Tag: Mayor Yarbrough

Potentially Crowded Race for Three Trustee Seats Begins Tuesday, August 26, When Nominating Petitions Circulate

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Monday, August 25, 2014 || By Michael Romain 

Maywood’s next local election is next year in April, but campaign preparations are already beginning. In 2015, Maywood voters will decide whether to reelect Trustees Cheryl Ealey-Cross, Audrey Jaycox and Ronald Rivers — all of whose seats will be up for grabs — or to elect someone new to fill any, or perhaps all, of those positions. Established political parties and independent candidates for those three seats will be allowed to begin circulating their nomination papers on Tuesday, August 26; while September 25 is the first day “of intention to file a petition to create a political subdivision whose officers are to be elected,” according to the state’s 2015 Election and Campaign Finance Calendar.

Trustees Cheryl Ealey-Cross and Audrey Jaycox were both appointed last year. Cross was appointed by Mayor Edwenna Perkins to fill the vacancy that arose after Perkins, who was a sitting trustee when she ran for mayor, successfully challenged former Mayor Henderson Yarbrough. Trustee Jaycox, who relinquished her trustee seat in order to run for Village clerk, was appointed last May by outgoing Mayor Yarbrough. Trustee Ron Rivers will be running for reelection to a seat he won four years ago. It’s suspected that all of them will run for reelection.

There’s been increasing chatter about possible candidates who may run next year for those three seats. Since trustees do not each represent separate areas of the Village, they are elected based on their respective shares of a total vote tally; so the three candidates with the highest vote totals will win the three seats. Already, as many as ten names have been informally floated about as possible candidates. Marcius Scaggs, a candidate for trustee on the All in for Maywood ticket who narrowly lost in last year’s election — he garnered seven voters fewer than sitting Trustee Antoinette Dorris — has confirmed that he will be running again.

There’s also been talk of other All in for Maywood ticket members running next year. Possible, but still unconfirmed, names include Isiah Brandon and Gil Guzman. Brandon ran unsuccessfully on the All in for Maywood ticket, but was removed from the ballot before the election. He ultimately ran as a write-in candidate. Guzman was a trustee before relinquishing that seat in his bid for mayor in last year’s election. He finished a strong third to Perkins and Yarbrough.

According to sources, the All in for Maywood party has maintained an organizing presence since last year’s election, when it constituted the only major counterweight to the Maywood United party. Although current Village Clerk Viola Mims was the only candidate elected to office from the All in for Maywood party, there are indications that the party’s presence, particularly in the form of Guzman’s top-of-the-ticket candidacy, provided ammunition to Mayor Perkins’s head-to-head with former Mayor Yarbrough.

If last year’s consolidated election was any indication, next year’s off-year election may prove much of the same, with the two main political parties in Maywood vying to perhaps position themselves for longer-term dominance. Sitting Trustees Rivers and Jaycox are likely to run on the Maywood United party ticket. Outside of their nearly certain candidacies, the only name that we know that’s been floated about as a possible running mate on Maywood United is Antonio Sanchez, who, according to unconfirmed reports, has been mulling a possible run.

Sanchez, a finance professional and co-proprietor of Mariella’s Banquet Hall, was appointed to the Maywood Park District’s board of commissioners before residency issues forced his resignation less than a week later. He is a native of Maywood, but had been officially residing in the Village for less than the two years required to serve on the commission.

As far as independent candidates go, Trustee Ealey-Cross, who unsuccessfully ran as an independent last year seems the only confirmed nonpartisan. There have been unconfirmed reports that newly appointed Liquor Commissioner Mary “May” Larry may be strongly considering running as an independent, as well. Larry unsuccessfully ran for mayor last year, garnering less than six percent of the vote in a field of five. VFP

Final results of the Mayoral, Clerk and Trustee races during last April’s consolidated election

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Trustee Cheryl Ealey-Cross Sworn In, Disrupts Business As Usual

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By Michael Romain

LAST TUESDAY, MAYWOOD — Moments after she took the oath of office to assume the trustee seat vacated by Mayor Edwenna Perkins, Cheryl Ealey-Cross faced the half-full Village chamber, noticed that she had no microphone at her seat like the other Board members and rather volubly requested that one be provided in the future. That’s when several audience members assured her that they could hear her louder than some of the other members with microphones.

