Palos Heights Alderman Jack Clifford argues with resident Dan Nicholson during Tuesday's meeting. (Photos by Jeff Vorva)

Palos Heights Alderman Jack Clifford argues with resident Dan Nicholson during Tuesday's meeting. (Photos by Jeff Vorva)

Sparks fly during Palos Heights parking lot debate

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By Jeff Vorva

The City of Palos Heights is one step away from voting on a controversial new parking lot and the issue drew some fireworks Tuesday night.

Nine people spoke on the topic during a 45-minute public comment session, but it was resident Dan Nicholson who pushed the buttons of Aldermen Jack Clifford and Jerry McGovern and there was a heated exchange.

After Nicholson was done speaking, he left City Hall and the two aldermen talked about Nicholson’s e-mails and Facebook posts and an angry McGovern referred to him as a “son of a b—-.”

The council voted 5-2, with Alderman Michael McGrogan absent, to authorize attorneys to draft an ordinance approving a zoning change from residential to business and granting a special-use permit for a municipal parking lot at 12303 S. 71st Court in the downtown area.

NICHOLSON

Palos Heights resident Dan Nicholson states his case against a parking deck before getting in a verbal confrontation with alderman Jack Clifford on Tuesday.

This issue has angered residents in the neighborhood who say that there will be too much noise, some danger and property values will plummet.

Because this issue was not approved by the planning and zoning committee, the board will need a super majority of 6-2 to approve the parking lot. Aldermen Don Bylut and Robert Basso voted “no” Tuesday night to even have the lawyers draw it up. The next city council meeting is slated for Oct. 4.

Three residents spoke in favor of the lot, which they said would be good for businesses and attracting new business and that the lack of parking is something that has been a problem in the city for decades.

Six spoke against it, including Nicholson, who has taken to e-mails and social media to publicize his cause. Some of the content of Nicholson’s e-mails came out in public Tuesday when Nicholson said that Clifford tried to have him fired over the e-mails.

“My alderman, Jack Clifford, tracked me down and reported me to my employer for my opposition to this idea to try to get me fired,” Nicholson said. “That should make everyone in this room shudder.”

Usually, aldermen refrain from comment when citizens address the council, but Clifford said, “That’s a lie.”

“I can send you the e-mail, sir,” Nicholson said.

“I can send you a lot of e-mails, too, Mr. Know-It-All,” said Clifford, who was starting to get hot under the collar. “You accused me and other people at the beginning of this of being on the take, taking bribes, insulting my integrity and my military service saying I’m no better than Ho Chi Minh and I find that insulting.

McGOVERN 1

A visibly angry Jerry McGovern reacts to being referred to as Ho Chi Minh.

“You’re a liar. You stretch the truth…”

At that point both argued at the same time and Clifford said, “You’re not doing your cause any good and don’t ever insult me that way.”

Nicholson said, “Then don’t treat me like a kid.”

Clifford said, “You started it” and McGovern added “You started it.”

Nicholson changed the direction of the argument to “There you go, trying to get me fired over the opposition to a parking lot. That’s what we’ve come to. Will anybody stand up for the citizens? For me? My alderman attacking me?”

After the meeting, Clifford said he never tried to get Nicholson fired. He admits to e-mailing Nicholson’s place of employment to find out if an employee should be using the company server to insult him and he never mentioned Nicholson by name.

“Maybe they saw I was a Palos Heights alderman and figured it out,” he said.

After the citizens had their say, McGovern read a Facebook post allegedly written by Nicholson, that referred to the mayor as “Sneaky Bob Straz” and that members of the council are “gross and inhumanely arrogant.”

When McGovern, a Vietnam veteran Marine who on Wednesday took part in an Honor Flight trip to Washington, read a passage that he was “acting like Ho Chi Minh” he got riled up.

“That jerk called me Ho Chi Minh…I took one guy who was shot to hell, and I had to put his intestines back in him,” McGovern shouted. “I have to live with this kind of stuff, and I have! I can do my job and I can do it damn well!

“He wants to call me a mocking name like that? Where are you, you son of a b—-?”

After the meeting, Clifford said he was exploring the possibility of suing Nicholson for slander over some of the content in the e-mails.

LOT 1

A rendering provided by the City of Palos Heights shows what a proposed downtown parking lot would look like.

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