Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau said at Monday's board meeting that there is a lot if 'misinformation' being spread about a referendum coming up. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau said at Monday's board meeting that there is a lot if 'misinformation' being spread about a referendum coming up. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Referendum on manager heating up in Orland Park

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Village manager a finalist for Janesville post

By Jeff Vorva

“Yes” is starting to make some noise.

In what first appeared to be a referendum that might not generate a lot of controversy, the village’s request for voters to allow Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau and the board of trustees to have the final say over important matters rather than the village manager is getting heated.

The referendum on the April 5 ballot will read “Shall the Village of Orland Park retain the managerial form of government?”

Pekau and the board are hoping the public votes “no.”

But a Vote Yes group has emerged. While there hasn’t been any names attached to the group in its voteyesorland.com or @voteyesorland twitter feed, the group is hosting an informational meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 2, at the Orland Park Library with Jason Grant, the International City/County Management Association Director of Advocacy, as the presenter. He is based in the Washington, D.C., metro area. The library is located a 14921 S. Ravinia Ave.

At Monday night’s board meeting, Pekau called the anonymous Vote Yes organizers “sick people” who have used robocalls and other means to disparage him and the board and make personal attacks.

At the committee of the whole meeting before the regular board meeting, the board voted unanimously to approve amendments to the current ordinance regarding the manager form of government and implement the changes after the election.

This measure will go to the board after the April 5 election for a vote.

“There is a lot of misinformation out there and our job is to provide accurate information so you can vote the way you choose,” Pekau said. “The information on the village website is accurate.

“What you are seeing out there being spread around is not.”

Trustee Michael Milani tried to clear up what he thought was misinformation.

“This isn’t about making a full-time mayor position, and this isn’t about raising his salary again,” Milani said. “This is not about getting rid of the village manager position. It’s not about taking away the professionalism of the position, nor is it discrediting the work that the village manager (George Koczwara) does.

“What this is doing, is taking the onus of control and putting it back where it belongs and that’s in the hands of the voters. If they see something they don’t like, they can vote us out and rectify the situation. That is exactly the purpose of what we’re doing here.”

There is another interesting wrinkle that developed since the board voted to place the question on the ballot.

It was made public that Koczwara is one of four finalists for the Janesville, Wisconsin, city manager job.

Ironically, on the same night that Vote Yes will have its meeting on March 2, Koczwara has been invited to meet the public in Janesville along with the other three finalists. He is up against two administrators from Wisconsin – Kewanee County, Waukesha, and a former administrator from Sheboygan.

Attempts to reach Koczwara for comment were unsuccessful. Pekau said after Monday night’s meeting that at the time the board was drawing up and voting on the referendum question, he was unaware Koczwara was seeking the Janesville job.

“I don’t know when he started applying,” Pekau said. “But it’s a Wisconsin law, apparently, that (the names of the finalists) have to be released, which is bad for everyone who is a finalist.

“I can’t blame anyone for wanting to move to Wisconsin. I’m surprised that it wasn’t Florida.”

2 Comments

  1. Gail Wiot on March 1, 2023 at 9:57 am

    I believe in a system where you have checks and balances. Perhaps this Referendum could have been written differently. After reading different articles it appears to have been a clash of personalities and power! And if the Manager was treated so poorly, it’s the person’s right to seek employment else where. So what are the checks and balances in place? No one bothers to explain that! Just vote YES or NO!



    • Matt Foster on March 4, 2023 at 3:37 am

      I suggest reading Rex Balboa’s thoughtful essay in the Nextdoor Neighbor App.
      The mayor and trustees could put a little more insight into their position, which for now seems to be “trust us”.



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