Cover up and influence peddling
at Village Hall: Part 3
By Examiner Staff
As previously revealed by our ongoing investigation into political corruption in local politics, ethical questions have swirled around the Village Board from the very beginning of Mike Airdo’s short and controversial reign as Acting Village President. New evidence suggests that the problem may have trickled down into Village Hall, at the highest levels of administration.
After Airdo and his allies took down Village President Mike Kelly over late property taxes last fall, citizens were outraged by the undemocratic and secretive process that led to Airdo’s seizure of the president’s chair. Seeking a clearer picture of the truth, The Examiner filed extensive Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the village. Among the troubling facts uncovered was Airdo’s scandalous and widely-reported verbal assault on Bartlett Police officers during a traffic stop.
Sources, however, soon suggested to The Examiner that the records produced by the village’s FOIA Officer, James Plonczynski, were incomplete and, accordingly, concealed the whole truth. In multiple follow-up requests, The Examiner gave Plonczynski and his boss, Village Administrator Valerie Salmons, the benefit of the doubt by continuing to narrow and clarify the request, in an effort to resolve the discrepancy. The very last Examiner request explicitly identified a “memorandum written by then Police Chief Dan Palmer to Village Administrator Valerie Salmons” relating to Mike Airdo and his interaction with the Police Department.
Remarkably, Plonczynski’s last denial chafed at the notion that the village’s response was incomplete and stated further that “it is difficult for the village to respond to your vague references to a document.” Other than quoting from the very document being concealed, The Examiner was at a loss as to how it could have been more explicit. Perhaps sensing the absurdity of his statement, Plonczynski hedged his bet by asserting multiple exemptions to the FOIA law, which, if legitimate, would allow the village to keep the memorandum hidden from the public indefinitely.
After conferring with attorneys, The Examiner believes the village may not legitimately withhold the memorandum from the public and has filed an appeal with the Illinois Attorney General’s office as allowed under a FOIA provision created to force local governments to be open and honest.
While the Attorney General appeal is meant to resolve the matter of how to obtain the memorandum and the truth contained therein, the question remains as to why the village administration so adamantly refuses to disclose it. And here we find perhaps the most shocking in the series of controversial “coincidences” surrounding Mike Airdo and his supporters.
As previously reported, Bartlett Trustees Mike Airdo, Greg Martin and Eric Shipman led the charge against Mike Kelly last November, ultimately leading to Kelly’s resignation and Airdo’s takeover of the village presidency. But something else happened last November, as well, as it does every year: new attorneys are admitted to the Illinois Bar.
Among those admitted was a young man by the name of Kurt S. Asprooth. Despite the recessionary economy and a very tight job market in the legal profession, Asprooth parlayed his degree from a second-tier law school into a job with a Chicago law firm by the name of Kopon Airdo. The “Airdo” in Kopon Airdo is none other than Bartlett’s Acting Village President Mike Airdo.
Why should this catch our attention? Well, Asprooth’s mother has a different surname than he does. Her name is Salmons–first name, Valerie. Who also happens to be Bartlett’s village administrator, the most powerful and most highly-compensated employee in the village.
As village administrator and the person to whom Plonczynski directly reports, Salmons has, for all practical purposes, the ultimate authority to fully comply with The Examiner’s FOIA request. Her failure to exercise that authority both confounds the public’s right to know and protects from further embarrassment her boss and her son’s boss: Mike Airdo.