Former Niles trustee and prominent local businessman George Alpogianis has gone public with his intention to run for office in light of recent political turmoil on the Village Board.
Alpogianis, the owner of Kappy’s Restaurant & Pancake House in Morton Grove, decided to become more vocal after Mayor Robert Callero revealed a potential plot by five trustees to take control of the hiring and firing of village officers by altering the duties of the mayor.
“I pray to God that I am fortunate enough to be pardoned in time so that I can run again in 2013 and fulfill my promise to our great village and to the citizens who overwhelmingly elected me the first time,” Alpogianis said. “We need to bring harmony and friendship back to this village.”
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is the man who can make Alpogianis’ run for Village Board official. Alpogianis was removed from the board in 2009 after just one meeting because complaints were filed with the Cook County State’s Attorney regarding his 1980s felony conviction.
State law prohibits convicted felons from holding elected office. Quinn’s latest clemency decisions came in April, as 52 criminal pardons were issued and 136 requests were denied. Alpogianis, who applied in 2010, was on neither list.
In 2013, open seats include Callero’s presidency and the trustee positions currently held by Louella Preston, James Hynes and Andrew Przybylo.
As the face of Kappy’s, Alpogianis said he makes a point to circulate the restaurant and make everyone feel welcomed – giving him perspective on the community. He said Niles employees, as well as officials from neighboring towns, often visit and talk about Niles’ escalating political conflicts.
“Niles is becoming the laughing stock of the northern suburbs and it seems as though past articles about board meetings would be better found in the comic or entertainment sections of a newspaper,” Alpogianis said.
During his interactions with customers at work and while fulfilling his role on the village’s zoning board, Alpogianis said he’s observed a great deal of dismay and believes morale is at its lowest ever.
“Services are being cut, jobs are being cut and projects are being put on hold, yet trustees like Louella Preston and Jim Hynes are more worried about empowering themselves and trying to radically change our government by working with ‘pro bono’ attorneys for absolutely no reason whatsoever,” Alpogianis said.
A 5-1 vote during an April 18 special board meeting hired David McArdle of Zukowski, Rogers, Flood & McArdle of Crystal Lake as an attorney that trustees can consult when conflicts of interest arise between a suggested subject and Village Attorney Joe Annunzio.
The proposed ordinance originally included paying for services retroactive March 1, but trustees voted to remove that clause before approving the hire, Trustee Hynes saying the prior work was given for free.
“I’ve never heard of any attorney working pro bono for any village unless there was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” Alpogianis said. “I believe that in some sneaky fashion there will be a line item added into our budget, whether it’s now or after the budget is passed, and that line item will be for the new attorney. My question is why?”
Alpogianis speculated the attorney would likely work toward changing Callero’s duties, and potentially strip the mayor of his ability to indefinitely make 30-day appointments.
“Right now, Louella, Jim, and their contingency is doing exactly what they said they wanted to change,” Alpogianis said. “They’re putting up smoke and mirrors and not being truthful and up front with the public. That’s why no statements are coming out from them. They don’t want to answer for their actions.”
Just as Callero did, Alpogianis defended Village Manager George Van Geem. Last week, Van Geem confirmed rumors that five trustees offered him a voluntary separation agreement in late January.
Alpogianis said those trustees should focus less on employee matters and more on finding ways to generate revenue and improve public services.
“Unless specific allegations come out, George and the other department heads should be left alone,” Alpogianis said.
He also addressed another prominent theory.
“If they think George is part of the Nick Blase regime and that’s what all this is about, then I would have to say it’s time for Louella Preston to step down because she ran on his ticket for six elections, and she seems to be the one who’s leading the pack even though she kept quiet all these years,” Alpogianis said.