CALUMET CITY | Third Ward Alderman Thaddeus Jones expressed his anger Monday at city officials, particularly Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush, for holding a citywide Christmas party for senior citizens at a banquet hall in Indiana.
Jones used an “unfinished business” portion of Monday's City Council meeting to express his complaints that city funds were spent at an Indiana facility — specifically the Villa Cesare, 900 Eagle Ridge Drive, in Schererville.
City officials held a party there for residents of the various senior citizen facilities in Calumet City on Dec. 18. Residents of the nine housing units for senior citizens were transported to the banquet hall by bus.
Qualkinbush said about 280 senior citizens attended the party, and that there is no banquet facility within Calumet City’s municipal boundaries that could have accommodated such a large crowd.
But Jones said he didn’t like the idea of city funds being spent at an out-of-state facility — even though Calumet City’s eastern boundary is the Illinois/Indiana state line. He also said he thinks the party should have been paid for with funds from Qualkinbush’s campaign funds, rather than the municipal budget.
“We’re spending tax dollars in Indiana, and I don’t think that’s right,” Jones said.
He demanded documentation from the mayor as to exactly which city funds were used to pay for the party. Qualkinbush said she would be able to provide such documentation Jan. 9 at the City Council’s next scheduled meeting.
The mayor also defended the party by saying that city officials have held Christmas holiday parties for its senior citizens going back to the days of Robert Stefaniak as mayor from 1973 to 1993.
“For some people, this is all they have for a party at the holidays,” Qualkinbush said, while conceding that this year’s citywide party was a new twist to the small parties that traditionally were held at the senior homes themselves.
Jones also was upset that fliers promoting the senior Christmas party included the names of all seven aldermen — including himself — giving the impression he supported the event.
“I didn’t approve this, but it looks here like I did,” Jones said of the flier.
But Qualkinbush said she included the names as a formality so that none of the aldermen would feel slighted, adding that Jones was the only alderman who did not attend the event.
In other business, the City Council voted 5-1, with 7th Ward Alderman Antoine Collins absent, in favor of a half-dozen resolutions and ordinances — including a pair of measures that set the salary for a currently vacant position of economic development coordinator for city government.
Jones was the lone opposing vote — expressing objections to the two ordinances related to the coordinator position.
Qualkinbush said she hopes a person will be named at the Jan. 9 City Council session to fill that position — which has been vacant ever since July when James Gigliotti was moved from a dual economic development/housing position to one that focuses exclusively on housing.
Qualkinbush said some 50 people have been considered for the vacancy.
“Sadly, none of them are from Calumet City,” she said.