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The Quarter Million Dollar Man, Mayor Roger Claar

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Part I – Follow the Money and See Where it Goes

By Bolingbrook Resident | The Patch

Anyone who has followed Bolingbrook politics knows that Mayor Roger Claar is the 800-pound gorilla of fundraising.  This is not simply on account of the multimillion-dollar fundraiser he had in 2016 for candidate Donald Trump, but his unmatched ability to fill his own personal campaign war chest. In an era where money greatly influences the direction of how a vote will be cast, one has to wonder where all of Claar’s campaign funds come from?

Mayor Claar’s campaign disclosure information is publicly available from the State of Illinois via the website www.elections.il.gov. The website reflects that in just three months (between April and June 2019), Mayor Claar raised $269,500$98,700 for his personal campaign fund “Citizens for Claar” and $170,800 for his newly formed political action committee “Citizens for Bolingbrook PAC.”  He is listed as the chairman of both.

While these figures alone are incredible (especially since Mayor Claar has not been up for election since 2017 and he has on numerous occasions stated that he is not going to run for Mayor again), the sources of the funds are even more remarkable. A review of the campaign disclosure indicates Mr. Claar’s financial support comes primarily from individuals who do not reside in Bolingbrook and from local businesses. Many of these local businesses have contracts with the Village or need the Village’s “blessing” for expansion, building, permitting, or licensing.  In fact, of the 147 total donors, only 30 donors were individuals.

Of the 30 individual donors, only 6 donations were from Bolingbrook residents. These 6 individuals contributed a combined total of $1,500.  In other words, 99.4% of the $269,500 raised by Roger Claar and his PAC are from businesses or individuals who do not live in Bolingbrook

Mr. Claar’s ability to raise money also dwarfs that of other mayors. In 2018 alone, Mayor Claar received more donations per-capita than Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Mayor Lightfoot raised $2.76 per capita while Mayor Claar raised $3.69 per capita. In fact, as evidenced by the breakdown below, no other local mayor comes close to Mayor Claar’s per capita amount raised.

*Mayor Claar’s total includes both “Citizens for Claar” and Citizens for Bolingbrook PAC”. 

With only 0.6% of Mayor Claar’s campaign cash coming from Bolingbrook residents it begs the question: Who does Mayor Claar serve?  If any insight is gleaned from campaign donations, it would appear the answer is:

  1. Businesses who have contracts with the Village, 
  2. Businesses who need favors from the Village, and 
  3. Individuals who want to influence Bolingbrook from outside of the community. 

Recent examples of the Mayor’s “service” to his campaign donors include the following: (1) On May 10, 2018, Ronald M. Serpico (via his personal campaign fund) donated $1,000 to Mayor Claar’s campaign fund.  On May 22, 2018, Mayor Claar authorized the retention of Mr. Serpico’s firm as Special Legal Counsel for the Village of Bolingbrook in connection with litigation related to the Opioid Crisis.  (2) On May 8, 2018, Mayor Claar approved Schroeder & Schroeder, Inc’s bid of $255,110 for the 2018-19 MFT Sidewalk Program contract. Two days later, Susan E. & Edward L. Schroeder contributed $2,300 to the Citizens for Claar campaign fund. As seen through these two examples, the influence of money on Bolingbrook politics is important; taxpayers are often the ones on the hook for contracts and benefits awarded to Mayor Claar’s donors.  Sadly, this is nothing new as pointed out by the Chicago Tribune in this article in 2014, it’s simply how Mayor Claar operates.

Check back soon for Part II of “Follow Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar’s Campaign Cash” when we examine expenditures from Mr. Claar’s personal campaign slush fund.

Crime

New Lenox Police Arrest Harvey Juvenile For Murder

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WJOL

On Thursday, June 25th 2020, the New Lenox Police Department obtained an arrest warrant for a 16 year-old male juvenile from Harvey. The warrant, for two counts of First Degree Murder, stems from a shooting that occurred on May 11, 2020, at the Circle K Gas Station, located at 471 Nelson Road, New Lenox, Illinois, in which the victim, 19 year-old Charles Baird, a New Lenox resident, was shot during an attempt to steal his vehicle.

Through the course of the investigation, it was learned that on May 11th, at approximately 12:00 AM, a Hyundai Santa Fe stolen from Lockport on May 9th, arrived at the Circle K gas station and pulled up at a pump across from Baird’s vehicle. While Baird was still inside the gas station, an occupant of the vehicle attempted to open a door of his Subaru. The vehicle was locked and the subject returned to the stolen Santa Fe. Baird then exited the gas station and was approached by a second subject who was pointing a handgun at him. After a brief exchange of words, Baird turned and began to run. The offender ran after Baird and fired one shot which struck Baird in the back. The offender ran back to the Santa Fe and fled the area. NLPD officers arrived on scene and located Baird inside the gas station. Baird was transported to Silver Cross Hospital. Baird eventually was transferred to Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn and ultimately died from his injuries on May 13th.

