Agreement between Park Ridge Park District, seniors on hold
Updated: March 22, 2013 6:11AM
PARK RIDGE — A plan to approve an agreement settling a year-long lawsuit concerning a contested financial contribution was put on hold at the Park Ridge Recreation and Park District Board of Commissioners meeting Feb. 7.
Commissioners were set to approve an agreement allowing Senior Services, Inc., (SSI), a fundraising arm of the Park District’s Senior Center, to keep a disputed trust fund of roughly $330,000 left by the late Betty Kemnitz, a longtime member of the Park Ridge Senior Center.
But a separate request on behalf of SSI seeking Park District permission to remove certain donated items and items purchased through fundraising efforts out of the Senior Center and into a separate senior-focused facility proposed by SSI ultimately delayed that agreement from being finalized by the Park Board.
Board President Rick Biagi said that two hours before the start of the board meeting, SSI representatives handed Park District commissioners a list of items they wished to remove from the Senior Center, including a baby grand piano, and that the board needed more time to decide whether those items could be moved to the proposed new SSI-run facility.
About a year ago, commissioners gave SSI permission to remove the first list of items such as computers, TV’s and decorative items from the Senior Center to be used in the new facility, Biagi said.
But commissioners on Feb. 7 said Park District staff would need time to contact family members of the now-deceased people who donated the items and ask their permission to move them to a new location.
“We agreed that for any items someone donated we’d need to let that person’s family know about it,” Biagi said. “If someone in the family doesn’t want an item to leave (the Senior Center) then we should honor that wish.”
The dispute between the Park District and SSI started several years ago after a long-standing contractual relationship between the two entities came to an end after the Park District allowed a contract with SSI to expire in order to help short-circuit a budget deficit.
SSI reps began planning to open a new senior facility using items acquired through donations and fundraising efforts and with the help of the $330,000 trust reportedly left to the “Park Ridge Senior Center.”
Former Senior Center manager Teresa Grodsky, who was named trustee of the Kemnitz Trust, filed a lawsuit in January 2012 asking a Cook County Circuit Court judge to determine if money from Kemnitz’s estate should go to SSI, which served as a fundraising arm for the Senior Center.
Another separate lawsuit stemming from the broken contract asked the Park District to pay an undisclosed amount for a list of capital improvements SSI had funded for the Senior Center building, but SSI offered to drop that suit in return for the Park District’s agreement to waive any rights to the Kemnitz Trust.
Both parties agreed tentatively to settle as an alternative to dragging the lawsuits out in court, but those agreements remain unsigned.
“We want to move along and be done with it,” said Carla Owen, the attorney representing SSI. “Everyone has been hesitant to do anything with the money until this is resolved and the seniors aren’t getting any younger.”