Nauvoo Fire Department Unfairly Attacked

On January 11th, we received a call from the Nauvoo Fire Department Chief, Dan Gallaher. He had been notified by concerned citizens, of public attacks being made against the Nauvoo Fire Department by a local citizen (Wendy Denton), on Facebook. He asked if we could verify the statements being made. A search of the Facebook page of Wendy Denton revealed that she made the public statement Chief Gallaher had been notified of. We took a screen shot of the conversation (below) on Mrs Denton’s facebook page Thursday night at 7:51pm. The post appeared to have been posted about 3pm that afternoon. It had already been online for 5 hours when we became aware of it, and prompted at least one response from Tracy Adolphson Storme of Plainfield, Illinois, another negative comment aimed at Nauvoo Firefighters (see below).

Further investigation revealed that the incident occurred at the Keokuk Pizza Hut, and involved the daughter of Wendy Denton notifying her of two firefighters (Matt Kennedy and Raymond Siegrest) eating at the restaurant (where she is a manager), in their firefighter uniforms, and not leaving a tip. The reason the two firefighters were in Keokuk is worth explaining. Discussions with Fire Department officials reveal that they were there to transport patients, since the local transportation for these patients was out of service. It was a volunteer effort on their part to transport these patients in need. While waiting, they chose to enjoy a meal and support a local Keokuk establishment.

They ate two buffets, and since Matt Kennedy only had $15 cash with him (more than the ticket amount of $12), he left Moira Roethle (Wendy Denton’s daughter) the balance as a tip. He also thanked her for the great service, and said he would return to increase the tip he had already given. Mr Kennedy returned with the additional tip after completing his transport work (resulting in approximately a $13 tip on a $12 meal). Sometime afterwards, Miss Roethle notified her mother of their visit, apparently passing on some particulars (what they were wearing, what they were driving, etc.). This led Wendy Denton to make the false statement on her own Facebook page.

The official code of conduct of Pizza Hut’s parent company (Yum Foods) requires employees to: “Treat all customers…honestly, fairly and objectively,” and further to “Not take unfair advantage of anyone through manipulation, concealment, abuse of privileged information, misrepresentation of material facts, or any unfair dealing practice.” The comments made by the employee and subsequently posted by her mother were not honest, or fair to the firefighters involved, the City of Nauvoo, or the Nauvoo Fire Department.

Since that time, Mrs. Denton has removed the post (but has not corrected her misstatement, or apologized to the Nauvoo firefighters).

The fire chief has since met with Pizza Hut local management to discuss this public attack on the fire department. Now Mr Kennedy is receiving calls stating the facebook screen shot (which we captured) was falsified. So, it behooves us at openNauvoo to report that we did the fact checking, and the screen captures. There is no possibility of the screen captures having been falsified, since we captured them, no third party was involved. In addition, several other individuals observed, and captured the comments in question. We have also been provided communications from the restaurant operator confirming the incident.

A statement by Lisa Ziegelbein, Director of Human Resources for Summit Restaurant Group (the operator of the Keokuk Pizza Hut) to Chief Gallaher includes the following statement: “Our company has policies related to social media use by our employees, but we have no way to address comments made by the public.” In this case, the member of the public was passing on information provided by an employee (since the details relating to their appearance, vehicle, etc could only have been provided to her by her daughter, the employee). This was not simply a public comment, but one based on information provided by an employee.

Chief Gallaher provided us with the following statement: “The Nauvoo Fire Protection District has spent many years and countless hours building a good reputation. Disparaging remarks are hurtful to our organization it takes a lot to repair the damage. Unlike Pizza Hut we cannot afford to let our employee’s negligence be swept under the carpet. Our PR is not supported by national advertising, but remains solely on the accountability and actions of our staff. Our staff acted appropriately, Pizza Hut’s did not. We only ask they help us repair the damage done. It is only appropriate that Pizza Hut take a step forward and discuss ways to repair this situation as well as ways to prevent it from happening again.”

