Posts Tagged Tri-State Fire Protection District Board of Trustees

Tri-State FPD back in the news (more)

Excerpts from the

We received word … from Eric Habercross, a Tri State FPD Trustee, that a resignation letter was submitted by Micheal Orrico on August 12th, 2015, three days after being exposed of his illegally holding office.

Maybe now after years of controversy within this department they can move forward and continue to weed out the bad and rise up to what most fire departments are known for: community service.

thanks Dan & Scott

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Tri-State FPD back in the news (more)

Form the

I closed our last article on the Tri-State Fire Protection District with this statement:  “Stay tuned for some pretty amazing exposure yet to come!”   (Click here for previous article) 

I think amazing is an understatement.  Mr. Orrico has once again proven that old saying that if it looks and smells like a rat, it must be a rat.  Turns out Mr. Orrico is violating yet another law and is no longer even legally a trustee!

In order to be a trustee of a fire district you have to be an “inhabitant” of the district. What is the common legal definition of inhabitant?   One who resides actually and permanently in a given place, and has his domicile there, says Blacks Law Dictionary.

So why shouldn’t Mr. Orrico be a Trustee at Tri State FPD? Because he lives in Joliet, Illinois.  On April 21, 2015, Mr. Orrico purchased a house in Joliet with his name clearly on the deed.  (Click here for copy of the Deed)

Property tax records reflect his primary residence is at the Joliet address by the fact he received the $6,000.00 homeowners exemption on his tax bill which is applied if you claim it as your primary residence.  (Click here for copy of property tax records with exemption highlighted)

The property he owns in the Fire District,  where he told the DuPage County voter registration people he lived, may be another concern depending on timing.  The name on that mailbox sure doesn’t say Orrico.  The Dupage County recorder shows he still owns the property, but he did not claim a homeowners exemption on that property.  (Click here for DuPage county tax records)

Fire district trustee is not a popular job so one must ask, why did  Mr. Orrico want this job in the first place?  A contract for his company for three ambulances seems like a good start. Perhaps his well known chummy relationship with the Chief has played a role that benefits them both?  Regardless, one thing is for sure, Mr. Orrico is no longer a trustee of the fire district as of April 21, 2015 and any action he took since that date should be closely reviewed for possible legal concerns.

The Fire Protection District Act is very clear.  (70 ILCS 705/5) Whenever a member of the elected board of trustees of a fire protection district ceases to be an inhabitant of the district, his or her office shall become immediately vacant.

Not only does the Fire Protection District Act spell this out, so too does the Election Code.  (10 ILCS 5/25-2)   Sec. 25-2. Events on which an elective office becomes vacant. Every elective office shall become vacant on the happening of any of the following events before the expiration of the term of such office:
(1) The death of the incumbent.
(2) His or her resignation.
(3) His or her becoming a person under legal disability.
(4) His or her ceasing to be an inhabitant of the State; or if the office is local, his or her ceasing to be an inhabitant of the district,

So it is very clear, Mr. Orrico is no longer a trustee for the Tri-State FPD, thus a vacancy exists!  If he claims otherwise he can explain to the Will County authorities why he committed fraud in applying for the homeowners exemption.

May we suggest his access to the facility be terminated immediately and his keys recovered as to further protect the citizens from any possible future malfeasance.

And once again, Stay tuned for more amazing exposure yet to come that may well lead to the removal of yet another official.

thanks Scott

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New trustee elected to Tri-State FPD board

Excerpts from the

Residents in the Tri-State Fire Protection District sent a strong message for change. Eric Habercoss was the runaway winner in the three-person race, earning 53 percent of the vote, nearly doubling the next closest candidate

“I think it says voters are tired of business as usual in Tri-State,” Habercoss said. “I plan to clean up the district, I wrote my action plan months before I ever announced I was running and I never deviated from it.”

When taking into account that the second-place candidate was another supporter of reform, more than 80 percent of voters opted for someone other than incumbent Julie Strenzel, who has been embroiled in controversy. Strenzel did not respond to phone calls or emails to discuss her candidacy during the campaign. No information could be found online promoting Strenzel’s campaign.

Strenzel has been under the microscope of the Better Government Association for moves she has made during her tenure on the board. The BGA reported last year that Strenzel is in a civil union and raising a family with former Tri-State Chief Michelle Gibson, but still voted to approve a retirement agreement that paid the former chief about $136,000 for unused sick days and vacation time.

