Mayor Anthony Calderone thinks the Review is being duped. Politically motivated skeptics, he says, continue to feed us conspiracy theories, the latest that a campaign contribution from a union operated by the controversial Duff family led to another Duff business moving into town without authorization.
It is not our place to speculate regarding the motives of those who bring these allegations against Calderone, or against state rep. candidate Chris Welch, who undoubtedly also feels that his opponents are using the press to attack him. Most people who speak up tend to do so with some motive, and if newspapers refused to report anything that came from a source with political ambitions, many matters of much greater magnitude than anything that goes on in Forest Park would have remained uncovered. Newspapers have a responsibility to facilitate the public's oversight of its governing institutions.
The best way to keep controversial activities out of the newspaper is not to indulge in them in the first place. If Calderone, Welch or anyone else is upset that campaign contributions from questionable sources found their way into the newspaper, then instead of blaming the paper or those who brought the information to its attention, they should blame themselves or their campaign managers for accepting the money.
Do we think Calderone agreed to let the Duffs open up shop in town without following procedure in return for a campaign contribution? Probably not. If he had, it seems unlikely he would have forgotten to tell the village not to shut the place down the day after it opened.
Still, REM's opening was merely the catalyst that brought an already newsworthy story to our attention. The fact the mayor accepted donations from a union that has been at the center of a massive fraud controversy which has led to the imprisonment of many of those involved is quite a story in itself.
If the Review did anything wrong in reporting on this matter, it was not that we accepted information from someone who the mayor feels has political motives, but rather that we did not notice the contribution listed in his campaign finance disclosures before last week's events brought them to light.
Local officials must recognize that they serve in a township that has developed quite a reputation for sleazy politics, and extra care must be taken to ensure that the appearance of wrongdoing is avoided. Though Forest Park has not been nearly as much of a player in the area's checkered recent past as, say, Melrose Park, recent eventsâ€"including the Anthony Bruno ordealâ€"have given skeptics reason to take a second look at local affairs.
We would encourage all local officials to research the political contributions they receive and to turn away those that are likely to arouse suspicion. If they are unwilling to do so, they run the risk of finding their names in the headlines on occasion.