Letter: End the 'Reign of Terror' at Plainfield Park District

Resident: "Sadly, voter apathy paved the way for a group of self-serving, mean-spirited politicians to wreak havoc at our park district."

Credit: File photo
Credit: File photo

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

-Edmund Burke)

Over the past nine months, good men and women in our community have spoken out against numerous abuses of power and unethical - and now perhaps even illegal - behavior at the Plainfield Park District.  

Since their “election” to the board last spring (they were the only candidates after petition challengers knocked all opposition out of the race), commissioners Peter Steinys and Janet Silosky, along with board president Peter Hurtado, quickly began decimating our park district from the inside.

Hurtado, Silosky, Steinys and Garrett Peck, a grossly unqualified political crony the new park board majority appointed as executive director, soon began systematically destroying the lives of talented, experienced staff members through character assassination, intimidation and even loss of their careers.

Since the foursome’s reign of terror began, what’s left of our park district’s dedicated and cooperative staff has been forced to work in a toxic atmosphere clouded by fear and suspicion.

How was this allowed to happen? Sadly, voter apathy paved the way for a group of self-serving, mean-spirited politicians to wreak havoc at our park district. Although Plainfield’s village, school, fire, library and park district boards are deemed nonpartisan, Hurtado, Steinys, Silosky and Peck chose to use the Plainfield Park District as a proving ground for their radical brand of politics.

Early on, some members of the foursome’s political party bravely spoke out against the damaging slash-and-burn tactics being used at the park district. But others remained silent until growing public outcry – and now, Mr. Hurtado’s unsupported claims that he has been a victim of racism – forced them to take a stand.

Over the past months, I have joined friends and neighbors of all political stripes who have repeatedly called for park district officials to serve their constituents with honesty and integrity, rather than to pursue their own, or their political party’s, self interests.

Thankfully, Mr. Peck has since resigned his post as executive director. As for the “board majority,” our voices seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

But our park district cannot survive much longer under the willful mismanagement of this group. So, I will repeat the call that is sounding across our community: Please, Mr. Hurtado, Mr. Steinys and Mrs. Silosky, resign from the board to help save the park district you claim to love and pledged to serve.

Only then, with residents’ unwavering support, ethical public servants such as commissioners Larry Newton and Mary Kay Ludemann can begin the difficult task of rebuilding our park district and restoring the spirit of trust and cooperation that once existed there.

It is my hope that all good citizens, regardless of their political leanings, will pledge to work together to build a better community – by stating, loudly and clearly, that mean-spirited, divisive partisan politics are not welcome here.