Mrs. Ealey-Cross’s appointment marked the rather anti-climactic culmination of a community-wide debate over just how the appointment process should be handled. When former Mayor Henderson Yarbrough appointed Trustee Audrey Jaycox to fill the seat vacated by Trustee Michael Rogers several weeks shy of Mayor Perkins’s swearing-in, there was a mini firestorm of protest among residents.

Some considered Mr. Rogers’s resignation a political maneuver to deprive Mayor Perkins of two Board appointments. Others expressed shock at Mayor Yarbrough’s appointment of Ms. Jaycox, who Mr. Yarbrough considered the best qualified candidate for the seat, but who gave up her own position as trustee to run a campaign for the Village clerkship—a campaign she eventually lost to current clerk Viola Mims.

“If Jaycox is going to resign as trustee, then why is she going to accept another trustee position [for two years]?” said one resident.

The Neighbors of Maywood Community Organization (NoMCO) endorsed a plan that would involve Mayor Yarbrough appointing the next-highest-vote-getting candidate for trustee in the April consolidate election—Marcius Scaggs of the All In For Maywood (AIM) party.

Mr. Yarbrough referred to the plan as sensible before claiming that, according to the NoMCO plan, Ms. Jaycox would qualify as the next-highest-vote-getter, even though she did not run for trustee. At the board meeting during which Ms. Jaycox was appointed, citizen outrage ran well past adjournment and spilled onto the sidewalks and into the dimly lit Fifth Avenue night.

The atmosphere at the August 20 board meeting, however, was staid by comparison—even though Mayor Perkins herself skirted the NoMCO plan in appointing Mrs. Ealey-Cross to the Board. Unlike Ms. Jaycox, Mrs. Ealey-Cross did run for trustee; however, she was not the next-highest-vote-getter in the race. For whatever reasons, the fervent pressure put on Mayor Yarbrough to adhere to the procedural fairness of the NoMCO plan was blatantly absent this time around.

Mrs. Ealey-Cross’s ascension to the Board comes after a nearly two-month’s long silent war of attrition between the Mayor and the Board. Since the outset of the Mayor’s term, the five trustees flanking her had unanimously refused to so much as discuss Mrs. Ealey-Cross’s impending appointment in public. Her assumption of Mayor Perkins’s vacated trustee seat occurred in wake of the Board’s second refusal to give it a vote, after which, the Mayor has the right to make the appointment anyway.

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In the lead-up to her August 20th swearing-in, there were claims made by some present and former trustees that the appointment was being held up, not because of a partisan stubbornness on the part of the Maywood United Party (the party ticket on which all five trustees ran) to block Mayor Perkins’s every move, but because Mrs. Ealey-Cross was difficult to work with.

In his public comments at a board meeting in June, former trustee and Village clerk Gary Woll said that he’s served on committees with Mrs. Ealey-Cross that “she destroyed.” “She’s very bright, she works hard, but the littlest thing […] she gets angry […] There are other people who support Edwenna who are much better to work with.”

Trustee Toni Dorris concurred with Mr. Woll. “I’ve watched and known Mrs. Ealey for six years […] go from commission to commission. I’ve seen her advocate for things she was going to do and never get done.”

In her first board meeting as a sitting trustee, Mrs. Ealey-Cross seemed poised to both confirm and falsify those sentiments by completely dismantling a routine omnibus agenda—an act that would seem to support Mr. Woll’s characterization of her as difficult, but laying waste to Trustee Dorris’s claim of ineffectiveness.

Of the twenty-eight items — listed ‘A’ through ‘BB’ — that were contained in the massive omnibus agenda, Mrs. Ealey-Cross pulled twenty, effectively forcing the Board to consider and vote on each one in isolation. In all, when combined with the one item pulled by Trustee Ron Rivers, twenty-one items were struck from the omnibus agenda. (Omnibus means “for everything” in Latin and allows the Board to approve a range of different items in a single vote, instead of voting on each item separately).

Among the items considered for approval in the omnibus package were routine payments to the City of Chicago’s water department for $533,459.08; to Allied Waste in the amount of $324,326.88 for June and July garbage pickup and disposal service; and to payment to Blue Cross Blue Shield in the amount of $220,538.47 for employee health insurance for the month of August.

