This letter is in response to the libelous story written by Stacey Sheridan [Rush Oak Park gets several village board wins, News, Feb. 3], which appeared in the online version of Wednesday Journal and targeted both me and my husband, Everett S. Ward. It is extremely disappointing to be the target of this sort click bait, and it is certainly not the sort of intentionally salacious garbage that enhances the value of having a local news outlet.
I currently serve as chair of the village of Oak Park Plan Commission and during a portion of the time frame referenced by Ms. Sheridan, I served as a commissioner, while David Mann served as chair of the commission. My husband, who is a partner at Quarles & Brady, serves as a voluntary, unpaid member of the Rush Oak Park Hospital Board of Trustees.
To be clear, this letter concerns the personal aspersions directed at me and my husband and is not written on behalf of Rush Oak Park, which issued their own news release, dated Feb. 3.
Rush came before the commission a total of four times in connection with the matters referenced in Ms. Sheridan’s story. Three times (Nov. 7, 2019, Feb. 20, 2020, and March 5, 2020) were in connection with the new garage proposed. During those commission meetings, David Mann served as commission chair. Rush last came before the commission on Jan. 7 in connection with a Zoning Map Amendment request and during that meeting I served as chair.
Ms. Sheridan implies throughout her story that the public comments received by the commission, Rush and the Oak Park Board of Trustees were part of a pattern complaints from the surrounding neighbors directed at Rush. The fact is that a variety of public comments have been made, about a variety of issues, over a broad period of time, a number of which predate the above referenced commission meetings. Further, after the initial commission meeting on Nov. 7, 2019, several subsequent members of the public made a point of thanking the commission for asking Rush to meet with the community and for working with the hospital to address neighborhood concerns, like the nature of the landscaping acting as a buffer between the residential neighborhood and the area where the proposed new garage will be. In addition, the comments read at the village board meeting on Feb. 1, were entirely new to me and from a new neighborhood group that formed after the last commission meeting.
Ms. Sheridan further implies that I am unable to fairly and independently fulfill my role as either a plan commissioner or as chair of the commission because my husband serves as a voluntary, unpaid member of the Rush Oak Park Board of Trustees. I assure you that I consulted with Plan Commission outside counsel Gregory Smith, prior to the initial commission meeting and again prior to the last meeting regarding compliance with Illinois law and the commission’s Rules of Procedure, and I was advised that no conflict of interest was presented.
Lastly, Ms. Sheridan not only took comments from Chair Mann out of context, apparently based upon snippets of tapes of the commission meetings, as opposed to the official, approved minutes of the applicable commission meetings, but she went on to falsely accuse me of misrepresenting Chair Mann’s position regarding the height of the new garage proposed by Rush. The truth is that I repeatedly stated during the Feb. 1 village board meeting that, notwithstanding the fact that the garage height proposed by Rush was within the existing allowable height standards and not before the commission as a request for a zoning amendment, Chair Mann, in proposing a lower height, was a) trying to be responsive to the surrounding community and b) responding to the input regarding need presented by Rush at the time.
Iris Sims is chair of the village of Oak Park Plan Commission.