According to commissioner Janet Silosky, after she blew the whistle about her suspicions that a shipment of LED lights purchased by the park district were connected to park board president Peter Hurtado, the order was cancelled and the payment never made.
Silosky — who told Patch Tuesday night that she can no longer comment on the allegations due to a pending investigation — said fellow board member Peter Steinys was able to stop a PayPal payment for the lights.
But park district staff claim that at least some of the lights did arrive at the park district and were installed at the Ottawa Street Pool, according to commissioner Mary Kay Ludemann.
Silosky has claimed that the lights belonged to Hurtado, who works in the commercial lighting industry, and that the payment was to a company by the name of Solis — which is also the name of Hurtado's daughter's boyfriend. Hurtado, for his part, denied the allegations at a special board meeting last week.
Sometime between Jan. 6 and 13, then-Executive Director Garrett Peck ordered staff to remove the lights and ship them back to the vendor, a company called Josue Solis and Associates with a Chicago address, according to Ludemann. Peck, who is Plainfield village trustee, resigned from the park district on Jan. 23.
Ludemann said staff purchased replacement lights at Menard's after sending back the shipment.
As for whether that story conflicts with Silosky's claim that Steinys was able to cancel the order, Ludemann said, "That's the stuff I don't know yet. There's still more to the story that hasn't come out yet, I think. We're getting little pieces here and there."
In fact, there appear to be multiple orders to "Solis," although it's unclear how many of the purchases went through.
According to a credit card statements obtained by Patch, a Bank of America card assigned to Peck was charged $475 on Dec. 12, 2013, by Josue Solis and Associates via PayPal.
Patch also obtained a monthly credit card log for Peck that included a note that the Solis purchase was "returned 1-21-14 by Joe Masters."
Another payment to Josue Solis and Associates for $3,800 — this one charged to staffer Joe Masters' park district credit card — was made on Jan. 14, but refunded two days later, according to the statement. Masters was recently promoted temporarily to the position of director of parks and project management.
Patch also obtained a purchase order dated Jan. 2 for a $7,600 order from Solis and associates for more than a dozen 120-watt LED lights, priced at $475 each, with the note "horse farm," presumably referring to the Normantown Trails Equestrian Center.
An online search for Josue Solis and Associates turned up no results. A call to the phone number listed for the company yielded an automated "magicJack" ad.
The same phone number, however, is on a directory listing for a company called Mastercraft Metal Spinning. The listing names Hurtado as Mastercraft's president.
Commissioner Larry Newton said he also learned from staff that a shipment of 100 park district logo polo shirts was made to a company that allegedly had ties to Hurtado.
An invoice for $3,200 — 100 polos at $32 each — shows an order from a Chicago company called Goldstar billed to park district spokesman Doug Booth via PayPal. Booth did not return a call from Patch Tuesday.
Newton said staff told him that after the shirts arrived, employees were told to ship them back — but the package bounced back to the park district.
"Again, it was to a dummy location," Newton said. The invoice lists an address of 3147 W. Logan Blvd., Chicago, for the company.
Hurtado didn't return a call from Patch regarding the Goldstar purchase on Wednesday night.
Tech company with ties to Peck?At Tuesday night's meeting, resident Howard Ruskin asked Hurtado about reports that the park district made payments to Government Utilities Technology Service (GUTS), a company with apparent ties to Peck's business, Magik Technologies Inc.
On a list of "partners" on its website, GUTS includes Magik Technlogies.
Park district documents show several checks paid to the Thorntown, Indiana, company, including a $2,025 payment in July 2013, a $1,593 payment in November 2013 and a $3,483 payment in January, for a total of more than $7,000.
"The bottom line is, either Garrett on his own or Garrett with the blessing of the other three board members" made the decision to use the vendor, Ludemann said. "There was a lot going on that should have been taken to the board."
New hiresDuring public comment Tuesday, resident Vicky Polito questioned whether patronage jobs were handed out by the park district, saying that 10 out of 11 recent new hires have ties to Peck, Hurtado or Steinys.
"That appears to be true," Ludemann said, adding that among the new hires was Steiny's son-in-law.
"He'll deny it, but [the employee] is married to his stepdaughter," Ludemann said. "The question comes, where were these job opportunities, [and] were they posted properly?"
Investigation pendingOn Tuesday, Newton called for an internal investigation.
According to Ludemann, park board attorney Matt Campbell has agreed to look into the claims. Patch was unable to reach Campbell on Wednesday.
"He is handling an internal investigation, and if he thinks he finds anything illegal he'll hand it over to the state's attorney," Ludemann said.
The state's attorney is also reportedly reviewing some documents related to the park district, although spokesman Chuck Pelkie declined to elaborate on what sparked the investigation.
On Wednesday, Pelkie said there was nothing new to report regarding the probe.