The intentional and intense politics infused into the Midlothian Park District brochure was always sensed from a surface perspective by the many, including myself. But after having a few days to work with the numbers given to me by the Park District, it’s as if the Village Clerk, Michael Kohlstedt, as Park District President said to his Finance Director, Sharon Rybak, back at the beginning of their terms at Village Hall and said:
“Go fetch me the Village Seal as Mayor of Midlothian and get it onto the outside of this document, damn it! And leave my name out of it! The damn public is still yelling at us at Board meetings we need more people to pay attention to our programs. Gleason and I will have your back at the Village and this success will look good on your Finance Director resume AND your Mayor of Midlothian List of Accomplishments.”
Did those words cross his mind? Irrelevant as there is no doubt this possibility is part of the message he perhaps unintentionally left behind over these years as the Park District President who went on records months ago almost stealing straight from the mouth of a former Presidential candidate by commenting about “what difference does it matter? It all comes from the same place” in response to the Park District being accountable for helping share both projects and costs to continue reducing flood rates and ratios. Not many will remember this moment, but I was sitting right there in the audience of a few and at least the video is somewhere on my YouTube channel. It matters greatly what accounts what money is being drawn on to pay for something or other, especially when it comes to tax dollars being allocated for various purposes unique to a municipal unit.
With Scrivener’s Errors aside on my part, this is the second part to an analysis of the information given to me by Midlothian Park District FOIA Officer and Finance Director Sharon Rybak in connection with my FOIA request to see a list of all advertisers in the Park District brochure, along with the amount they paid for the ad.
Most notable is the number of days in which an advertiser was allowed to bend the terms of the brochure which clearly states “All ads are on a first come first serve basis and payment is due at the time of reserving your ad.” My statistics use the last day for insertion for each edition which means that the 3,819 days I came up with is likely even greater, depending on when an advertisement was reserved.
Speaking of reserving ad space, this particular set of statistics go on to show another Extremely Favorable Terms (EFT) given to Sharon Rybak for her “Village Newsletter” advertisement written in the voice of the Mayor of Midlothian. She was late a total of 866 days for the pages listed as purchased by “Sharon Rybak” as a vendor of the advertising kind.
Second in line, and helping take one of the top two slots on most delinquent accounts, is former Midlothian Park District Board member, Mary Ellen Levine. There is no love lost between Levine and various Village Trustees and she was allowed to be late a total of 670 days, 41% of the total 3,819 days between all advertisers combined.
In other words, Sharon Rybak and Mary Ellen Levine, were allowed to both reserve space and have the Park District finance $6,855 worth of advertisements in the Park District Brochure for their personal benefit and potential profiting for the life of each brochure!
But it gets even messier than this creative accounting. Advertisers are frequently sent Proofs of what was printed, as part of their receipt the “product” was delivered, i.e. the advertisement as previously agreed upon. One column suggests $18,455 should have been taken in to account for the insertions and yet only $16,745 worth of value was delivered. This difference is caused by Sharon Rybak being listed as purchasing “5 (Full)” pages, when in fact she was given 4 full pages, one half page ad and half of the back cover.
|Total Projected Ad Revenue (avg)||$3,075.83|
|Actual Physical Ad Space Value (avg)||$2,790.83|
|Total Amount Paid to Park District (avg)||$3,701.63|
|Average Late Payment||$3,091.29|
|Average Days Late||636.50|
|Total Suggested Ad Revenue Taken In||136||$18,455.00|
|Back Cover Half||6||200||$1,200.00|
|Actual Physical Ad Space Value||$16,745.00|
|Back Cover Half||0||200||$0.00|
Who ended up putting up the cash for at least 6 editions of the Park District Brochure? Hard to tell specifics without a forensic audit, but the number of accounts that were allowed to have any balance due on their account to begin with (remember: “payment is due at the time of reserving your ad”) shows that only $3,662 were actually taken in by the Park District at the time of the deadline. The rest of the $18,547.75 showed up in the Park District bank accounts, with some of the financing being carried over to the next publication.
|Total Amount Paid to Park District||$22,209.75|
|Total Days Late||3819|
|Mary Ellen Levine||670||17.544%|
|Alterations by Terry||277||7.253%|
|BMO Harris Bank||221||5.787%|
|Midlothian Girls Softball||150||3.928%|
|Madori’s Liquor & Deli||97||2.540%|
|St. Christopher School||96||2.514%|
|John Amico School of Hair Design||83||2.173%|
|First Midwest Bank||76||1.990%|
|Legacy Dance Studio||73||1.911%|
|Berkot’s Super Food||62||1.623%|
|Blackhawk Real Estate||51||1.335%|
|Cuttin’ on the 9’s Barbershop||50||1.309%|
|James L. Levine Insurance Agency||48||1.257%|
|Greene’s Floral & Balloon Shop||30||0.786%|
|Mobile Music/RJ Fitness||19||0.498%|
In terms of places someone can purchase advertising, buying space with a publication from municipal unit isn’t as telling as the terms said advertisers are given. While the advertisers are ultimately responsible for paying their bills consistent with the terms on brochures containing a form to apply for space, it is far more curious whether or not these advertisers were ever given a copy of the brochure I have been working from, let alone the “Application for Advertisements.”
While it still remains clear the Midlothian Park District has a lot of repair work to do, this all started at Village Hall and Sharon Rybak, as President of Midlothian, claimed publicly that she decided to take it upon herself to produce a “Village Newsletter” that was paid for out of her own pocket.
But not at the times the space would have to have been reserved by in order for it to be included in the next publication of the Midlothian Park District brochure.
For that part, she just helped herself to the reservation in her employer’s brochure and Village Clerk Michael Kohlstedt made sure there was no investigation conducted by simply not complaining to the President of the Village about Sharon Rybak’s personal use of the Village Seal.
Would you believe there’s still more?
A lot of this ties into the two people who have been responsible for overseeing Sharon Rybak’s activities as Finance Director at some point this year, former Park District Director Evelyn Gleason and current Director Dominic Egizio. Those two held/hold the role of day to day Reputation Manager for the Park District.
Until the next time…