MARK KIESLING: E.C. board actions political? Are you shocked?

2011-03-18T00:00:00Z MARK KIESLING: E.C. board actions political? Are you shocked? nwitimes.com
March 18, 2011 12:00 am

Those who live by the appointment also die by the appointment.

The public library in East Chicago, long a haven for political cronies of whoever happens to be mayor, is a prime example.

This week, the East Chicago Library Board with two new members met in a four-person session and relieved Director Manny Montalvo of his duties and voided the contracts of board lawyers Carmen Fernandez and Roy Dominguez.

It's all a part of the political merry-go-round that has been the rule in the city ever since the departure of former Mayor Bob Pastrick.

Love him or hate him, Pastrick was the glue that held this city together for 20-plus years and whether you liked his methods or not, this kind of drama would not likely have happened under his administration.

But he was replaced in a controversial election by his former police chief, George Pabey, who was under federal indictment for public corruption within two years.

After Pabey was convicted, former City Councilman Anthony Copeland stepped in as mayor, and the merry-go-round continued.

The new Library Board appointments came from the mayor and the School Board -- but the mayor also has a hand in appointing members of the School Board.

Montalvo carries a lot of baggage. A state audit determined he should repay some $12,000 in travel expenses that had no discernible library purpose and that he repay $2,700 in fuel and vehicle maintenance costs.

There was also that little dust-up he had on South Shore railroad property in Chicago that resulted in his 2010 conviction on several misdemeanor criminal charges.

Montalvo vowed the matter would be "straightened out in court," which should come as no surprise.

Fernandez likewise has threatened a wrongful termination lawsuit, saying the board had no right to tear up her contract.

"You can't do this," she told the board. "We'll file suit against the city."

I have not read the wording of her contract, nor the one with Dominguez, to see how ironclad her employment is.

But it's not unusual for a board to replace its counsel upon a change of board, and the director normally serves at the pleasure (and leaves at the displeasure) of the board.

Fernandez and Dominguez have respectable political connections, and I don't think we are going to having a tag day for either of them or see them selling apples on the corner of Chicago Avenue and Indianapolis Boulevard.

Time for them to move on without sucking more money from the already-reeling city, which might have to hold a bake sale to pay its employees.

If the people who say they love the city truly do, it's time to do the right thing and stop costing it money in unnecessary lawsuits.

And that starts with the lawyers.

The opinions are those of the writer. He can be reached at mark.kiesling@nwi.com or (219) 933-4170.

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