We stand with the Nauvoo Fire Department and the City of Nauvoo. It is our hope that Pizza Hut and all those involved clarify their position and issue a public apology to the firefighters involved, the Nauvoo Fire Department and the City of Nauvoo. The Nauvoo Fire Department Trustees Meeting for January 16th also lists this incident as an item for discussion.

We offered Mrs. Denton, local Pizza Hut owner Summit Restaurant Group, as well as national Pizza Hut and Yum! Foods officials the opportunity to comment for this article. We received no response at the time of publication.


Happy 2018 Nauvoo!

The first City Council meeting of the new year is this evening at 7:30pm at the Nauvoo City Hall. As many of you, we took some time to enjoy our family and friends this holiday season. It’s now time to extend that circle and include everyone in Nauvoo.

This year can be a great year for Nauvoo. All it takes is for citizens to be involved, get informed, make their desires and expectations known, and then encourage (and expect) elected officials to respond to those expectations.

There is so much talent in Nauvoo. This can be a year that changes the trajectory of Nauvoo. It’s time to bring new businesses, jobs and prosperity to Nauvoo. It starts by becoming involved.

See you tonight at the City Council meeting! If you can’t be there, be sure to watch it on our facebook page (or here on the opennauvoo website), then express your thoughts in a respectful way. There is much more coming to openNauvoo in the coming weeks that we believe can move the discussion forward, and help build a better and more inclusive Nauvoo, but it starts with everyone getting involved, showing their concern, and making their voices heard.

Happy 2018 Nauvoo!


Hotel Motel Board Special Meeting Cancelled

At the November 9th, 2017 Hotel Motel Board Meeting, after some discussion to find a time mutually agreeable to all members, the Board unanimously voted to hold a special meeting on November 28th at 1pm. This meeting was to discuss a plan for moving forward with the Board in light of the “resignation” of the Tourism Director effective November 16th, 2017.

No agenda for this meeting was posted, so we inquired about the status of the meeting and learned this morning that it had been cancelled. We are awaiting information on a new date and time for this meeting.


Nauvoo Community Center Proposed Site Plans

The site plans and renderings were presented at the City Council Meeting on November 14. 2017. The Council approved moving forward with creating a group to begin fund raising. Projected budget is between $3-4 Million Dollars. The Mayor reaffirmed that no city funds would be used in the construction. The Council approved a two-year time frame to raise the funds. Donations will be solicited to finance the building.

Click on the image below to see the entire document.


Nauvoo Hotel Motel Board Promotional Fees

It’s unclear who created the form being used by the Tourism Board to collect these fees, but it appears to be simply an edited version of the one used by the City in collection of actual Hotel Motel Taxes from operators within the City of Nauvoo, as allowed by City and State law.

Below is the Form utilized by the Hotel Motel Board to collect Promotional Fees from nightly stay providers located outside the City Limits. Note that payments are required to be made payable to the “Nauvoo Tourism Office“, not the City of Nauvoo. They are required to be mailed to “Nauvoo Tourism Office, PO Box 500, Nauvoo, IL 62354,” not to the City of Nauvoo, or its address.

City and State law require that any payments collected by the City, be made to the City, at the City’s office or address, and to the City Treasurer. (See “Who May Receive Payments for the City?“)

A review by the new Hotel Motel Board, and the City Council, of this process, and an audit of funds received would seem to be warranted. We requested (in April of 2017) records related to the collection of these fees, but have not yet received the information requested. This is an element of the Court Complaint which is currently underway in Hancock County Court. The City has requested that this complaint be dismissed.

Additional review would be wise to ensure compliance with current State and City ordinances related to the Hotel Motel Board, which restrict activities by the City’s Hotel Motel Board to promotion efforts within the municipality.



