr. Donahue’s public character attack on University of Illinois Law professor Eric Freyfogle just because Prof. Freyfogle told the wind Ad Hoc committee that the county had the authority to regulate industrial wind turbines in almost any way that they see appropriate – thus going against Donahue’s interpretation. (In addition, Mr. Donahue wrote a crude, un-professional and frankly embarrassing letter stating the same to the U of I professor). Mr. Cronkite states that what we have witnessed at the Vermilion county board of the last few years is a democratic travesty and it’s no surprise that Nikki Bogart was fired by chairman Marron. He also notes that the local media continues to hide these issues from the public. (For example, this meeting had almost 20 public speakers stating several issues with the county board, yet no mention in any local paper!) (Applause follows the Cronkite discourse).
Next up is Lynn McLinden from Danville. Mr. McLinden has hopes that the full board will have the opportunity to consider all four of the resolutions put forth by the wind ad hoc committee. He has new information tonight that should be part of the consideration. First, he offers Illinois House Bill 3523 which is being introduced to strengthen and protect agricultural interests in the face of predation and consequences of industrial wind turbines. Secondly he notes that Wisconsin Brown County Health department has declared wind turbines to be harmful to human health. They could order shutdown of 8 industrial wind turbines. The Governor of Wisconsin has budgeted the amount of $250,000 for a study on the impacts of industrial wind turbines on human health. Mr. McLinden asks – Where are we going to stand? Are we going to protect Ag interests and human interest when it comes to industrial wind turbines? (There is more applause as Mr. McLinden leaves).
The next speaker is Frank Wright, Chairman of the Democratic Party in Vermilion County. He states, when it comes to the issue of firing Nikki Bogart, she should not fear for her job just because she is a Democrat or a Republican. Once the election is over, we all become Vermilion county of Illinois. (More applause).
Vince Koers of Danville is next. He educated himself about wind farms and he suggest that the county look at Denmark. They don’t allow anyone to live within 1700 feet of an industrial turbine. People with wind mills have property rights. People without wind mills have property rights also. Our current ordinance discounts the rights of people that don’t have wind mills. The county board has failed over the last 4 years of so to address the rights of the “other people” with the county wind ordinance. Mr. Koers also notes that Pilot Township has over 7 times the density of wind mills as does Denmark which has learned to live with them. The people of Pilot Township have a problem and they need your help from the county board. (Again more applause).
At this point the chairman notes that there is 7 minutes left for public comment with over 10 people still left in line to speak. Board member A.J. Wright raises his hand and asks to suspend the time limit for the audience comments, but he is cut off by the chairman who states there are no exceptions.
Comments continue with Renee Varney from District 6 in Vermilion County. She is concerned that our democracy has become a dictatorship. She states that first Nikki Bogart was asked to resign and then fired without proper procedure or consult with the other board members. “This has stink spelled all over it” She asks that her representatives, Miller, Fox and Beiritz get involved and make this a fair and open process. (Applause) She asks them to not let this go before a grievance committee that has no power. Let’s get it fixed so other people in county office don’t have to worry about their jobs and how they voted. (More applause).
At this time A.J. Wright makes a motion to extend the audience comments. The motion is seconded by Criswell – roll call vote is taken. (Public applauds)
Those voting yes – Stark, Turner, Walls, West-Monson, A.J. Wright, B. Wright, Barney, Baughn, Boyd, Criswell, Davis, Duncan, Eichle, Foster, Fourez, Golden, Green, Hart, Johnson, McFadden, McMahon, Miller, Mockbee, Nesbit and Marron (Marron changed his mind – I guess there can be exceptions).
Those voting no – Wes Bieritz (2806 Strawberry Cove, Danville, Il. 61832, 217-497-3087, [email protected]) and Bob Fox (3304 Independence Dr., Danville, IL. 61832, 217-446-1122, [email protected]) both from District 6. So much for Renee Varney’s appeal for help from District 6 board members – they don’t even want to hear the comments from their own constituents.
