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Broadview puts lobbyist on payroll despite past scandal

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Kevin Beese

BROADVIEW |  Broadview has hired a lobbyist at a cost of $4,000 per month to represent the village in Springfield.

Mayor Katrina Thompson (center) , former Mayor Sherman Jones (right) and the Broadview People’s Party slate.

Alfred “Al” G. Ronan of Oak Park is contracted to serve the village as a lobbyist through December 2018.  Ronan is a former politician serving in the House of Representatives from 1979 to 1983.  He is ranked in the top 20 contributors to the Broadview People’s Party, the party now in control of the Broadview Village Board, according to Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, a campaign finance watchdog group.  The organization’s records show that Ronan has contributed $850 to the Broadview People’s Party.  According to BPP campaign disclosures, Ronan is clumped in the $800 to $1,000 range with three other firms that also have been given contracts with the village:

  • Delgaldo Law Firm, which donated $1,000 to the BPP in March, and was chosen to be Broadview’s legal counsel.
  • Fornaro Law, which gave $950 to the People’s Party and $11,060 to Friends of Sherman C. Jones, a campaign organization of the former mayor, since 2012, and was appointed a special counsel of the new administration.
  • Montana & Welch (unrelated to Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch), which gave $825 to the BPP and was also appointed a special counsel of the new administration.

Alfred “Al” Ronan, Oak Park resident, and lobbyist contracted by the cash-strapped Village of Broadview at $4K per month for 18 months

Among Ronan’s clients are a big contractor, a major casino company, the state medical association, liquor distributors and a host of other businesses have all come to see Ronan when they wanted something from Illinois politicians. “The 65-year-old lawmaker-turned-lobbyist has built a reputation for his extraordinary ability to open doors for his clients, whether it’s in county government, at the Statehouse in Springfield or in Chicago’s City Hall. “Al Ronan is the consummate insider,”” said then state Sen. Miguel del Valle, D-Chicago, in a 2004 interview.  Del Valle, a political rival added, “he (Ronan) has contacts everywhere and he manages to make them by providing them with resources, whether it’s contracts or campaign contributions.”

At a recent Village Board meeting, Broadview resident Marquita Smith questioned the rationale for hiring a lobbyist.

“Why are we paying $4,000 for a lobbyist?” Smith asked at the Aug. 21 board meeting. “Mayor (Katrina) Thompson was going to be doing that. Our elected officials should be doing our lobbying, With the issues our state has now, we are not going to get too much of anything. I am not feeling the $4,000 month.”

Ronan’s contract says that his services will include “monitoring and keeping the village appraised on a regular basis of all legislation, bills, amendments and regulatory activity now pending or proposed, or which may be proposed during the term … in the Illinois state Legislature or in any agency or department of the state of Illinois, pertaining to the business, products, reputation or interests of the village or its subsidiaries.”

Ronan was previously part of a high-powered lobbying firm that was implicated in a 2004 bid-rigging scheme for construction at Chicago’s McCormick Place West. His prior firm, Ronan Potts, got inside information from Metropolitan Pier and Exhibition Authority Chief Scott Fawell that helped a client win the construction bid.  Neither Ronan nor his previous partner, John Potts, were convicted or admitted any wrongdoing, but their firm was fined $465,000 by the U.S. government and forced to disband.  Ronan has represented more than a dozen towns, including Melrose Park, in recent years.  An email sent to Broadview residents from an anonymous individual blasted the move as political payback.

“Hiring a lobbyist to do the work our mayor promised and I paid to do for the village is unrealistic,” “Concerned Broadview resident” said in the August email. “If this is the route we should have went, give him a six-month contract to see how it plays out, not 18 months. All these people on the People Party’s D-2s (campaign finance forms) are being hired to work in our village. It is a “thanks for supporting our campaign tactic that many sneaky politicians use.”

Mayor Katrina Thompson defended the hiring of Ronan saying that the village needs to have its own lobbyist in Springfield, finding available dollars for village programs and departments.  “It’s definitely an asset to keep a lobbyist on the team,” Thompson said. “It will bring us a profit.”

The mayor said despite the state’s financial ills, there are still dollars to be gained from Springfield and having a seasoned political veteran like Ronan on the village’s side can only help.

“The lobbyist will work for the village of Broadview, but also for the Fire, Police, Finance and Public Works departments. These are the people who need a lobbyist.”  She said taking shots at the expense because the village hasn’t tried it before does not show vision for the village’s future.

“It is how we are being proactive,” Thompson said of the move.

 

 

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