The following press release was issued by the Citizen Advocacy Center:
ELMHURST– Maywood Village Trustee Cheryl A. Ealey-Cross, Westmont resident Bob Mueller, and Winfield resident Stan Zegel are receiving Citizen Initiative Awards from the Citizen Advocacy Center this year in a ceremony on December 10, 2013. The awards have been given since 1997 to recognize “contributions of individuals and groups who build democracy, stimulate community discussion on important issues of public concern, demonstrate significant and informed civic participation in their communities, and who, by their example, have inspired others to action as well,” said Maryam Judar, executive director of the Citizen Advocacy Center. Only three to five awards are presented each year.
The presentation ceremony is free and open to the public. It will be held on December 10, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. at Cafe Amano, 105 S. York St. in Elmhurst. Those interested in attending can call the Citizen Advocacy Center at 630-833-4080 or email CAC@CitizenAdvocacyCenter.org to reserve a space.
Mrs. Ealey-Cross is receiving an award for her on-going and forceful advocacy to empower community members and to bring greater government accountability to Maywood. Mrs. Ealey-Cross is outspoken when she believes there is an issue of public concern to be addressed, and has worked both inside and outside City Hall to make a difference. Mrs. Ealey-Cross has worked with the Citizen Advocacy Center a long time in assessing how to better improve community life, and bring more accountability to Maywood municipal government. Part of her long-time advocacy includes serving as executive director of Proviso Action Committee, past president of Maywood Community Organization, former Maywood Fire & Police Commissioner, former Maywood Water Review Commissioner, and on the Cook County Commission on Women’s Issues.
In 2010, Mrs. Ealey-Cross, along with other concerned citizens, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for copies of records routinely turned over by public bodies upon request, including credit card expenses and a line item budget. Initially, the Village claimed that some of the records did not exist. With pro bono assistance from a law firm in Chicago, Mrs. Ealey-Cross and additional concerned citizens filed a successful suit to obtain the records. Disclosure of public records showed expenses that raised questions among taxpayers: expensive clothing, sporting event tickets, and skybox catering and cashier checks totaling more than $400,000.
Mrs. Ealey-Cross has run for a municipal trustee seat twice, and while not successful in winning the election, she successfully brought to light anti-democratic practices of the Village with respect to how the public body addresses FOIA requests, the lack of responsiveness to question about financial practices and flaws within Illinois’ local electoral board process. In 2013, a newly elected mayor who won against a long-time incumbent mayor nominated Mrs. Ealey-Cross for a vacated trustee seat. Mrs. Ealey-Cross now has the opportunity to ask her questions of government operations and accountability in a different manner. VFP