'Nefarious political intentions' behind Orland Park mayoral investigation, cleared Pekau claims
With the Village of Orland Park having concluded its investigation, finding no evidence of wrongdoing, Mayor Keith Pekau is now labeling allegations of contract irregularities lodged against him a political attack.
“The investigation found no wrongdoing whatsoever,” Pekau said at a recent press conference. “Not one thing. The first two complaints are alleged to have happened seven years ago – there was nothing substantiated in the claim. Why were they investigated now? Every invoice that the company I owned sent to the village from 2012 until I became mayor was looked at. The third complaint was lodged in the middle of February of 2019, was also in the middle of a campaign.”
Pekau traces his troubles to now-departed village manager Joe La Margo being allowed to exceed his authority by launching his investigation targeting a landscaping company the mayor once owned that routinely did business with the village. The purported discretions centered on Pekau’s former company, GroundsKeeper Landscape Care, allegedly engaging in rigged bidding practices for work done for the village.
In a March report, the Jones Day law firm hired to do the investigation concluded it could not “conclusively establish that there were any clear violations of existing law or policy," adding that more investigation would be needed. Beyond scoffing at that notion, Pekau added that taxpayer money had been “wasted” in conducting the original study and that “anyone with reasonable judgment would have recognized in minutes that these allegations were unfounded.”
On top of that, Pekau said there’s good reason to believe the investigation should have not been allowed to happen to begin with. At least three Orland Park board members now insist that they were unaware of the investigation, meaning without board approval La Margo should have never been able to spend the more than the $20,000 needed to foot the bill for the probe.
“I don’t believe the law gives the village manager the authority to access the emails of elected officials without FOIA (Freedom of Information Act),” Pekau added. “Additionally, he certainly doesn’t have the authority to release information from a confidential investigation to anyone. In my opinion, these may be criminal acts – official misconduct and dissemination of information.
Pekau is now pushing for changes in the rules he hopes will prevent a repeat of what he’s had to deal with.
“Unfortunately, our statutory village manager form of government gives unchecked power to an unelected employee when the trustees lack the willingness to oversee the person they appointed,” he added. “The mayor has no legal power to intervene. This investigation is the type of action that can happen when a person with questionable judgment and nefarious political intentions are given this power.”