Trustees play politics at village meetings ahead of election
by KEVIN GROSS
A trustee on the Lincolnwood Village Board of Trustees decried the political behavior of some trustees at recent public board meetings ahead of the upcoming election on April 2.
"I feel bad about what happened, if that indeed happened," Trustee Georjean Hlepas Nickell said at the March 19 board meeting, following Trustee Jean Ikezoe-Halevi’s comments regarding bullying allegations made at the March 5 meeting against another trustee. "But I had a similar incident, with a seated trustee, before I was elected, where I was threatened and harassed, and I was taunted and told that I was probably going to be elected, and that I should know my place and follow his pace because he set it for the board, he had been on the board for so long.
"I never brought it up. But I’m disappointed that the politics can’t stay out of this room. This is not the venue for this. This is to do the village’s business. This is not an arena to take those personal vendettas against each other," she said.
At the March 5 meeting, Ikezoe-Halevi alleged that Trustee Renan Sugarman had harassed her prior to a budget workshop in February about comments her husband had made on social media, and that she filed a matter of record report with the Lincolnwood Police. Sugarman denied making threats at the public meeting.
The public spats between trustees during recent board meetings can be summed up as a rivalry between the slate of candidates in the Lifelong for Lincolnwood Party and the Alliance for Lincolnwood Party before the April 2 trustee election.
Candidates of the Alliance Party are Trustee Jesal Patel, former Trustee Craig Klatzco, and village resident Atour Toma Sargon. Candidates of the Lifelong Party are Trustee Renan Sugarman, village Economic Development Commission member Joseph Spagnoli and resident Jennifer Costantino. The candidates are vying for three available positions. Mayor Barry Bass supports the Lifelong for Lincolnwood Party.
Other issues have been brought to light in this election season. In one instance, Trustee Patel was recorded on camera removing Lifelong for Lincolnwood Party signs from a foyer at U.S. Bank, 6677 N. Lincoln Ave., on Feb. 5, which was broadcast on ABC Channel 7 News on March 4.
Spagnoli had filed a disorderly conduct report with the Lincolnwood Police on Feb. 8 regarding the incident, and a copy of the report obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request said that surveillance video footage also showed Patel taking down signs on Feb. 1. Patel has said that a bank teller gave him permission to remove the signs, although the officer who took the report wrote, "Spagnoli provided me a letter from (the bank manager) confirming that he was given permission to post his signs on the property."
A resident at the March 19 board meeting said during the public forum to Mayor Bass, "You support a candidate, Joe Spagnoli, who posted this picture (on Facebook) of (Congresswoman) Ilhan Omar, with the caption ‘Reminds me of someone running for trustee in our village!’ And he tags you, as if this is a joke that the two of you can laugh about. This is not a joke. This is hate speech and racism." Bass replied at the end of the public forum, "Absolutely incorrect commentary with various things omitted."
Allegations have also arisen that Spagnoli had an altercation with an employee at the City of Freeport location of the Yak-Zies bar chain that he owns.
Records show that Spagnoli had plead guilty to a charge of battery for a stalking no contact order of protection filed in June of 2012 in the 15th Judicial Court of Stephenson County, where the employee worked.
The records state that the petitioner alleged that she arrived with her kids and a co-worker at the restaurant to pick up their final checks, and a dispute arose over a discrepancy between their worked hours and he allegedly demanded that she sign a ledger.
The records state that a physical altercation allegedly had occurred between Spagnoli and the employee after she refused to sign the ledger and after he demanded that she give him the check back. The records state that Spagnoli allegedly "pulled my arm, bear-hugged me from behind," and "wrestled me more in the office while screaming at me, finally slamming me into the office wall."
At a March 18 Lincolnwood candidates’ forum, Spagnoli was asked a question in reference to the incident.
"I’ve employed thousands of hardworking people over a 35-year career. And once, only once, has someone filed a complaint against me, which I subsequently learned was a pattern for this person. I was never arrested. I was never prosecuted for this accusation. The former employee was terminated for stealing cash in the business. I paid a $50 fine, a municipal fee, for an ordinance violation," he replied. "I apologize to my staff. I apologize to my family." Spagnoli also said that he had also admitted to speeding in the past and paid a $165 fine.