A “hot mic” incident has inflamed an already contentious debate over turning a country club into a shipping hub in south suburban Homewood.
Opponents of the project recorded village officials saying derogatory things about them before a public Zoom hearing started Thursday. One calls opponents “a—holes” and appears to muse about shooting them.
Now there are demands for firings and the village said it is investigating.
A group called South Suburbs for Greenspace over Concrete has organized opposition to the project, citing potential pollution, noise and truck traffic near homes. The 127-acre site, northwest of Dixie Highway and 175th Street, is the former Calumet Country Club. With usage declining, club members sold the property to the development firm Diversified Partners.
The buyer’s plans for 800,000 square feet of warehouse and distribution operations require a zoning change by Homewood. The “hot mic” remarks were picked up before a hearing by the village’s planning and zoning commission, its third on the matter.
On the Zoom call, a person that project critics identified as Angela Mesaros, Homewood’s director of economic and community development, could be heard criticizing audience members at prior hearings. “Good thing me and Chris don’t have guns,” she said, an apparent reference to Christopher Cummings, an attorney for the village.
“If this [desk] wasn’t here, if this wasn’t blocking me between those a--holes in the audience,” the speaker adds that she “might be able to take some of them on.”
The voice appeared similar to recordings of Mesaros from other publicly available Zoom sessions. Village Manager Jim Marino, in a statement issued Friday to radio station WBBM-AM (780), confirmed the speaker was Mesaros.
Marino told the station an investigation is under way and village staffers have been under extreme stress and regret the remarks. The Sun-Times could not reach Marino or Mesaros for comment. In a Facebook post, the village also promised an investigation.
In another part of the taped comments, a person called Napoleon — apparently Napoleon Haney, assistant village manager of Homewood — can be heard suggesting he can order police officers to intimidate any protesters on Mesaros’ cue.
Liz Varmecky, spokeswoman for opponents of the project, called for village officials to fire Mesaros and Haney.
Cummings declined to comment on the remarks or any personnel actions the village might take. But he said the hearings about the country club, featuring public comments and questions for the developer, have been extremely tense. “There are people in the front row yelling all sorts of things, and I’m being kind. She [Mesaros] has been called everything in the book up there,” he said.
The planning commission has scheduled its fourth hearing about the country club for Wednesday. Varmecky said it may vote next Friday, March 5, but Cummings said no further meeting has been scheduled. The commission would issue a non-binding recommendation to the Village Board about an industrial rezoning of the country club.
Homewood Village President Rich Hofeld did not return messages Friday.