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The end of the Bandits

28 August 2008 RS 7 Comments

My last post looks rather foolish now that I’ve read the subsequent coverage surrounding the issue of former Elgin councilman Mike Powers’s resignation. I wasn’t able to follow the news closely this month so I missed the revealing memos and the disclosure of the condo problem published in the Courier News. I applaud the Courier for investigating the story. And it is a curiosity right now that this isn’t big enough news for the Chicago Tribune or the Daily Herald unless they are preparing large stories that will reflect even more through investigation. Let’s hope so. Of course with my recent blogging record, I may simply be oblivious to stories that have already been published. If so please let me know in the comments section.

Nobody wants to discuss this unpleasant issue. I think we’re all saddened by the circumstances of Mr. Powers’s departure from the Elgin city council, but there are issues that remain unresolved and questions that are unanswered.

Mr. Powers violated the basic rules for an elected official or public servant. There’s no question about that. In isolation, one of his lapses could be seen to be an honest mistake, but here we have something that looks far more sinister. But I’m not going to beat the drum on Mike Powers. You can stick a fork in him because he’s done.

I’m more concerned about the Bandits, and their relationship with the City of Elgin and their continued funding. The Bandits owners certainly had an inkling of what would be appropriate or legal and what would not. They–but not Mike Powers–notified the city that Mr. Powers had proposed a business relationship. According to the memo circulated by Elgin corporation counsel William Cogley:

On April 4, 2008, Bill Sokolis, one of the co-owners of the Chicago Bandits, advised (Assistant City Manager) Sean Stegall that Mike Powers was proposing to do certain marketing work on behalf of the Bandits. Mr. Sokolis further advised Mr. Stegall that the Bandits were arranging for an initial $3,000 payment to Mr. Powers for such marketing services.

Mr. Stegall, the memo continues, immediately told Mr. Sokolis that “he believed such an arrangement would be prohibited.” After consulting with the corporation counsel, On April 10th, Mr. Stegall again notified Mr. Sokolis that a business relationship was prohibited. You wonder why then was the payment ever made?

I couldn’t determine from the newspaper articles the exact date of the payment but it does sound from the memo that it was definitely after April 4th, because the city’s memo says at that point that according to Mr. Sokolis, they were still arranging for an initial payment.

That means the Bandits went ahead and paid Mr. Powers despite the warning from city officials.

The Chicago Bandits furthermore could not have been oblivious to the fact that Mr. Powers voted with the council majority on May 14th to provide the softball team with more than $700,000 in subsidies as a prelude to an even bigger stadium deal.

All this is bad enough, but then we find out that that same month, Mr. Sokolis, through a company he owns, B&M Management, bought a condo in the shoe factory lofts for $202,500. Immediately after the purchase closed, Mike Powers moved in.

When questioned by the Courier, he said: “I’m just buying a property from people who buy and sell properties on a daily basis,” he said. “I don’t see it as unusual. That’s the business they’re in.” He also said he’s planning on buying the house in a couple of weeks for $202,500.

Of course, if it’s normal for Mr. Sokolis to buy houses for $202,500 and sell them a few months later for $202,500, he has an interesting business model indeed. Just the transaction costs ensures that he loses thousands of dollars, not to mention time wasted. The Courier could not determine how much rent, if any, Mr. Powers has paid to Mr. Sokolis.

Mike Powers was no stranger to Bill Sokolis when he moved into Mr. Sokolis’s house as his tenant. Mr. Sokolis knew very well from his conversation with city officials in early April that he could not have a business relationship with Mr. Powers. So what was the idea behind buying a condo and renting it out to Mr. Powers?

It could be entirely innocent, and we can hope so. But there is a definite appearance problem, and I’m guessing the State’s Attorney or United States Attorney will be taking a look at this. I think they will want to know whether this rent-to-own deal was conceived as a (really stupid) way to sidestep obvious prohibitions and obscure wrongdoing.

The Chicago Bandits are clearly implicated in this mess. They’ve brought a scandal to our community. They’ve brought dishonor and disgrace to the city council. They can’t say they didn’t know what the rules were. They were clearly informed by Elgin city officials on April 4th and again on April 10th, before they did any of this. It’s clear that this is not an organization that belongs in Elgin.

As long as they remain here, they and their supporters on the council will remain under a cloud of suspicion. I can’t see how the city can in good conscience continue to provide funding for the Chicago Bandits.

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7 Responses to “The end of the Bandits”

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  1. RS says:

    Thanks for the link, Jessica. Resignations are often a prelude to indictments. We’ll see…

  2. rm says:

    Excellent post. Glad you’re “back,” followed up, and took your stand - and your medicine - with class. You - not Mike Powers - deserved the benefit of the doubt because your body of work on this blog has shown that your head and heart are generally in the right place when you have the facts. And having the facts is a challenge for all of us in Elgin.