Strenzel is also on record for approving late-career pension spikes for two other former chiefs, as well as an assistant chief. By approving salary jumps for the employees before they left the fire district, the retired workers are eligible for higher pension payments.

Unofficial vote totals, with all Tri-State precincts reporting Tuesday night, show Habercoss with 2,406 votes followed by Matthew Goodwin with 1,218 votes. Strenzel trailed with 895 votes.

thanks Dan

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NBC Chicago aligns with BGA on Tri-State FPD decisions

NBC Chicago has an article and associated video segment questioning decisions made by the Tri-State FPD board of trustees with regards to the recent retirement of Fire Chief Michelle Gibson.

The recently-resigned fire chief of the Tri-State Fire Protection District left behind a number of questions as she vacated the office.

Michelle Gibson is in a civil union and raising a family with Jill Strenzel, a woman who is essentially one of her bosses and one of only three trustees overseeing the fire district headquartered in southwest suburban Darien and covering parts of four towns and unincorporated DuPage County.

Two weeks ago, Strenzel and her two fellow trustees unanimously approved a retirement agreement that will pay the now former chief about $136,000 at the end of the year, mostly for unused sick days and vacation.

Attorney Shawn Collins, who specializes in negotiating employment contracts and disputes, reviewed the agreement and labeled it “ridiculous.” He said he’s never heard of anyone getting “paid in 2014 for an unused sick day from 1989.” Collins concluded that the Tri-State Fire District has the appearance of a “fiefdom or a private family business somewhere where a bunch of people who know each other are deciding how to carve up family money.”

Gibson resigned following a year-long investigation by the Better Government Association and NBC 5 Investigates which uncovered a spike in spending on equipment, entertainment and legal expenses in the six years since she was elevated to chief. The trustees, including Gibson’s life partner, reviewed and approved each year’s budget.

When BGA investigator Katie Drews pushed the three trustees for answers on Gibson’s retirement agreement, the new fire chief, Jack Mancione, answered instead with emails that said in part that “the trustee feel it is fair and reasonable to the taxpayers.”

House Republican leader Jim Durkin, who represents the area, said the scenario “screams for public accountability.”

thanks to multiple sources

 previous posts are HERE, HERE, and HERE.

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Discharged Tri-State Division Chief sues district

An article from outlines a lawsuit filed against the Tri-State Fire Protection District by a former division chief.

A division chief with the Tri-State Fire Protection District has filed suit alleging his discharge last October was retaliation for him having filed a heart related workers comp claim and using medical leave.

Division Chief David Basek filed suit last week in federal court against the Tri-State Fire Protection District, the Tri-State Fire Protection District Board of Trustees, Hamilton Gibbons, Jill Strenzel, Michael Orrico, the Tri-State Fire Protection District Board of Commissioners, Robert Jewell, William Anderson, Christopher Baumbach, and Michelle Gibson.

The 18 page complaint alleges that Chief Basek was deprived “of his due process rights under the Constitution of the United States of America and the Constitution of the State of Illinois” because he was terminated “without providing him the predisciplinary procedures or hearing to which he is entitled”. It also alleges that Chief Basek was terminated “in retaliation for his exercise of rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act (“IWCA”).”

Chief Basek developed a heart condition in June, 2011 and filed a workers comp claim in November, 2011. He alleges he was informed that his supervisor was “displeased” that he filed the claim and he began to be harassed. He later applied for FMLA protection. Shortly after he started FMLA leave, he was informed that an investigation was being initiated into vague and unspecified violations.

On October 29, 2012 he was called before the fire chief who informed him that following “an unspecified investigation, the unidentified rule violations had been sustained against Mr. Basek and that she was discharging him from his job as Division Chief, but offered that he could work in a union position of Career Service Lieutenant.” The discharge occurred without notice, an explanation of the charges, a hearing, or an opportunity to be heard.

The complaint includes 5 counts:

  • Count I – due process violation under federal law
  • Count II – due process violation under state law
  • Count III – mandamus request to order his reinstatement and hearing before a neutral hearing officer
  • Count IV – retaliation and discrimination under the FMLA
  • Count V – retaliatory discharge in violation of the state workers comp act

Here is a copy of the complaint.Basek v TriState

thanks Scott


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