Not long into the discussion of item ‘A’ of the omnibus agenda (“Consideration to approve payment to AFCO in the amount of $57,734.11 for the 3rd of 9 installment payments for general liability insurance payment”), Trustee Ealey-Cross requested a copy of the actual contract.

And so it went. For practically every item she pulled from the omnibus agenda, she requested contract information and other technical and legalistic minutiae with which the typical elected official doesn’t bother to grapple.

To the casual observer, the newest member of the Village Board may have appeared obstinate, but it was also obvious that she’d done her homework—a fact that not even her staunchest detractors could’ve comfortably denied.

During the Board discussion of item ‘L’ regarding payment to Edwin Hancock Engineering Company in the amount of $82,543.29 for engineering-related services done in Maywood in August, Trustee Ealey-Cross requested to “see a copy of the contract as well as to know the process in how we are billed and if there’s an ordinance that states or requires a written agreement.”

On item ‘S’, a proposal to purchase three fully-outfitted 2013 Dodge Chargers for the police department, Trustee Ealey-Cross harkened back to the discussion at last week’s LLOC meeting.

“Questions from this board were addressed and there was the question regarding procedures in place as to the vehicles and destruction and I thought the manager was going to report back to the board tonight on his findings,” she said.

Regarding item ‘Z’ (“Resolution authorizing an agreement with IAFF for management of various grant projects on behalf of West Cook County Cooperative”), Trustee Ealey-Cross wanted to know what progress had been made since Maywood became a member of the Cooperative. “Do we get an annual report?” she said.

When Mr. Barlow said that the IAFF orally reports to the board from time to time, but does not present the Board with a written annual report, Mrs. Ealey-Cross retorted, “It seems to me if we’re being asked to pay people to do certain things for us we should be asking them to give us at least annual updates as to their progress. If we’re paying for something we need to see results.”

At certain points, Village Manager Bill Barlow appeared a bit flustered by Trustee Ealey-Cross’s onslaught of requests and questions. In the middle of taking note of another of her contract requests, Mrs. Ealey-Cross waved a sheet of paper in Mr. Barlow’s direction. It was an advance copy of each of her requests for information.

The move prompted some snickering from the audience, punctuating what may have appeared to be mere grandstanding or showboating if Trustee Ealey-Cross’s actions hadn’t yielded such obvious results.

Outside of Trustee Ron Rivers’s sensible concern regarding the Village’s monthly maintenance fee of $19,390 to Current Technologies to maintain cameras that are “down very, very severely,” Trustee Ealey-Cross presented the only significant scrutiny of an omnibus agenda that comprised more than $2 million in Village expenditures.

Ealey-Cross’s pulling of item ‘AA’ (a motion “to authorize the execution of a negotiated light duty policy for union members of the Fire Department”) from the massive omnibus agenda enabled Trustee Rivers to inquire as to what “light duty” actually entailed. In fact, there was such confusion about the issue that the Board unanimously motioned to table the issue for further discussion at an LLOC meeting.

This confusion was extremely revealing, since its reasonable to assume that had Trustee Ealey-Cross not pulled item ‘AA’ from the omnibus agenda, the Board would’ve voted on its approval despite not really knowing much about the matter. This begs the question of how much the Board actually knows about the very payments it approves. And if it doesn’t know much, why does it routinely elect to approve these payments in massive omnibus agendas that effectively preempt any kind of detailed discussion of each item?

When Trustee Ealey-Cross requested a copy of the contract for Hackie Cement Corporation, which was to be paid $29,890 for sewer collapse repair, she was told that the Village did not issue one to the company. “It’s on a timely and material basis. It’s outlined in the invoice,” said Mr. Barlow. “The invoice serves as the contract in this case,” attorney Michael Jurusik said.

Mr. Barlow informed the Board that the Village waives the bid process for emergency services, which is why there was no contract. But if emergency services are consistently going to one company, doesn’t the frequency of service provided and amount of money paid out constitute at least an implied agreement of regular service?

“May I ask for an overview of how much we’ve spent with this company so far?” said Trustee Ealey-Cross.