The Santa Fe used in this homicide was later recovered after being involved in a car crash in Dolton, Illinois, on May 15th. After an exhaustive investigation, sufficient evidence was discovered to identify a juvenile offender that was being held at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center on unrelated charges.

On June 25, 2020, the NLPD learned that the juvenile offender in this homicide was being released. The juvenile was taken into custody by NLPD Investigators upon his release and
transported to the NLPD. Evidence was presented to the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office and two felony charges of First Degree Murder against the juvenile offender were approved. The juvenile was transferred to the River Valley Juvenile Detention Center. Bond has been set at $2,500,000.00.

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Crime

Opinion: Politicians Behaving Badly: DuPage Township Trustee Dennis Raga Edition

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Bolingbrook Politics will be conducting ongoing exposes of local politicians and examining the full facts unencumbered by either political party. We must seek elected officials who are the best among us to represent our values and interests instead of their own. We must examine and understand these individuals who seek to represent us in an elected capacity at all levels of government. Unfortunately many continue to fall very short of the high bar that should be expected.
As a reminder, this is an opinion piece.

The first of many exposes will be DuPage Township Trustee Dennis Raga.

Dennis Raga
Dennis Raga DuPage Township Trustee

Dennis Raga was appointed as a DuPage Township Trustee in 2016. This was under protest by Bill Mayer who had wanted a more qualified candidate to serve for the open seat. However, allegedly Village of Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar had pressured the then Supervisor to appoint Dennis Raga as he was part of the Mayor’s inner circle. Roger Claar had allegedly stated to Bill Mayer that if Raga was not appointed to the position then the DuPage Township slate of candidates would not be provided any support or be provided any access to the election headquarters. Given the upcoming election, Bill Mayer had yielded to the Mayor’s demand and appointed Dennis Raga to the position.

The following excerpts have been attained from police records about Dennis Raga’s alleged behavior between December 2016 and October 2018.

On December 12th, 2016 Dennis Raga allegedly stated “Get out of my way” and had allegedly pushed an unnamed woman forcefully in the chest with an open right hand with such strength that she had been knocked back a few steps. (page 17 of FOIA Part 2 – pages 31 to 60)

On February 21st, 2017 Raga had allegedly threatened to strike this unnamed woman with a beer bottle. (page 17 FOIA Part 2 – pages 31 to 60)

“earlier this morning she went to the
Will County court house to file for an
order of protection”

On June 22nd, 2017 Dennis Raga according to alleged first-hand accounts (page 12 of FOIA Part 2 – pages 31 to 60) had allegedly assaulted and threatened to kill an unnamed woman who had to seek an order of protection against him. The abused had indicated to police that Raga had a history of domestic abuse against her and she feared retaliation. Stating she had been threatened and struck multiple times in the past and has filed multiple police reports documenting the events. (She also) relayed that (he) has a gun collection and that she is scared for her well-being. It was also stated that earlier that morning she went to the Will county courthouse to file for an order of protection and would like to go back to their home but is afraid that (he) may be there or show up while she is there.

On April 19th, 2018, 45-year-old DuPage Township Dennis Raga had been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. Shortly after midnight, after drinking all day, he had driven his black Hummer onto Derbyshire Lane. Bolingbrook officer James Brock had stopped the politician at 12:33 a.m. and placed Dennis Raga under arrest for drunken driving. (page 6 of FOIA Part 5 – pages 121 to 130

A request for the arrest video had been made, however, it had been denied on multiple occasions by Fran Miller, FOIA Officer for Bolingbrook. The State of Illinois had intervened providing a stinging rebuke to the Village of Bolingbrook handling of the request and they were finally forced to release the arrest video of Dennis Raga.

Instead of releasing the entire video of the alleged incident, the Village of Bolingbrook only released a heavily redacted video of the arrest. Out of a 20 min 53-sec video, roughly 12 mins and 47 seconds had been redacted.

The following are the time sections of video that have been redacted.