The audience comments part of the agenda continues with a 5 minute limit per person with Mackenzie Ellis an Iraq war veteran. In light of the blatant disregard for human rights that she is hearing tonight, Ms. Ellis is concerned about animal cruelty rights during the freezing weather in Vermilion County. She asks for a review of county ordinances and transparency in the Nikki Bogart case. (Applause).
Rona Davis is next. She states that the board is elected and is accountable to the citizens which includes transparency. If not, then it proves that good ‘old boy politics are alive and well. (Applause)
Next is DeeAnn Ryan, 13 year veteran of the Vermilion county Mental Health board and former Executive Director. She wanted to make it clear why she quit – which was because she was seeing many good volunteers discarded like trash and being replaced. Former chairman Weinard told her that she needed to wake up, their party (Republicans) were in charge now. Current chairman Marron told her that she was just an employee and that she had no business making recommendations. Ms. Ryan decided that she did not want to work around a cold-hearted administration like that and tendered her resignation. Ms. Ryan tells the board that she feels that Nikki Bogart is a highly respected and was meticulous and strived for perfection. She adds that the way people are treated when they come before this board with their issues about wind mills is cold-hearted. She has been to a lot of meetings and the wind victims are treated with disrespect. She reminds the board about the letter from the superintendent of the Armstrong-Ellis grade school about students not sleeping, failing tests because of the wind turbines. She doubts that any board member followed up with his statement. She also doubts that the health department followed up even though there were clear health effects. Ms. Ryan did follow up and sent a letter or e-mail to county board members to take another look at the effects of the wind turbines and even referenced a World Health Organization paper on the ill effects of industrial wind turbines. For her efforts she as lambasted by Bill Donahue for using her position to influence and inflame the public. (Let’s see. Who is right? The people of the world that live near industrial wind turbines and have health issues, including the Wisconsin Brown County Health Department which has declared indusial wind turbines a human health hazard or Bill Donahue?). Ms. Ryan states that the board is elected to look out for both the county employees and its citizens. (Again more applause).
Ilene Donavan states that elected officials should take note – jobs should be protected if the person has done a good job (Nikki Bogart). Why was she kicked to the curb? Why are we not being told the truth? We deserve an answer. This is America. (Applause)
Mike Cannon – he is the barber at the prison. He has more fear on the streets of Danville than when in the prison. Mr. Chairman – good help is hard to find and DeeAnn Ryan and Nikki Bogart are good help. (Applause).
Sylvia Lake from Danville Illinois. She states that Martin Luther King once said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” and it going on right here in Vermilion county. It’s unacceptable as are the lies and deceit and closed-door secrecy are intolerable. It needs to stop now. You, this county board office were elected to do that. You have the power to do and I am asking for your help to do it. (Applause).
Sylvia O’Brien from District 7 in Vermilion County. She states that the county needs a stable and well trained staff. She asks for an independent H.R. department to over-see issues. She states that if an individual believes that their position can suddenly and without recourse be terminated or bullied into resigning, then why would they ever seek employment with the county? (Applause)
Kip Sullivan from District 5 – he asks how you make your decisions? Do you research or do you cast your vote because the chairman tells you to? Do you listen to the constant concerns of the citizens or do you patronize them? He feels that a county board employee from his district was fired for no good reason (Nikki Bogart). Two former county board chairman (one Republican and one Democrat) found her work to be excellent and dependable. Are you taking our vote for granted? Your obligation is to act ethically or you will be voted out of office. (Applause)
Next up Darrell Cambron – wind victim from District 1 in Vermilion County. Mr. Cambron reminds the board that they should expect to see 4 resolutions that came out of the wind Ad Hoc committee to go before the Executive board this month. He urges the Executive committee members to approve the resolutions and give them a chance before the full board. (Applause)
Next is Harsha Arushal – 25 year resident of Danville and member of the mental health board. He states that they are all here to serve the residents of the county. When they allow Nikki Bogart to go, not because she was not doing a good job, but because she was a Democrat then each of you should be ashamed of yourselves (Applause). Mr. Arushal encourages the board members to consider why you chose to sit in your seats – it was to serve the citizens of Vermilion County and you didn’t do it tonight. (Applause)
Mike West – works at H.R. for corporate America. He notes that there was no documentation and transparency on the termination of Nikki Bogart. Although the chairman of the county board over-sees county operations, the county board over-sees the chairman and his actions that see that the workers of the county are treated fairly. He feels that the Nikki Bogart firing was handled poorly and leaves questions about the leadership of the county board. He asks if the filling of the position followed affirmative action and equal opportunity policies adopted by the county board. (Applause).
