Housing board member ‘working’ for Cicero, living in Germany
BY BECKY SCHLIKERMAN AND JON SEIDEL Staff Reporters February 14, 2013 6:36PM
Updated: March 17, 2013 6:37PM
Kerry Kotwasinski’s life in Germany is no secret — he appears in Facebook photos wearing traditional lederhosen and raising a stein with his wife.
But his time abroad was apparently news to the Town of Cicero.
The town paid Kotwasinski about $12,000 over 19 months to go to monthly meetings of its Housing and Real Estate Board as a board member.
He was appointed before he left the country.
But whether he was living in town or abroad, he didn’t go to a single meeting, according to board minutes obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.
The minutes also show all absences from the town board during Kotwasinski’s tenure were to be reported to Derek Dominick, a town official and the son of Town President Larry Dominick.
It shouldn’t have come as news to Derek Dominick that Kotwasinski wasn’t around.
Derek Dominick and his wife were living in Kotwasinski’s Cicero home, according to their own voter registration forms from last year and other public records. They both listed the house Kotwasinski still owns in Cicero as their home address.
The town’s payments to Kotwasinski didn’t even stop when he was no longer on the board.
His appointment ended in June last year.
But he kept getting paid until last month.
That’s when the Sun-Times asked about the payments, and the Town of Cicero wrote to Kotwasinski — sending its letter to a German mailing address — saying it had discovered he was collecting and depositing checks after he officially left the board.
Cicero’s inspector general demanded that he return $4,100 by Feb. 21 in a letter dated Jan. 31, just days after the Sun-Times asked about the payments.
The Town of Cicero refused to provide the minutes of the public board meetings, despite an open-records request filed by the Sun-Times. Town spokesman Ray Hanania said the newspaper’s request wasn’t clear. The Sun-Times obtained the records independently from a source.
Hanania, though, insisted that Derek Dominick wasn’t responsible for keeping track of Kotwasinski after early November 2011 because that’s when Dominick left his post as Cicero’s head of human resources. That was also about the same time it appears Kotwasinski left the country.
Derek Dominick didn’t leave public service, though. He became head of the town’s building department after leaving human resources and is now the director of special events. Hanania said other people in town — including members of the committee — also failed to blow the whistle on Kotwasinski.
The town acted as soon as it learned of the problem, Hanania insisted, which was likely around the same time as the Sun-Times found out about the issue. He gave the newspaper a copy of Cicero Inspector General James Klosak’s letter to Kotwasinski.
“The Town of Cicero sent said checks to you in error,” Klosak wrote, “and you not only failed to notify the Town of your continued receipt of the erroneous checks, but you accepted receipt and made deposit of said checks.”
Kotwasinski responded with a cashier’s check for the full $4,100. Klosak warned him the payment wouldn’t absolve him of criminal liability.
Kotwasinski does come back to town, and he was in the Chicago area as recently as this week. No one answered the door at his house in Cicero this week, but he was found at a relative’s home in Berwyn. He told a reporter he was too busy to chat.
“I’ll give you a call when I figure out my schedule,” Kotwasinski said.
The Sun-Times hasn’t heard from him since, and he did not return follow-up calls.
Derek Dominick didn’t respond to calls and emails seeking comment, either. He owns a house across the street from Kotwasinski’s in Cicero.
But Dominick doesn’t apparently live there.
Cicero employee David Duran told the Sun-Times in a telephone interview that he rents the house that Derek Dominick owns. He said he has been living there since September, and he said Derek Dominick moved out even earlier. He said Derek Dominick has been living across the street.
Duran knew nothing about Derek Dominick’s arrangement with Kotwasinski, he said.
Kotwasinski was paid $11,984 in all by Cicero after he was appointed to the Housing board in June 2011, town records show. The board advises town officials along with its code enforcement, health, fire and building departments.
Later that year, a newsletter from a Boy Scout group the Kotwasinskis have ties to announced the Kotwasinski family was moving to Europe because his wife had accepted a job in Germany for two years.
Kotwasinski and his children planned to join her on their “adventure of a lifetime” on Nov. 5, 2011, according to the newsletter. Since then, town records show Kotwasinski collected $9,461 from Cicero in monthly payments of $315.39 each.
The $4,100 Cicero sought last month was for the period between July last year and Jan. 4 — when Kotwasinski was no longer appointed to the board.
So far, though, Cicero has let Kotwasinski keep the money for the time he was appointed to the board — even though he never showed up.
Hanania said the inspector general was trying to decide whether to demand that money back.