By Kevin Beese
Two appointments to the Broadview-Westchester Joint Water Agency have become a political issue with Broadview officials.
The appointments of Broadview village Trustee Judy Abraham and Public Works Director Matt Ames were an issue of contention at a special Broadview meeting held Friday. The appointments were both approved by a 3-1 vote, with Trustee John Ealey voting against the recommendations made by Mayor Katrina Thompson.
“The best possible person, individual, citizen to represent the village of Broadview” should be picked for the post, Ealey contended when voting against Abraham’s appointment. “… Personally, I think we can do so much better.”
Ealey and Abraham are members of different political parties that currently each hold three trustee seats. Ealey is part of the Broadview First Party; Abraham is part of the Broadview People’s Party, which took the three seats up in this past spring’s election as well as the mayor’s seat.
Voting for Abraham’s appointment were Trustees Verina Horne, Sherman Jones and Abraham, all People’s Party members. Abraham was allowed to vote as the position is a non-paying one and she would have no financial gain from the appointment, according to a representative of Del Galdo Law, the village’s law firm.
Trustees Tara Brewer and Judy Brown-Marino, both Broadview First members, were absent from Friday’s meeting.
It was the third time that Abraham’s appointment to the panel that oversees bringing Lake Michigan water to Broadview and Westchester was up for a vote. Her appointment was voted down without discussion at last week’s regular Village Board meeting in a 3-2 vote. At that time, Brewer, Brown-Marino and Ealey voted against the trustee’s appointment, while Abraham and Horne voted for it. Jones was absent from the July 17 meeting.
Earlier at Friday’s meeting, with only three trustees present (Jones was late in arriving), Abraham’s appointment came up, but had to be tabled because there was no second to the motion made by Horne to put Abraham in the post. Ealey failed to second it and it was deemed inappropriate by the village attorney for Abraham to second the motion for her own appointment.
Thompson said she wanted Abraham on the panel because she is chairperson of the village’s Water and Drainage Committee and it simply made sense to have her as one of the village’s three representatives on the Water Agency board. Thompson is Broadview’s third person on the six-member board. Ealey was even more adamant in opposition when Ames’ name came up for appointment to the water panel. He said Ames’ track record should keep the village’s public works director off the intergovernmental agency.
“Either we all know or we should know there’s been no end to the number of embarrassing incidents in the village,” Ealey said of Ames’ Public Works Department. “Our reputation as a village has suffered as a result of it. I’ve spoken in the past with several members of the Joint Water Agency. His absences have been a problem … This is not a good fit. Again, we can do much, much better than this.”
One of those embarrassments is the apparent use of the village’s Public Works garage for private vehicle repairs after hours. More than a dozen videos surfaced in May of late-night car repairs apparently being done in the Public Works garage, space intended for maintaining municipal vehicles.
The mechanic responsible for the apparent off-the-book car repairs was identified as Public Works employee Davanta Crews. It was reported that he has been suspended pending the investigation into the alleged private car repair. Horne, who oversees the village’s Public Works Committee, said after the meeting that an internal investigation in the case is ongoing. She and Thompson had no estimate as to when that investigation would be completed.
Abraham said that Ames has run the Public Works Department for several years and if backgrounds are going to be questioned, every trustee could be questioned. “Nobody’s living a perfect life the last time I checked,” Abraham said. “To sit there and say someone doesn’t have the credentials or the ability, that could be said about anybody. We need to discuss everybody who is sitting on different committees … As far as I know the operation of Public Works is happening on a day-to-day situation.”