Linda Ozbolt,


Tim February 12, 2014 at 09:54 PM
Joel, that is who I think of the most. I grew up here. I remember Van Horn woods when it was nothing but an open field. I took swimming lessons at the Ottawa st pool when I was young, biology classes at 'boy scout pond' to identify all organisms in an ecosystem. Soccer and tee-ball at Four Seasons park. Our park district has given me many wonderful memories over many decades, and all of them have someone who worked for the district attached to them. It has been a great enrichment of my life, and I'm sure many many others just like me. How could we not defend it?
Jamey Alwood February 12, 2014 at 10:29 PM
Linda Bravo! Nicely done and I love the quote from Edmund Burke.
Bad News Bears February 12, 2014 at 10:51 PM
Mr Burghard, correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't you hired by our Board majority as an independent consultant right after Peck was hired? Didn't you, or your company, interview PPD employees at the beginning of all this?
Larry Newton February 12, 2014 at 10:58 PM
BNB, he was hired to allow the Board and Staff to vent and then recommend steps to improve the situation. His work was not heeded, and was therefore unsuccessful. His point NOW is that we would not be able to operate as a Board in the event that all three majority members of the Board stepped down or were otherwise removed. It is a good question and one of the reasons why the focus of many has been exclusively to call for President Hurtado's resignation.
Bad News Bears February 12, 2014 at 11:03 PM
If you don't mind me asking, what were his recommended steps?
Mary Ludemann February 12, 2014 at 11:06 PM
Thanks Linda for your letter and support of the Park District. Also, from the Park District Code, Section 2-25, Vacancies - Method of Filling, it states: Whenever any member of the governing board of any park district (i) dies, (ii) resigns, (iii) becomes under legal disability, (iv) ceases to be a legal voter in the district, (v) is convicted of any infamous crime, (vi) refuses or neglects to take his or her oath of office, (vii) neglects to perform the duties of his or her office or attend meetings of the board for the length of time as the board fixes by ordinance, or (viii) for any other reason specified by law, that office may be declared vacant. Vacancies shall be filled by appointment by a majority of the remaining members of the board. Any person so appointed shall hold his or her office until the next regular election for this office, at which a member shall be elected to fill the vacancy for the unexpired term, subject to the following conditions: (1) If the vacancy occurs with less than 28 months remaining in the term, the person appointed to fill the vacancy shall hold his or her office until the expiration of the term for which he or she has been appointed, and no election to fill the vacancy shall be held. (2) If the vacancy occurs with more than 28 months left in the term, but less than 88 days before the next regularly scheduled election for this office, the person appointed to fill the vacancy shall hold his or her office until the second regularly scheduled election for the office following the appointment, at which a member shall be elected to fill the vacancy for the unexpired term.
Larry Newton February 12, 2014 at 11:11 PM
Open communication. Didn't happen. Understand your role as a Commissioner. Didn't happen.
Bad News Bears February 12, 2014 at 11:16 PM
And Larry, this might be the first time I disagree with you. It might be a bit hectic if 1, 2 or 3 board members step down, but as to how you would still function? Are those 3 letting you function well now? I don't wish this mess on anyone, but I have full faith that you, Mary, and the dedicated staff at the PPD can handle anything if you can handle the last 9 months. Just my humble opinion
Larry Newton February 12, 2014 at 11:16 PM
Sorry, those were my two big issues from the report. There were others. Feel free to request a copy from the Park District. Hopefully, you won't be required to FOIA a copy. If you are, let me know.
Larry Newton February 12, 2014 at 11:18 PM
BNB, we are in uncharted waters. I would hope we can work all of this out without involving the courts.
Bad News Bears February 12, 2014 at 11:20 PM
Thanks for answering. I wish they would have taken the advice they paid for. May have saved alot of problems all around.
Mary Ludemann February 12, 2014 at 11:23 PM
Since vacancies shall be filled by appointment by a majority of the remaining members of the board I would think that if Larry Newton and I were the only remaining board members then it would be up to us to appoint the new board members. And if we appointed 1 or 2 at a time then it would be up to the majority of the current board until all seats were full.
Bad News Bears February 12, 2014 at 11:24 PM
I think we are all hoping that. But, not to be harsh, that would mean that one or more of those 3 would have to think of something other than themselves, and I'm not sure that will ever happen
Bad News Bears February 12, 2014 at 11:29 PM
Mary, my hope is that you and Larry will be filling those seats soon. The two of you have the patience of Job.
Larry Newton February 12, 2014 at 11:31 PM
BNB, that wouldn't be fair to the residents of the park district.
Vicky Polito February 12, 2014 at 11:33 PM
Hey, everyone. Just fyi, I’ve put on The Patch’s “Town Square” sidebar links to the video recording I made tonight of the Plainfield Township Board meeting, where they took up a resolution to make a vote of no confidence in the Board of the Plainfield Township Park District. Please check there for active links to the two video clips. In long form, the video links are: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n30Sbfy9SQI and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-gfrLc_McI&feature=youtu.be Please bear with me as I will post this same info to comments on different articles, just to cover the bases, so you may see this message a few times. Thanks much.
