While some residents continued to call for the Plainfield Park District board majority to step down, one commissioner has targeted board president Peter Hurtado.
Janet Silosky on Wednesday publicly accused Hurtado of attempting to unload a shipment of LED lights on the park district. Hurtado is a small business owner in the commercial lighting industry.
Hurtado, who denied the accusation, ignored requests from the public to resign, instead asking park district attorney Matt Campbell to investigate the matter and bring it to the attention of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.
“I don’t know if it rises to the level of a crime,” Campbell said, but told Hurtado he would look into it.
At Wednesday’s special board meeting, Silosky claimed the issue came to light on Jan. 14, when park district spokesman Doug Booth came to her after Hurtado allegedly asked him to authorize a payment to the lighting company via PayPal. The company, "Solis," coincidentally bore the same name as Hurtado’s daughter’s boyfriend, she said.
“[Booth] felt very, very uncomfortable” with the purchase, Silosky said. “He had the guts to come to me about this.”
According to Silosky, the purchase caught her attention because she had prior knowledge that Hurtado’s company was sending a shipment of LED lights to China over the summer, but the order had been cancelled.
“He ended up with all of this LED lighting,” Silosky said.
She said she confronted Hurtado during a Jan. 20 meeting with then-park district Executive Director Garrett Peck, who has since resigned.
“On Martin Luther King Day when we met, he admitted that the lights were his,” Silosky said. But, she claimed, he did not admit any wrongdoing and ultimately refused to resign from the park board.
“He said he didn’t do anything wrong,” she said. “He said that it was a setup … and then he walked out on us.”
Silosky claimed fellow commissioner Peter Steinys was able to put a stop on the PayPal payment.
On Wednesday night, Hurtado called the allegations “very serious accusations,” but did not respond to numerous residents who asked whether he intended to resign.
Hurtado acknowledged that the lighting vendor in question is run by his daughter’s boyfriend, but said he had no knowledge about the purchase or what the lights were to be used for.
He also denied that the lights were originally his.
Neither Silosky, Hurtado nor Steinys — who reportedly cancelled the payment — could say how much the LED lighting would have cost the park district.
“I don’t remember the exact amount,” Silosky said.
Hurtado said he knows there was a bid process involved with the purchase, but was not aware of details.
“I don’t get involved with equipment at the park district,” he said. “I didn’t see the bids.”
Newton: Step down ‘in the best interest of the district’
Commissioner Mary Kay Ludemann, who has been outspoken in her criticism of some decisions made by board majority Silosky, Steinys and Hurtado, said she learned of the allegations on Monday.
Asked whether she believed Hurtado should step down, Ludemann said she wasn’t sure, adding it depends on whether Hurtado is comfortable remaining in the position.
Commissioner Larry Newton, on the other hand, called for Hurtado to resign “in the best interest of the district.
“Whether the allegations are true or not, the uproar caused by all this is going to cloud the district forever and ever," he said.
‘Not an easy thing to do’
The special board meeting was called on Monday for the purpose of discussing “personnel and the performance of the occupant of a public office” in closed session, according to the agenda.
Even before the meeting began, at least one commissioner raised questions about the legality of the closed-session agenda.
“The Board of Commissioners does not have a vacancy nor do the conditions exist under which we have we the specific authority to remove an occupant from public office under law or ordinance,” Newton told Patch.
In an emailed statement, Silosky outlined the reasons for the meeting.
“Recent events have led to the calling of a special meeting by me and Commissioner Mary Ludemann, for the purpose of discussing the performance of a Board member who has allegedly acted in violation of the provisions of the Board Member Handbook,” the statement said. “While I regret that such an action must be taken, I believe that this meeting will be in the best interests of the District as well as the Board and I look forward to a frank discussion of the issues involved."
Silosky acknowledged that the email was sent out on her behalf, but declined to say who sent it.
Ultimately, Silosky said, the ethics issue could not be discussed in closed session, so she brought it up during the public portion of the meeting.
“This information was going to come out one way or another,” she said, adding it tough for her to speak publicly against Hurtado.
“This was not an easy thing for me to do,” Silosky said.
The next park board meeting is set for 6 p.m. Feb. 4 at the Plainfield Township building, 22525 W. Lockport St.