    Just one last quibble with your August 27 post. You said the Powers resignation was the big news in Elgin for August. Maybe. It certainly hints that something’s rotten in our local government, and that’s darned important. But don’t overlook the Futterman lawsuit against U-46 and the impact of the class action ruling on another of our vital community institutions, our public schools. When the court certified the Futterman suit as a class action, the clanking sound you heard was another 20% falling off the value of our already depreciated homes and the ripping sound was the shredding of our community fabric by greed and ethnic division. If you don’t think the long term implications of that development are pretty dreadful, remember that Rockford and its schools have never recovered from their Futterman experience. The Powers resignation and the class action certification, coming almost on top of each other, were real blows to the heart of this city and its aspirations to return to being a progressive, sustainable community.

    PS Nice to see that one of the Bandits honchos has moved on. The rest of them should take the hint, but at least it’s a start.

  3. John says:

    I wish people would leave the Bandits alone. It was terrific entertainment this summer. I’ve seldom witnessed such enthusiasm on the part of players on a professional sports team.

    The crux of the problem, in my opinion, isn’t Mike Powers. I truly believed in his sincerity in holding office and advancing Elgin. However, since he was elected, I ultimately doubted his ability to hold office. He just seemed generally more like an innocent kid in a candy store than a serious city official. He did the right and mature thing, however, and apologized and stepped down. Any looking for a sinister plot should look elsewhere.

    I have an idea where to start. The real black eye to Elgin starts with Sean Stegall. I am beginning to believe that he seems he wanted Mike Powers out, had a “talk” with him, and got him to resign. It was probably so Mr. Powers wouldn’t sour the Bandits setup, one of a long line of Stegall-orchestrated deals that have come through city council in the last several years.

    This person is a menace to the city. He has too much power over the city’s budget and operations. (Note his latest power grab last week in regard to development and project reviews, to quote directly from the Courier: “assigning the assistant city manager with full oversight of a project’s review.” - full oversight - Why?)

    If you want to start sniffing out corruption in the Elgin City Hall, start there.

    Don’t think that when Mr. Folarin retires that not many other serious candidates for his job will be considered. At that point, heaven help not only the city and its citizens, but unsuspecting council members and department heads as well.

    It could be that Mr. Sokolis didn’t realize that actions on his part could become circumspect, but maybe he thought it would be okay if that is how he was permitted to deal with the city from the start. Where did that start?

    But - don’t blame the team. They should stay. They are an asset.

  4. rm says:

    A good Elgin writer, Dave Gathman, has some good commentary on the passing of Mike Powers in today’s Courier. We can see now that Mike was something of a Peter Pan, trapped in the endless adolescence of so many Boomers, worshipping the jock efforts of his older brothers, The Elgin That Was, and some aging or expired rock ‘n roll figures. And while he celebrated the lost Elgin of safe streets, great schools, functioning families, a lively downtown and community spirit, he wanted desperately to succeed in the New Elgin and play in the local business development racket with Elgin’s big boys. Of course, “economic development” in Elgin means passing out scarce city money as “incentives” to favored business entities and protecting Elgin’s role as a residential sanctuary for regional illegal alien labor. Mike was better at Elgin’s nostalgia than at Elgin’s development rackets, and the Bandits fiasco made him too heavy for the big boys and got him tossed overboard.

    Say what you will about Mike, he never was a predator. Bumbling as he was, he really felt he was working for the improvement of Elgin’s life. He lacked the tougher, hard-eyed rapacity of our local masters who practice “The Chicago Way” and see their political and business agendas advancing in environments of crime, racial division, poverty and dependency. In that way, Mike had the quaint middle-class spirit and decency that he remembered and celebrated from Elgin’s better days. Qualities that in modern Elgin leave a 52 year old Northwestern graduate wearing an Elgin High letter jacket, sitting in church pews, and sobbing to himself. So much promise, so much privilege, such a sad end. That was Mike’s story, that is Elgin’s story. The requiem for Mike was really the requiem for Elgin.

  5. rm says:

    We all know that the Bandits deal in Elgin was fishy from the get-go. We’ll never know just how fishy because the local powers-that-be and their media flunkies really weren’t very interested in having us know. And while Our Masters were all over at Mike Powers’ visitation at Wait Ross, they probably went to confirm that the one guy who could really spill the beans on this matter was truly beyond mortal testimony.

    Well, now it looks like the Bandits traveling ripoff show is off to find new suckers. Is this news bringing tears to the household of Laurel Bault, the Democratic activist, Dalton-endorser, Noland-contributor and all-around promoter of the Welfare for All agenda in Elgin and beyond? After all, husband Kyle has been the Director of Community Relations for the Bandits and their color analyst. Daughter Erin was the Director of Merchandising. So there you have it… Dalton/Noland-endorser Ed Schock votes a city subsidy for the Bandits who employ the Bault family which contributes to Mike Noland. I knew a sharp guy like Ed could find a way to put my tax money in Mike Noland’s pocket. And it’s heart-warming little stories like this that help put to rest the idea that the Bandits didn’t benefit Elginites or that Elgin isn’t a family-oriented community. Almost helps you ignore the dead kids, dead schools and dead neighborhoods Dalton, Noland and Schock have left us.

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