If her findings show that Hackie was being paid to do emergency sewer service on a regular basis, then it would be reasonable to conclude that the Village has been contracting emergency sewer services with a company without a sufficient written contract laying out terms and conditions.

“I’ve seen their name on the agenda several times and the amounts haven’t been minimum. I’m always concerned about inferior quality of products and services, so without a contract […]” she said.

The discussion ended with Mr. Barlow consenting to lay out the typical terms of a contract with Hackie, Mr. Jurusik suggesting a bid process be setup for next year’s emergency services and Trustee Ealey-Cross suggesting that a procurement officer be hired to negotiate contracts on behalf of the entire Village.

“Are we considering that in the future to reduce our costs? Because if each department is out negotiating on its own, are we getting the best deal?” said Ealey-Cross.

“We can put it on our future LLOC agenda,” Mr. Barlow consented.

One may have wondered, as all this was transpiring, whether the soothsaying of Gary Woll echoed in the heads of the other trustees. “She will destroy your board,” Mr. Woll told them before Mrs. Ealey-Cross’s appointment. Considering the impressive results of her destructiveness, however, one begins to think that Mr. Woll may have been on to something. VFP

EXCLUSIVE: Former Mayor Henderson Yarbrough on What Happened, What You May Not Know and What Few [Probably] Dared to Ask

By Michael Romain

After Mayor Perkins’s swearing-in on Tuesday, and after witnessing the jubilant fete thrown by her supporters at the 200 Building, I walked the short distance down the street to Mariella’s, where the Maywood United Party was situated. When I walked in, the place was letting out. I saw a woman I recognized sitting at a table across from Mayor Yarbrough. She urged me to get something to eat (unlike down the street, there wasn’t a line for food), but I told her I’d eaten already.

“What did they have?” she said, betraying a hint of dissatisfaction with the current fare. “Fried chicken, meatballs, mostaccioli, macaroni and cheese, bread rolls…” She turned to her friend. “We’re at the wrong party,” she said. “What food did you all have here?” I asked. I really wanted to know. “Sandwiches,” she said curtly. And that about sums up the atmosphere.

There was no music playing. At least, if there was, I don’t remember it. The room’s silence was louder. I had approached the Mayor, because we had an interview set-up for the following day at the building that served as his campaign office on 17th and Madison. I wanted confirmation that he would actually show. When I emailed his communications director, Larry Shapiro, the request, I figured it to be a long-shot, that the last thing he’d want to do now that he was out of office and had time to breathe air less constricting was talk about what I assume had to be eight of the most constricting years of his life.

The night, no doubt, had to be the nadir of a mayoralty that was increasingly being defined by its descent, one that the election only magnified. For the average resident, it was becoming increasingly hard to ignore the reports unleashed by the Better Government Association (BGA) on what seemed like a weekly basis. They were amplified by the West Suburban Journal. Links to their digital versions were posted on Facebook. They were like abandoned treasure for smart political strategists in opposing camps.

They had titles like, “End Maywood’s Mayhem,” “Village of Maywood Hit With Lawsuit Over Alleged FOIA Violations,” “Maywood Democracy Isn’t Easy — or Pretty” and “Arrest of Maywood Cop a Symptom of Larger Problems in Town.” And then there was Fox 32 and images of Maywood officials involved in all kind of alleged imbroglios.

There will always be those crying wolf, but when the wolf criers outnumber those telling me to be calm and stay put, I am going to run. And to be quite frank, this writer was running in the direction of the charges, until after a while, as with any sane, moderately out-of-shape person, one must slow down and breathe. When I regained my oxygen, one inquiry popped into my head that, if I’d still been running full-speed with the charges, I would not have thought to ask. “I wonder what the Mayor has to say about all of this?”

Regardless of the truth of the reports (and there has to be a degree of truth), it occurred to me, about ten minutes into the interview, that Yarbrough had a lot to get off of his chest. He seemed like a man thirsty for personal vindication, to set the record straight.

After he briefly considered rescheduling our interview due to time constraints (and flirting with a possible interview over the phone), the Mayor, to my surprise, spontaneously directed me to an isolated area at the back of the banquet hall. He would talk tonight, if I didn’t mind (“I like to look people in the face when I speak to them,” he said). I didn’t and quickly produced my laptop, whereupon the Mayor, typically reserved and tight-lipped, turned into a reservoir over-flooding with words. And by the end of the night, my fingers would be heavy and languid from sponging them in.

