Homewood official resigns after ‘hot mic’ incident
The village’s economic and community development director quits as a controversy rages over a plan for an industrial development on a former country club.
A Homewood official caught on a “hot mic” calling opponents of a proposed rezoning a vulgar name and talking about shooting them has resigned, officials of the southern suburb said Tuesday.
Angela Mesaros, the town’s economic and community development director, resigned five days after a recorded Zoom call surfaced in which she spoke disparagingly of people who attended public hearings about a plan to make a country club a shipping hub. Village Manager Jim Marino issued a statement announcing the resignation.
Marino praised Mesaros’ work and attributed her comments to the strain of several combative hearings about the redevelopment. But he said village policy “prohibits the use of threatening language, regardless of intent or context.” Friday, Mesaros circulated an apology, calling her words “thoughtless and unkind” and promising to do better.
Her remarks, recorded by opponents of the shipping hub, were on a publicly accessible Zoom call before the start of a virtual hearing of Homewood’s planning and zoning commission. It was the third meeting the commission held on the proposal involving the former Calumet Country Club northwest of Dixie Highway and 175th Street.
A developer has acquired the more than century-old golf club and wants to build 800,000 square feet of warehouse and distribution operations. The project would bring in jobs and tax revenue, but opponents have decried the prospect of pollution, truck traffic and the loss of open space.
The commission, which can recommend a rezoning to the Village Board, has scheduled its fourth hearing on the matter for Wednesday. The town is considering the project as part of a legal settlement with the developer, who had wanted to de-annex the site from the village and attach it Hazel Crest. If that happens, Homewood would be unable to regulate what gets built.
On the Zoom call, Mesaros could be heard calling the project’s opponents “a—holes,” talking about gun ownership and fighting some people. “If this [desk] wasn’t here, if this wasn’t blocking me between those a—holes in the audience,” she adds that she “might be able to take some of them on.”
While accepting her resignation, Marino said protesters at the hearings have not shown the respect they demand of village leaders.
Liz Varmecky, a spokeswoman for a group opposing the shipping hub, said she was unaware of any abuse or threats directed at village officials. “People are very frustrated,” she said, but, “The feedback I’ve had from village officials is they don’t like the pressure.”
She also called for the removal of Assistant Village Manager Napoleon Haney. A man called Napoleon could be heard on the call suggesting that he could have police officers intimidate the protesters on Mesaros’ cue.
Marino said Haney’s comments have been “misstated in the press and on social media, but dealt with accordingly.”