By Illinois Review
Mayor Keith Pekau controls Orland Park, a suburb of Chicago with a population less than 60,000, like a dictator – governing by power and fear – attacking political opponents, controlling businesses, and rewarding campaign donors with village contracts.
He also seeks complete control at Village Hall, and it’s why Pekau is on the ultimate power trip being dubbed as a “referendum” to expand his mayoral power and salary now that he’s stuck in his role as mayor for the next two years after losing his congressional bid in November.
And after his first term as mayor, Pekau campaigned for re-election on term limits, pushing for a 3-term, term limit, meaning Pekau can serve as the leader of Orland Park through 2033.
But under the new form of government that Pekau is pushing in the referendum, he could easily eliminate the term limits by a simple resolution.
And also under this new form of government, Pekau could instruct the Orland Park police chief to quietly assemble a special unit of officers to provide full-time, executive protection – including a motorcade of SUVs, officers at his home and office, guarding him around the clock, no matter where he is.
In Russia, President Vladamir Putin pushed a similar resolution, extending presidential term limits to another two terms – meaning Putin can serve as the leader of Russian through 2036.
Putin also controls businesses and media companies. And he just recently signed into law, legislation that criminalizes news publications from reporting anything that contradicts Putin’s side of the story, or is critical of him.
Pekau publishes a weekly Mayor’s Update, where he viciously attacks political opponents and uses his mayoral platform to control the narrative and slander any negative media coverage of himself.
When Putin was elected president of Russia in 2000, he used his office to target any Russian oligarch that threatened his power with the business community.
Putin also had a message for the business community: submit to my authority or face severe consequences.
And multiple sources confirm to Illinois Review that Pekau practices a style similar to Putin’s, where he threatens and intimidates local business owners into doing what he says, or they face the consequences.
In addition to being mayor, Pekau is also the village’s liquor commissioner – meaning he approves, denies or suspends liquor licenses throughout town – making him the most powerful person in the local restaurant and bar community.
And many restaurant owners, who asked Illinois Review not to reveal their identities for fear of retribution, are worried if they don’t do what he says, as liquor commissioner, Pekau could terminate their licenses – eliminating a major source of their revenue and causing them to potentially shut down altogether.
It’s no wonder why patrons of so many of Orland’s bars and restaurants have to fight a barrage of Pekau’s campaign signs to gain access to these establishments, as no owner would want to willingly turn off half their clientele.
Pekau also rewards his top campaign contributors with consulting agreements, when last March, Pekau and the village board voted in favor of signing a six-figure consulting agreement with one of the mayor’s biggest donors to develop village-owned property along one of Orland Park’s busiest corridors.
Edwards Realty, a longtime supporter and campaign contributor to both Pekau’s mayoral and congressional campaigns, was hired in March of 2021 to consult the mayor and village board on ways to develop Orland Park’s Main Street Triangle property.
The land development deal is estimated to cost around $253 million, and the village is expected to share around $50 million.
During Pekau’s congressional campaign in 2022, Open Secrets listed Edwards Realty as one of his largest campaign contributors, donating $9,800.
Hassan also maxed out his personal campaign contribution to Pekau’s congressional account, donating $5,800.
Hassan was also listed as the primary sponsor of Pekau’s boat cruise during his primary congressional campaign.
Pekau’s campaign disclosures for both his mayoral and congressional campaigns reveal a pattern of donations linked to businesses that have contracts with the Village of Orland Park – creating the optic of a pay-to-play style of politics.
The website Open Secrets reveals that his top contributors during his recent congressional campaign besides Edwards Realty, include Horton Insurance.
Horton is the village’s insurance provider.
Klein, Thorpe & Jenkins is a law firm that represents the village, and from 2017-2021, they donated $22,000 to Pekau’s mayoral campaign.
During Pekau’s congressional campaign in 2022, nine employees at Klein, Thorpe & Jenkins donated a total of $2,650 – and six of the nine donated on the very same day (March 28, 2022).
Since Pekau has been mayor, the Village of Orland Park has paid Klein, Thorpe & Jenkins over $3.2 million in legal fees between 2017-2022.
In politics, it’s all about optics, and when many of your top campaign contributors are also village contractors, it creates a situation that has the potential to attract unnecessary attention.
Political candidates always run on the platform of “service” and “serving” the community. But after they are elected, and they taste a little bit of power, then want more. And that “service” changes to “serve me.”
And Pekau is no different.