First reported 5/28/2009 2:06 p.m.
Shielding a fellow village council member from further criticism, Mayor Anthony Calderone said there’s no reason for elected officials to discuss Commissioner Mike Curry’s botched home-improvement project. Curry’s failure to obtain the required permits and approvals for the work has been well documented by the newspaper, said Calderone, so there’s no need to “further amplify this.”
“It is what it is,” Calderone said in a terse exchange during the May 26 council meeting. “There’s nothing more there. It’s all been aired.”
Council members were asked to vote on whether Curry should receive an after-the-fact approval to modify his home at 1510 Marengo. The work was done in November, but required special approval because the home sits too close to the property line and exceeds lot-coverage regulations.
Curry has immediate oversight of the department responsible for issuing such approvals. Prior to winning a seat on the council in 2007, he served as chairman of the zoning board.
The mayor’s effort to thwart further review of the incident was prompted by Commissioner Marty Tellalian’s request that Curry explain how the infraction occurred. He also asked that a fine be imposed against Curry. Calderone, however, said that the opportunity to scrutinize Curry’s actions was during an April 20 administrative hearing. It was during that proceeding that the director of the Department of Public Health and Safety recommended the council sign-off on the project.
“I want to hear from the commissioner on why this took place,” Tellalian said.
During the April administrative hearing, and in interviews with the Forest Park Review, Curry has said he forgot to apply for the permits. He expressed remorse and said he should have been more careful. Other permits for interior work and demolition at the home were obtained.
Curry did not offer any comments during the council’s discussion and the mayor did not press him to speak.
“The village council is not the time and place for cross examination,” Calderone said.
Curry’s case is the second recent incident in which a council member failed to obtain permits and zoning relief before doing work on their home. A contractor hired by Commissioner Mark Hosty was caught committing an almost identical offense by a neighboring property owner. That incident occurred just a few weeks before Curry’s project in November.
Hosty, too, received no sanctions and later was granted the necessary approvals for work that was already completed. However, when the matter came before the council, Hosty was asked to offer a synopsis of what occurred.
“I couldn’t agree with you more,” Hosty said in response to Calderone’s comments. “I wish you had come to that conclusion a couple months ago.”
With those remarks from Hosty, Tellalian fumed that it is the job of elected officials to enforce local regulations. The rules imposed on residents become meaningless if the lawmakers don’t abide, said Tellalian. He called for “a little humility in this environment, and not arrogance.”
As Tellalian continued to push the council to collect a fine from Curry, the mayor responded that the standing practice in Forest Park is not to invoke punitive measures against residents working to comply once an infraction is discovered. Permitting violations occur regularly, said Calderone, and unless the property owner refuses to fix the problem, the village does not impose a penalty.
Tellalian dismissed the argument and said penalties are a necessary evil.
“It’s nice to say we’re not punitive, but that’s the tool we use to enforce some sort of order,” Tellalian said.
The council voted 3-1 to approve the zoning relief related to Curry’s project; Curry abstained.