Bad News Bears February 12, 2014 at 11:34 PM
Which part wouldn't be fair Larry?
Theresa February 12, 2014 at 11:35 PM
Thank you Ms. Ozbult for your incredible letter! RESIGN PETER HURTADO & take the rest of the manipulators with you! Don't go away mad just go away.
Bad News Bears February 12, 2014 at 11:38 PM
Thanks again Vicky.
Larry Newton February 12, 2014 at 11:41 PM
Two people shouldn't be deciding who will be filling out the terms of those to be replaced. Those who would be named would serve until the next election. Furthermore, the next election is 2015 when Mary and I will be seeking re-election for six year terms. If, for instance, all five commissioners would be up for election at the next election, it would be for six-year terms all around. We wouldn't have staggered terms. That's why I'm hoping it doesn't come to that, because the courts would be involved in determining who would serve for staggered terms. See how messy it would be? My hope is that President Hurtado resigns and the remaining Board decides who his replacement will be. That person would serve until the 2015 election, thus preserving staggered terms.
Vicky Polito February 12, 2014 at 11:42 PM
BNB--others, I have a copy via FOIA of the GMT Consulting report (that is the firm that Mr. Burghard is part of). So, give me a few minutes here and I'll put it up on DropBox, then come back and give out a link where anyone can go and grab a copy online, okay? Hold on.
Bad News Bears February 12, 2014 at 11:54 PM
Vicky, another thank you. Larry, not to be the rain on anyone's parade, but let's just say Hurtado resigns (pfffft). Would Steinys and Silotsky EVER agree with you and Mary on a new appointee? I'm trying to decide which way would be messier at this point, and honestly, nothing about this situation is fair to the residents. I know you and Mary never asked for any of this and probably have absolutely no desire to be the "last 2 standing", but for the life of me, I can't see Hurtado, Silotsky or Steinys resigning anyway. There are so many possible endings to this parable it boggles the mind
Vicky Polito February 12, 2014 at 11:56 PM
OK, anyone wanting that HR type survey done by GMT back in June 2013, go to: https://www.dropbox.com/s/jga136rksluxqi4/GMT%20contract%20and%20report%20June2013.pdf It's the report and the contract and the invoices, the whole package. I noted on reading it that though there is documentation of a follow-up/part 2 being done, the whole thing was just sort of . . . dropped. Or, something in the neighborhood of 10 grand we paid for NOTHING (not meaning GMT did nothing, but that Peck and Hurtado did nothing with it).
Larry Newton February 13, 2014 at 12:07 AM
BNB, we have only one unreasonable Commissioner
Bad News Bears February 13, 2014 at 12:41 AM
Well, you know them better than I do Larry. I only know what I see at meetings, which is what most residents see and why there is a call for all 3 to leave. What I remember most about Steinys are 3 things: 1. When you questioned invoices about the OSP ceiling project. There was nothing reasonable about him then. 2. Him saying that the previous planning department wouldn't communicate with him and then tried dismissing their qualifications because they didn't have engineering degrees. He didn't even look embarrassed when told that the consultants hired didn't have them either. And 3. The whole political sign/battery case during Peck's senate run. Doesn't say anything about him as a commissioner but speaks volumes as to his character. Now with Silotsky I remember 1. Her flip flopping on the St. John's lease; 2. Her, in my opinion, attack on Mary for being less than honest about her connections with St. John's (which was completely untrue); and 3. When she found out about the LED lights, why didn't she ever ask you and/or Mary to meet to discuss it? She only called Peck and Steinys. I'm sorry, but I have no confidence in those two either. Let us not forget they voted to remove Cameron Bettin for Garrett Peck and brought in Doug Booth
Bad News Bears February 13, 2014 at 12:55 AM
Vicky, that report was mind-blowing. I wonder why they even bothered bringing GMT in. Talk about early warning signs that were being ignored. My heart goes out to the PPD staff for working in those conditions and not breaking
joan husarik February 13, 2014 at 07:36 AM
ditto, BNB
J. Hagen February 13, 2014 at 11:49 AM
Hurtado, Silosky, Steinys, and Booth should resign. How many people and organizations in our town have to demand this before it happens?
Gabby February 13, 2014 at 06:04 PM
In life, each of us either help or hinder. Every thought, word, and action has either a positive impact and a detrimental impact. Doing the right thing is a sign of one's character and takes courage. Hurtado, Silosky, Steinys, and Booth are you helping or hindering? Have your actions had a positive or detrimental impact? Be humble enough to do the right thing and resign.
Ame Bible February 16, 2014 at 09:40 PM
Linda: Read your letter regarding the "Reign of Terror" at our Plainfield Park District, and I concur. The chaos in our Park District cannot continue. I stand with you and the residents urging the resignation of the three; Hurtado, Steinys, and Silosky. They made of a mockery of our democracy. It did not take long for them to show their true colors. And yes, agreed "voter apathy" is the culprit, which applies in all levels of elected office. Therefore, please your "right to vote" is priceless. Moreover, become familiar with your candidates. In todays social media, that should be an easy task. Additionally, vote for principle.


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