The Village of Forest Park was served a subpoena last week for records relating to controversial consultant Anthony Bruno and his companies, Illinois Development Services and Gray and Associates.
Bruno, who has been under federal investigation since late 2003 for his role in a $42-million water project in Melrose Park, worked as a consultant during Forest Park’s water system overhaul in 2003.
Both Melrose Park and Cicero, where Bruno reportedly received over $600,000 during a 2-year period for consultation on various economic development projects, recently severed ties with Bruno.
Though it is unclear whether Forest Park officials are suspected of any wrongdoing or if the subpoena is simply intended to gather further information on Bruno’s businesses, some have suspected that the subpoenas mark the beginning of a crisis for the village.
“I don’t think it’ll be a happy ending for [Mayor] Tony Calderone,” said Commissioner Patrick Doolin, who added that he felt Bruno’s employment by Forest Park was unnecessary and merely a way to get the politically connected Bruno on the payroll.
“The question is: Was the project engineered, developed and implemented properly or done for the profit of certain individuals?” said Doolin.
“There are questions as to why [we needed] this layer of middle management”we don’t have the likes of Anthony Bruno and Illinois Development Services for the Village Improvement Program (VIP). We will manage it, and our engineers will manage it. … I think you’ll see that nothing was done for the money, and it was just a way to get Bruno his slice of the pie.”
Commissioner Mark Hosty disagreed, saying that “every penny we paid him was well worth it.” Instead of comparing the water project to the VIP program, he compared it to the Madison Street reconstruction project, which he said did not go as smoothly as the village had hoped.
“The construction company works for the construction company. We need someone working as a representative of the village, making sure things are done in a proper manner,” he said.
“I don’t know what happened in Melrose Park, but in Forest Park, hiring Bruno was well worth it.”
Hosty said that Bruno’s primary duties were to ensure that the project was handled professionally and that residents were not bothered by the construction.
Mayor Calderone said he was away from the office at the time the subpoena was received due to the recent death of his mother, but called the subpoena “a gloried Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)” request.
He said he is “not at all” concerned that this will lead Forest Park down the path to a long-term investigation similar to what has occurred in Melrose Park, and stood by his past assertions that he was satisfied with Bruno’s work for the village.
Commissioner Terry Steinbach, however, recalled a meeting with Calderone and Commissioner Tim Gillian during which she said Gillian told her that the village needed Bruno for his political connections.
She agreed with Doolin that Bruno’s employment was unnecessary, and questioned why Bruno was paid an extra $3,000 a month for economic consulting in addition to the $102,000 he reportedly received for his work as a consultant during the water project.
According to invoices obtained through a past Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Cathy McDermott, Bruno billed the village $78,000 for such services performed between October, 2000 and November 2002, although he was not under an approved contract with the village until December, 2002.
Calderone could not be reached for comment until shortly before the Review went to press. He said he would need more time to research the invoices.
Bruno, a 52-year-old disbarred attorney residing in Melrose Park, has made at least $1.25 million working as a consultant for several Chicago area suburbs, according to a recent Chicago Sun-Times report.
Many fees incurred during these projects have been called into question by investigators, reporters, and taxpayers, including the hiring of a private security firm to guard water pipes in Melrose Park.
Bruno has also been at the center of recent controversies at Proviso School District 209, where he worked as a consultant on the district’s new magnet school and received a fee for finding the building that will serve as the site of the school.
Dist. 209 board member Charles Flowers said that the recently fired superintendent, Gregory Jackson, had approved a meeting agenda that included a discussion of severing ties with Bruno.
The board majority boycotted that meeting, and according to Flowers, Bruno was taken off the agenda for the rescheduled meeting that took place after Jackson was fired.
“The village will obviously cooperate fully in any investigation,” said Forest Park Village Administrator Michael Sturino.