A hot microphone caught a Homewood official disparaging residents protesting a development deal before a planning and zoning commission meeting Thursday.
On the agenda was a public hearing for the rezoning of the former Calumet Country Club. Homewood agreed to a settlement with Diversified Partners last month. The Arizona developer plans to construct a warehouse distribution center on the property.
“If this (desk) wasn’t blocking me between those a**holes in the audience last time,” Homewood Director of Economic and Community Development Angela Mesaros is heard saying. “No. 1, I can’t fight. And No. 2, I would try, anyway, though. That’s the problem. I would try. I would leap out and try. Actually, I might be able to take on some of them.”
Mesaros also can be heard saying she and other officials have been “getting personal messages” from protesters of the development.
“I grew up in Appalachia with a bunch of bullies, so I’m very good at inciting violence in other people,” Mesaros said. “That’s why I don’t own a gun.”
Village Manager Jim Marino said he's investigating the incident. He wouldn't comment on any possible outcome of that investigation because it's a personnel matter.
"I think Angela made those comments out of frustration. It's been a stressful situation for village staff," Marino said. "It's something we take seriously. I'm going to look into why she said it, and I know it's something that shouldn't have been said. It's not a reflection of Angela as a person or her commitment to her job."
South Suburbs for Greenspace Over Concrete formed last month in response to the development. The group, which has more than 1,000 followers on Facebook, has organized protests in opposition to the project. The zoning meeting Thursday was in its second continuance after its start Feb. 11, and a continuance meeting Feb. 16 went into over time with so many residents asking questions of Diversified Partners’ representatives during the public comment portion.
The meeting was paused again Thursday and will continue March 3.
SSGOC released a statement Thursday night calling for Mesaros to resign.
"If playing truck noises and loudly advocating for your community is intimidating to village officials, SSGOC believes that mention of guns and 'leap(ing)' over tables to physically assault residents concerned for the community is an offense worthy of being removed from one’s job," SSGOC's statement read.
On Friday evening the village posted an apology from Mesaros directed to the community.
"Please accept my sincerest apology. I take full responsibility and am deeply ashamed of my comments made before last night's Planning & Zoning Commission public hearing," Mesaros said in the statement. "I understand that I have let down our residents as well as our leaders. Any reference to violence or the use of a gun is never appropriate, and it does not reflect my love for this community I call home."
Update: The SSGOC group on Facebook exceeded 1,000 members as of Saturday morning, Feb. 27. The membership noted originally in the story was nearly 500.