Rolling Meadows alderman faces backlash over grant application

This story has been updated to clarify Alderman Joe Gallo's relationship to the Illinois Autonomous Vehicles Association .

A Rolling Meadows alderman and mayoral candidate who applied for a grant on the city's behalf is facing criticism from the incumbent mayor and other city officials for going over their heads.

Alderman Joe Gallo, one of three hopefuls challenging Mayor Len Prejna in the April 2 municipal election, filed grant paperwork in January using his city email address. But the application sent to the National Safety Council didn't first come before the city council for approval and wasn't reviewed by other city officials, as is protocol.

"I feel I'm a valid representative for the city of Rolling Meadows," Gallo said during a contentious city council meeting Tuesday night. "This is the equivalent of me taking my business card and putting it in a fish bowl at a restaurant to receive a free lunch."

Prejna and City Attorney Jim Macholl said the seven-member council didn't give Gallo the authority to submit the application. If awarded, the grant would expand a pilot program of technology in city fire trucks that digitally alerts drivers of oncoming emergency vehicles through phone apps.

"It looks like a promising idea," Prejna said. "However, as the city attorney has stated, it would be like someone saying, 'Well, I'm going to apply to get a snowplow into my ward because I think we really should have one of those.'"

"Only the city council or their designated representatives can come forward with this," Prejna said.

Aldermen voted 5-2 to formally advise the Itasca-based National Safety Council that the city didn't authorize the grant application, effectively withdrawing it. Gallo voted with Alderman Nick Budmats, who said he supports the grant application on its merits. Other aldermen said they support the concept but want the official process followed.

"The way this has been handled is kind of an embarrassment to the city," said Alderman Mike Cannon.

Gallo called it "a double standard," saying other city rules have been broken. He criticized City Manager Barry Krumstok for exceeding his approved spending limit without council oversight.

"I need to understand what the actual problem is with me having a little bit of autonomy to do preliminary work, to bring something before the council," Gallo said. "Is it because I'm trying to improve road safety or improve safety for our first responders, or is it because it's Joe Gallo who's actually doing this and that's a problem."

Prejna said he's reached out to Gallo several times since he was elected Ward 4 alderman two years ago, inviting him to meetings about city business and defending him in front of the council.

"I also appreciate your candor here publicly but your patronization privately," Gallo responded.

The council also voted 6-1 to demand the Illinois Autonomous Vehicles Association remove the city's seal from its website and materials and references to the city being a municipal partner. Gallo said he wasn't aware of those references to the city.

Prejna and Gallo are joined by Ward 6 Alderman John D'Astice and Planning and Zoning Commission Vice Chair Dave Whitney in the mayor's race.

City could see crowded race for mayor

Filing deadline over for suburban candidates

In case you missed it: Watch our Rolling Meadows mayoral endorsement interview

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