Residents ask Algonquin Village President John Schmitt to resign after bee joke offends some

ALGONQUIN – Algonquin Village President John Schmitt was asked to resign days after he posted what he has called a “self-deprecating” picture on Facebook where his head was attached to the body of a bee.

The photo, which since has been taken down, was posted in the wake of a judge’s order to halt work on the Longmeadow Parkway road project because of the possible presence of an endangered bumblebee.

Algonquin resident Jack Bavaro read a prepared statement at Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting. He said he was speaking on behalf of many of the estimated 30 people in the audience and others who could not make the meeting. 

“The citizens of the village of Algonquin expect so much more from the office of the president and the trustees,” Bavaro said after holding up a poster of Schmitt’s former profile picture. 

Bavaro asked Schmitt to resign, and also asked trustees to condemn Schmitt’s “abhorrent” behavior as well as ask him to resign if he doesn’t do it himself. 

“Bottom line: [Schmitt] has failed our village, and the public no longer has confidence in the integrity of its government,” Bavaro said, receiving applause from some in the audience. 

Roz Strapko was the only other person to make comments regarding Longmeadow Parkway during public comment. She read a letter from Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner-elect Andrew Gasser, saying that he opposed the project because politicians have forced it, among other reasons.

Plans for the controversial project call for a four-lane, 5.6-mile east-west corridor connecting Randall Road with Route 62, although it starts west of Randall Road at the intersection of Huntley and Boyer roads. The $115 million project, complete with a toll bridge over the Fox River, will go through Algonquin, Carpentersville and Barrington Hills, as well as unincorporated areas of Kane County.

Schmitt did not respond to the call for resignation during the meeting, but afterward said he would not resign. 

“There are some things that could be out there that would warrant a village president resigning, but having bad taste isn’t one of them,” Schmitt said. 

The photo was posted on Schmitt’s personal Facebook, and was not a representation of the village, he said.

Although he understands that the photo upset people, Schmitt said he has apologized and it’s time to move on. 

Algonquin Village Manager Tim Schloneger said he would challenge anyone to look at the village of Algonquin’s environmental record.

“We’ve done more to protect the natural environment than any town I’ve been part of,” Schloneger said. 

Schmitt said he is genuinely concerned about the pollinating capability of bees in the country, but extending Longmeadow Parkway isn’t the problem. The use of pesticides in the country is what’s harming bees, and that is what needs to be looked at, Schmitt said. 

“This is a road project that is needed to help the environment so that we have less traffic sitting on the bridges polluting the river,” Schmitt said. “Longmeadow is not an anti-environmental project – it isn’t.”

Work on the parkway started April 17 near Randall Road in Algonquin, but it ended several hours later after U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Coleman granted an emergency stop requested by opponents who said the planned route includes a habitat of the endangered rusty patched bumblebee.

The rusty patched bumblebee was placed on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species list March 21. Since the late 1990s, the bee species’ numbers have declined by nearly 90 percent, according to the motion filed by Stop Longmeadow, and the bee is only found in a handful of locations in the country, including Kane County.

Coleman’s order is in effect until Friday, when a status hearing is scheduled.

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