  • 00:15:56 to 00:16:03  – 7 seconds
  • 00:16:35 to 00:16:43  – 8 seconds
  • 00:17:50 to 00:18:03  – 13 seconds
  • 00:18:38 to 00:18:44  – 6 seconds
  • 00:18:49 to 00:19:01  – 12 seconds
  • 00:19:49 to 00:20:13  – 24 seconds
  • 00:20:25 to 00:21:24  – 59 seconds
  • 00:21:56 to 00:22:03  – 7 seconds
  • 00:22:33 to 00:22:44  – 11 seconds
  • 00:22:50 to 00:24:51  – 121 second
  • 00:24:58 to 00:25:06  – 8 seconds
  • 00:25:12 to 00:26:30  – 78 seconds
  • 00:26:39 to 00:26:44  – 5 seconds
  • 00:27:32 to 00:27:52  – 20 seconds
  • 00:28:05 to 00:33:43  – 338 seconds
  • 00:34:30 — the audio was redacted

Dennis Raga was sentenced to alcoholism treatment and ordered to pay a fine totaling $1,600 on 10/25/2018. You can view the redacted video above.

Since Dupage Township Trustee Dennis Raga had according to police reports allegedly threatened to kill, driven drunk and allegedly assaulted an unnamed woman. The question remains why was the Village of Bolingbrook protecting his video? As an elected official the electorate has the right to understand the character of their elected officials. Secondly, given the character that has been displayed by this public servant why haven’t the people demanded him to resign? Certainly, he is not the best we can do. And lastly, if this is the caliber of politicians put forth by the Mayor of Bolingbrook what else is hiding?

FOIA Part 1 – pages 5 to 30

DennisRagaFOIA_p1

FOIA Part 2 – pages 31 to 60

DennisRagaFOIA_p2-1

FOIA Part 3 – pages 61 to 90

DennisRagaFOIA_p3pdf

FOIA Part 4 – pages 91 to 120

DennisRagaFOIA_p4pdf

FOIA Part 5 – pages 121 to 130

DennisRagaFOIA_p5pdf

This is an opinion piece

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Business

Investigation underway into South Suburban Black Chamber

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By Rex Robinson and Barrington M. Salmon | The Times Weekly

Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk held a press conference at City Hall on June 9 to defend his actions following a protest on May 31 and the scuffle he got into with two brothers on Jefferson Street. A number of O’Dekirk’s supporters also came to the podium to defend the mayor during that press conference.

One of those supporters was Cornel Darden, who introduced himself as the President and CEO of the South Suburban Black Chamber of Commerce.

“I support the mayor wholeheartedly,” Darden said. “We have a great mayor here in our city and I’m very proud to have worked with our mayor to get a lot of things done as far as the black business community is concerned.”

On Friday, three Joliet faith leaders – Bishop Steven Evans, Pastor Warren Dorris, and Pastor Herbert Brooks – held a press conference and showed a video from 20-plus years ago of O’Dekirk when he was a police officer and in it, O’Dekirk, according to a press release, is seen “aggressively assaulting a handcuffed black man and then “tackling a Hispanic man from behind.”

Included in the pastors’ announcement prior to the press conference is a statement about Darden. It reads as follows: “…during the Mayor’s Tuesday press conference, he called on character witnesses, including Cornel Darden, who has made continued claims of being the president of the South Suburban Region Black Chamber of Commerce. That claim has been denounced by the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce. The state chamber issued a statement accusing Darden of ‘fraudulently accessing funds’ and accusing O’Dekirk of covering up the investigation.”

The Illinois State Black Chamber of Commerce posted the following statement about Darden on social media last week: “Cornel Darden was terminated from the South Suburban Region Black Chamber of Commerce. Cornel Darden continued to falsely operate a Chamber using the South Suburban name and EIN number. He has fraudulently accessed funds from our existing bank account and opened unauthorized bank accounts. In addition, he has collected sponsorships and membership dues without the consent of the Board of Directors after his termination. In addition to these fraudulent acts, Cornel Darden went on to illegally appoint his own board of directors to fraudulently operate a nonprofit that he was terminated from.

“The South Suburban Region Black Chamber of Commerce immediately filed a police report with the city of Joliet, however, we feel that because of Darden’s strong ties to Mayor O’Dekirk, our claims were never investigated. No official board member of the South Suburban Region Black Chamber of Commerce or Illinois State Black Chamber of Commerce was interviewed after the initial complaint was filed.

“Cornel Darden is not affiliated with the Illinois State Black Chamber of Commerce or the National Black Chamber of Commerce. We are not in support of Cornel Darden and we do not support any of his actions. The Illinois State Black Chamber of Commerce does not support the actions of Mayor O’Dekirk that transpired during a peaceful protest we feel that the violent actions of O’Dekirk are unbefitting of a Mayor.”

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