This interview is broken into three parts. This is the first:

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How surprised were you by the outcome of the election?

It’s not what I expected, but I always gave [Mayor Perkins] an excellent chance, based on Guzman getting in the race.

That’s good you brought that up, because there were some hushed accusations that you may have planted candidates to run for mayor so the vote would be split in your favor.

I didn’t know either of those ladies [Nicole Gooden and Mary ‘May’ Larry, the two main candidates held under suspicion of being Yarbrough ‘plants’]. Larry, I had met once before, because she wanted to do something in Maywood and so she came to my office once. If she had come back again, I probably would not even have recognized her face. So no, no. I’ve never played those types of games. I never even considered them.

I’m assuming you knew all along that it would’ve been (and was, in fact), the opposite case. A fractured electorate would’ve hurt you. As, in fact, it did.

Absolutely.

I knew [Trustee Gil] Guzman and I would be sharing the same voters. Trustee Perkins, I knew, pretty much had her own audience. Those votes were locked in for her. Guzman and I weren’t going to take her voters. We all can count. Guzman and I couldn’t share Perkins’s voters, so I had to share what vote remained with him.

Was turnout what you expected?

It was. We made an effort to get people to turn out. Trustee Perkins also communicated constantly with her constituents. She stays in constant, one-on-one contact with her people. I give her credit. When you communicate one-on-one with people like that, you can get people’s ear and they’ll believe whatever you say. So, I wasn’t going to gain any votes based on what she was saying about me. And we, in fact, lost a few votes, because some people believe every negative thing that comes out. So, I always knew she had an excellent chance of winning. In fact, every time I had a conversation, I would say the one candidate with excellent chances short of me is Mrs. Perkins.

Do you think you could’ve done a better job reaching out to citizens while in office?

Yes. You can always do better if you have the desire and the energy to put forth, but I work a full-time job and fulfilling the positions as a part-time mayor, with all of the meetings and all of the different things I had to attend to…I didn’t have a lot of time. I have a full-time job and you have to have a full-time job unless you’re retired, because we have a managerial form of government. [Note: The mayor is only paid part-time; whereas, the village manager is the full-time, day-to-day point man or woman].

So I spent a lot of the time I had doing things like bringing in more than $17 million to redo all of our main arterial roads, installing new streetlights, making infrastructural improvements. With the economy being on the worst downtrend in sixty or seventy years, economic development was not going to happen rapidly in the Village of Maywood. We had too many things to overcome. It did happen in some surrounding communities, because they didn’t have to overcome the stigma that Maywood has.

Why do you think Maywood is so stigmatized?

Unfortunately, a lot of the stigma is attributed to our own citizens who talk negative about the town. Some people only talk about the bad things, not about the good things. So that’s our challenge. We have to change the way people think about Maywood. So, I did not have the time to go door-to-door everyday talking to people about what’s wrong. Basically, people know what’s wrong. I was trying to fix what was wrong and make it right. But while I was working, other people were talking and sometimes talk can overcome actuality. I think we did enough positive things to build on, things that made Maywood better.

We reduced crime by twenty to thirty percent. Those kinds of statistics mean something to some people, but nothing to other people. Some people base their votes on what’s happening to them personally. Also, trust has a lot to do with it. That’s one thing I thought I would never have a problem with — trust. In my heart, I always knew that everything I do, I do for the good of the town. I never, ever considered doing anything for personal gain. Nobody even approached me with anything like that, because they knew me or heard something about me. I never expected my integrity to get called into question, but people hear things.

There was, for instance, a lack of trust of the police. I took blame for the police department. But once I took accountability, we investigated our own house. We were responsible for that. We wanted to make sure our house was in order internally, because if it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be able to do anything externally. But, instead of getting credit for what we got done, we got blamed for what we didn’t do. That’s the nature of politics, though. That’s what you do when you’re running for political office. You make up stuff about what the incumbents aren’t doing or you focus solely on the negativity.

I ran on cleaning up government, on reform, and I was serious about that. I never expected to be blamed for it or accused for any kind of corruption. My whole purpose was to clean up corruption wherever it existed. VFP

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