A Response to Mayor’s Correspondence Comment

In the most recent City Council Meeting (October 10, 2017), the Mayor referred to a letter from the Attorney General’s Office. He said the letter found the City had complied with a recent FOIA request we submitted and he used it as an opportunity to congratulate the City FOIA Officer for her performance. This letter was a response to a request for review we had filed, related to continued failure to provide information we had requested. In particular, Hotel Motel Board meeting minutes from April 2012, where the decision to hire the current Tourism Director was made. We had previously requested these documents as part of a broader request, and the Attorney General instructed the City to provide them (our February 27, 2017 request). When the City continued to withhold these documents, we filed another request that was more specific requesting the documents for these meeting dates. The City denied our request, and we filed a request  for review with the Attorney General.

What the Attorney General actually did say in its response to our request, was that, after speaking with the City’s FOIA Officer, they were informed that “the Hotel Motel Board did not prepare minutes or verbatim recordings of these meetings, and therefore, it does not possess the records you seek.” So, because the City contends that the Board did not prepare the legally required documents and recordings of these meetings, they do not exist, and the FOIA statute does not require them to provide information that they say does not exist. Out of all the meetings in 2012, these meetings were unique. The City says these meetings had no minutes recorded, while all the others did. We’re forced to accept that the FOIA Officer can refuse to provide information by saying that it was not kept.

And, because the meetings were five years ago, it is too late to find that the City violated the Open Meetings Act by not recording the meetings, or preparing minutes as required by law. The Attorney General did not require the City to comply with our request, “because you submitted your Request for Review more that two years after the date of the alleged violations, section 3.5(a) of OMA precludes this office from reviewing your OMA allegations.” Rather than stating that the City behaved properly as the Mayor suggested, it is more a matter that the law states it is too late to do anything about it. (The full response is provided below).

We are happy to provide live streaming, and archiving of all meetings, minutes and documents on openNauvoo. This will help ensure that this is not an issue in the future.




Nauvoo Residents Beware: IRS IMPERSONATION SCAM

Residents of Nauvoo have been receiving calls from individuals impersonating Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees. They use the threat of arrest to obtain money from victims by falsely representing that the victims owe back taxes or other fees. The perpetrators demand that the victims send them money via iTunes cards, other prepaid debit cards, money orders, or wire transfers from their banks. Please review the official IRS notification.



A New Hotel-Motel Tax Board

We’ll let the meeting speak for itself. We encourage all our readers to watch the meeting. Like all good movies, don’t leave early. The discussion about the Tourism Director’s evaluation continues in the Finance & Personnel Meeting held shortly after, and also available below.


City Council Meeting Was “Unbelievable”

At the conclusion of yesterday, September 12th’s City Council Meeting, we posted on the openNauvoo facebook page that the meeting was “unbelievable.” We have searched for a more descriptive term to describe it, and have come up empty.  The meeting was at times very thoughtful, at other times it was difficult, and then there were the moments when it was outright unbelievable. Unbelievable in the sense that you would never expect these words to come out of an elected official’s mouth, and that they would be so weakly side-stepped. And also unbelievable that the City Attorney continues to participate in Nauvoo City meetings and disregard the law. This is absolutely a meeting our readers should review after reading this article.

On to the specifics, and we’ll try to cover them in the order they occurred in the meeting.

There was a minor error in the Agenda posted by the City Clerk (probably the City Collector in reality). It identified the Hotel Motel Tax Board under its old name, the Hotel Motel Tax Governing Board. When the Mayor suggested to the City Clerk that this needed to be corrected, she was dismissive, making a remark about how it had been the other way for so long. Unbelievable, considering it was in her role as the Nauvoo City FOIA Officer that the Attorney General of the State of Illinois notified her that her contention (as a representative of the City of Nauvoo) that the Hotel Motel Board was independent of the City was incorrect, and required correction.

