SSJAWA – Chapter 1: It Only Takes Two, Take 1

The actual date of conception of the South Suburban Joint Action Water Agency is difficult to pin down exactly as it is likely no public notices or meeting minutes were taken during discussions prior to the legalization of the Agency.  Some suggest the Agency wasn’t formed until at least 2012, but public records clearly indicate the Agency was established just a wee bit earlier than that…and Alsip was nowhere in sight in the beginning (unlike what Mayor Bitchin’ Kitchin’ seems to enjoy leading people to believe).

It all started with a public announcement suggesting the birth of another government unit in Illinois was due to arrive soon in the form of a combined Notice of Meeting and Agenda.

With traditional (and mandated) formality, the notice read “Pursuance to 5 ILCS 220/3.1 the South Suburban Joint Action Water Agency will meet on at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 30, 2011 in the Markham Village Hall second floor meeting room 16316 South Kedzie Parkway Markham Illinois 60428”.  The notice was complete with the signature sloppiness of record-keepers in the southwest suburbs “will meet on at” and included a 17 line-item agenda for the meeting and according to minutes from the meeting on June 30, 2011, the notice was publicly posted on June 28, 2011 in the City Hall of Markham, Illinois and the Village Hall of Robbins, Illinois.

Unfortunately, there is no known video or audio of this meeting, or any meeting for that matter.  Therefore, much of this first part of the story is drawn from details left behind in meeting minutes that were available from one of two websites hosting the SSJAWA logo and content.

To open the celebration, the meeting began at 10:45 a.m. on Thursday, June 30, 2011 and a call was made for everyone present to acknowledge their presence.  The attendee list could easily remind a person of the Genesis flood narative of Noah loading up 2 of each animal onto the Ark prior to the storm.

2 law firms (Burton “Burt” Odelson, Odelson & Sterk, LTD and Michael “Mike” Roth, Ice Miller, LLP), 2 representatives from Post-Yore (Daniel “Dan” Donahue and Brett Postl), 2 representatives from Letke & Associates, Inc. (Joseph “Joe” Letke and David “Dave” Schutter) and 2 municipalities (Mayor David “Dave” Webb, Jr. of Markham and William “Willie” Carter of Robbins on behalf of Mayor Irene Brodie of Robbins).

With Odelson acting as announcer, he read sections from a variety of legal documents, such as City of Markham Ordinance 11-O-1984 and Resolution 11-R-443, Village of Robbins Ordinance 4-26-11C and 5-24-11, the SSJAWA Intergovernmental Agreement v041511 and correspondence regarding the appointment of an Alternate Director.  After he finished, he proceeded to declare the SSJAWA was legally constituted under the laws of the State of Illinois.

To finalize formalities, Odelson administered two oaths of office, one for Webb as Agency Director on behalf of Markham and one for Carter as Agency Alternate Director as a stand-in stuntman for Agency Director and now former Mayor, Irene Brodie on behalf of Robbins.

For much of the meeting, it was nothing more than a love fest for one another, with Webb and Carter alternating as motion-maker and seconded-maker, breezing their way through a series of unanimous votes designed to place the clearly pre-chosen individuals into their now legal capacities.

First came the Agency by-laws (v062711).  Next came the appointments, with Webb taking the Director chair, Carter receiving Chairman status and Brodie being bestowed the title of Vice Chairman.

With the core cast of characters firmly in place, it was time to adopt the first Resolution (2011-R-0001) establishing the regular meeting schedule for 2011 pursuant to Open Meetings Act requirements, which passed unanimously.

Of course, no story is complete without a supporting cast of characters.  Odelson, the announcer of the birth of the agency was picked as General Counsel, Secretary and FOIA Officer (perhaps because he did such a great job with his audition piece at the beginning of the meeting).  It is also likely he was a proficient quick-change artist, which would be needed due to budget constraints for costume department staff members.  These three positions were all unanimously approved in three separate votes.

As reward for his work off-scene, Roth and the firm of Ice Miller, LLP was appointed Special Counsel with the blessing of Odelson preceeding the vote.  Both appointments breezed through the voting process with a yes vote across the board.

In between those choices, the stage was set for the role of villian to be played by none other than Joseph Letke of Letke and Associates.

Letke already had his pocketbook filling up from illegally diverted funds from municipal bond proceeds while serving as Comptroller for the City of Harvey beginning as far back as 2008.  Letke’s firm pocketed not only $547,000 in middle-man fees for advising the suburb on the loans to Harvey but also nearly $270,000 in fees paid to his firm by the developer that were never disclosed to the lenders.

But you’re not supposed to know this at this point in the story so forget I said anything about it for now.  This wasn’t brought to light until the SEC sued Letke in 2014 with the Courts eventually barring him from participating in municipal securities offerings and ordering him to pay over $200,000 (Securities and Exchange Commission v. City of Harvey, Illinois and Joseph T. Letke, United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Civil Action No. 1:14-cv-4744 N.D. Ill., filed June 24, 2014, default judgement announced January 27, 2015)

Back to June 30, 2011.  Letke was already enjoying his positions as Comptroller of multiple municipalities, so it was only natural that such a clear leader in managing money would be appointed as Treasurer of such an important project.  We are talking water here.  So, Letke pulled down the next unanimous vote from the Directors.

Now it was time to dole out the contracts to the rest of the crew in the picture.  Odelson informed the Directors that he had reviewed the professional service agreements in consideration prior to the meeting and found them to be in order.  He also mentioned “…all explicitly state no fees will become due and owing on professional services unless and until an Agency Project is funded.”

Delaying payment on fees for services from the workers is usually a good thing for a project of this size.

First up was the contract for Program Management Agreement with Postl-Yore & Associates, Inc., which passed unanimously.

Next up was the Financial Consulting Services Agreement with Public Funding Enterprises, Inc., which passed unanimously.

Following was the contract with Letke & Associates, Inc for Public Accounting Services.

Lastly, Odelson first took a moment to mention the proposed agreement with his firm was “…similar to the terms and conditions of the Ice Miller, LLP agreement” before the Agency agreed unanimously to award a Legal Services Agreement with Odelson & Sterk, Ltd. and a separate agreement with Ice Miller, LLP

Now that the Big Business was taken care of on the agenda, the Directors opened the floor to public comments, which there were none.  There wasn’t even a need to go into Executive Session.

“Laudatory comments by Mr. Letke and Mr. Odelson on the formation of the agency” were made and Roth was kind enough to remind the Director’s that with that first meeting, the 120 day effective date period had begun and that Agency Members would become Agency Charter Members if the Directors did not extend the effective date period.  Schutter did his best to ensure compliance with public notice laws by confirming a 10 day public notice is a legal requirement for the public hearing on a budget.  Odelson also added he was “…optimistic the Village of Riverdale will act to join the Agency in the coming weeks.”

And on that positive outlook note, Director Webb made the motion to adjourn with Carter seconding the motion.  With a unanimous vote, the meeting was adjourned at 11:15 a.m.

And with that one meeting being started and finished, the takeaway was two southwest suburbs became owners of one newly minted government unit…

The South Suburban Joint Action Water Agency.

End scene here.  That’s a wrap.  Prepare for Chapter 2.

June 30, 2011 Agenda for South Suburban Joint Action Water Agency

June 30, 2011 Meeting Minutes from South Suburban Joint Action Water Agency

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