Next to speak is wind victim Ted Hartke who had to abandon his home in the middle of the Invenergy project in Vermilion County. He asks for five things to help the industrial wind problem in Vermilion County. The first is a moratorium immediately on all applications to avoid harming other families in the county. Mr. Hartke provided a hand out from the Sept. 18th, 2014 Ad Hoc wind committee asking for a moratorium at that time. The second is a request for the raw SCADA data from the Invenergy noise study for the turbines closest to the Hartke abandoned home (#56, #57, #75, & #76). The county board has the power to request this information and it has never been provided by Invenergy. No new turbines should be constructed until they can provide that data. Mr. Hartke explains that just because the wind victims ask questions, it doesn’t mean they are bad. Item #3 – Mr. Hartke gives the board a contract asking them to take responsibility for their actions regarding the approval of industrial wind turbines by the county board (attached). He asks them to consider if a wind turbine would be placed in their back yard or their grandmothers back yard. Would it be appropriate then? Hartke states maybe we should have a county vote – How far away do you want a wind turbine in your back yard? With 30 seconds left, Mr. Hartke again requests the wind turbine moratorium and #5 – asks for the list of members of the structural-safety committee (This committee over-sees approval of industrial wind turbines in Vermilion County) and asks that Mike Marron resign from this committee since his family received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the wind industry. (More applause).
The last speaker is Dr. Lori DeYoung – former Vermilion county board member. As a former Democratic board member in the past she has successfully worked with both parties to resolve issues in the county. Never once did she hear the excuse that we are the party in charge and your ideas, help and concerns are not important because that is inappropriate and completely a representation of power mongering. When Dr. DeYoung was on the board she felt that she responded to the constituents honestly and ethically and that rules and procedures were followed especially when it came to the hiring and firing of employees. She further states that the way the board allows its citizens to be treated, whose money you use to pay county bills and whose vote put you in office is despicable! Every voice and every concern should matter. Dr. DeYoung is concerned about how the board is managing their responsibility as elected officials. What will people remember about you? (Sustained applause)
Under board member comments, A.J. Wright asks the chairman if the personnel policy that he received from the county office applies to Nikki Bogart. Assistant states’ attorney Donahue advises the chairman not speak about this issue. A. J states that the chairman is a big boy and can answer for himself. Chairman Marron states that he will not discuss personnel issues. Donahue advises that the grievance committee will meet March 17th, but its findings are non-binding. Mr. Marron ads that his office is always open. A.J. Wright responds that he has never come to his office BECA– USE OF THE WAY HE TREATS PEOPLE!
Board member Green asks for an update on the Wind Ad Hoc committee resolutions and will they will be presented to the Executive committee. Chairman Marron responds that they will be on the March Executive committee agenda. The committee meeting will be March 26th at 4:30 pm in Room 319 at the courthouse annex. I urge everyone to attend. It will be a telling moment in Chairman Marron’s reign.
The trend of ignoring the concerns of the citizens of Vermilion County by the county board continues and the numbers grow. Those opposed to the policies of the county board leadership, and willing to speak up, grow to almost 20 this month. As is often the case, where one person steps forward to speak, there are over 10 (or more!) that have the same view and cannot or will not come forward. Clearly the Vermilion county leaders have problems. Whether it’s approving industrial wind turbines that harm and destroy the rural community or arbitrarily firing good, competent county workers for no cause, or the many other ethical issues that have surfaced such as giving away county land or the illegal GIS no-bid contract, the time has come for a change. I cannot emphasis it enough. The people of Vermilion county need to come forward and question what this board is doing. They need to be held accountable. First it was the wind victims and then the family and friends of Nikki Bogart learned the truth the hard way. Will you be next?
The next meeting will be the third Tuesday in April next month. It will be on April 21, 2015 at 6:00 pm at the courthouse annex.