The discussion of City Ordinance 2017-8 was one of the most unbelievable moments of the entire evening. The City Attorney herself made a change to the ordinance, but still represented it as the second reading of the Ordinance. This “Second Reading” was approved, and another vote was taken to authorize the waiver of the 3rd Reading.   If the ordinance has changed, then the new version of the ordinance has never had a vote by the council to approve it. It then requires a 1st reading, which is actually what happened last night, a first reading of a new ordinance. Since it was voted on as a second reading, this was a violation, and should invalidate City Ordinance 2017-8 until it can be approved by the City Council properly. (65 ILCS 5/3.1-40-40)

Next up was the New Business portion of the meeting.  The first excitement came when discussion occurred on the Center Stage Music request to use the former school for a Haunted House during the pumpkin walk. This is a popular attraction, and worthy of some indulgence by the City Council, but the fact that the token payment for use of the School one year ago ($50) was not paid to the City until recently, requiring several requests by the Economic Development Committee, would warrant some justifiable criticism. The Mayor and City Council members related concerns about damage to floors, doors and lack of a timely exit and cleaning of the building last year, as well as a fee of $100 this year. This was met by the representative of Center Stage Music defensively, with little willingness to take responsibility for previous issues. The new representative from the 4H organizations taking on the Haunted House this year seemed much more responsive, and had timelines, and supporting documents. With the recognizable charitable status of 4H, this should also alleviate the concerns about the Haunted House claiming donations to Center Stage Music the last two years, unbelievably, a for-profit business (not incorporated, or registered with the State as a Not-For-Profit).

In rapid succession came the Hotel Motel Board portion of the meeting, followed by Alderman Reynolds.  The Hotel Motel Board, in their last meeting, rather than follow the City Ordinance, voted to request a revision of the City Ordinance that was just passed, that created their Board, related to the review of the Tourism Director (2017-8) . The President of the Board, Alderman Anozie, stated that they felt it was adequate to review every quarter, like a school teacher, rather than monthly as the City Council already requested when it passed the ordinance. (A side note: after five years in the position, the Tourism Director has still not had a single written review). The Mayor correctly notified them that this would require a revision to the City Ordinance, and also informed them that until a new ordinance is passed (if it is passed), they are legally required to operate under the existing ordinance, and that the Board President (Alderman Anozie) should get her Board to prepare a review of the Tourism Director before the next City Council meeting. The Board is already in violation of the new ordinance. In addition, and not discussed, will be the necessity to fashion a new contract for the Tourism Director if a new ordinance is in fact approved, since the existing contract also states that monthly reviews will occur.  We were happy to hear questions by Alderman Reynolds (also a member of the Hotel Motel Board) regarding what the Board will need to do if the deficit (already identified in the last Hotel Motel Board meeting) continued. There was agreement that the decrease could require changes to the Hotel Motel budget, and expenses.

Alderman Reynolds question about the reduction in Hotel Motel taxes this year only made her next comments more unbelievable. One minute, she was pointing out the reduction in revenues the City is suffering, and the next minute she was suggesting that perhaps something should be done to limit nightly vacation rentals. In particular identifying one local company as a target. She claimed to have had numerous requests from citizens, but when pressed for specifics, simply replied that they think it “doesn’t look good” when visitors drive into town. The Mayor stood for liberty and educated Alderman Reynolds on the reality of property rights, telling her that the area she is concerned about is zoned for business (she lives in this business district), and that to limit their use would not be proper. One citizen attending the meeting questioned Alderman Reynold’s “targeting” of one particular business. She could only say “that’s not what I meant,” a comment we have heard before. Unfortunately, rather than dismissing this as unnecessary and unwarranted, the Council simply chose to say that this needed “more review.”

On a high note, a retired Police Chief badge was presented to Tom Hopp in appreciation of all his work in service to the citizens of Nauvoo.

The City as a whole has made progress in conducting meetings within the law. There were a couple of issues that should be addressed, but overall it was the attitudes of some individual members of City Government, outside of the procedural issues, that created the questions. This is a process, but unfortunately some individuals, and some attitudes keep raising their heads.