Bellwood mayor`s pricey car drives taxpayers over the edge - FOX 32 News Chicago

Bellwood mayor`s pricey car drives taxpayers over the edge

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Usually politicians like to drive something quiet, comfortable and under-the-radar; especially if they're doing it on the taxpayer's dime. But, in west suburban Bellwood--a village of 20,000 people that's just two miles wide and millions of dollars in debt--the mayor's choice of wheels has some taxpayers wondering whether they've been taken for a ride.

FOX 32 discovered the top-of-the-line sports car parked in the mayor's spot at the Bellwood Municipal Center, sporting a set of municipal plates.

Our Freedom of Information Request reveals Bellwood bought the car new in 2009 for $43,101 and then spent another $4,114 outfitting the car with a full police package including radios, lights and siren.

The man who ordered the car is 76-year-old Frank Pasquale who has been mayor of Bellwood since 2001.

He's a chatty guy. That is, until you ask him about his wheels.

When approached by FOX 32's Investigative Reporter Dane Placko who inquired about the car, Pasquale responded: "I sent you a statement. That's all I'm going to say."

That statement, prepared by a paid PR contractor, says in part: "the long-time budgeted automobile allowance for the mayor's office enables to extend his service and availability to residents by safely using an American-made car around the village."

The statement goes on to say that "the car is frequently recognized by residents, who often stop the mayor during regular and non-business hours to ask him questions, raise concerns and make suggestions."

And what a car it is! Here are just a few auto experts drooling in online reviews:

"It's the race-ready Dodge Challenger SRT 8. And the first thing you'll notice is it looks like pure evil!"

"It's good for 425 horsepower. It's a 6.1 liter hemi. That's a lot of power."

"Mileage is EPA rated at 'Oh my God, that's awful' city and "How am I going to pay for that?' highway."

"Be careful, though, as it's easy to get carried away firing off tire-chirping gear shifts like it's the '70s!"

"You've got a whole bunch of what they call performance features. Here's a zero to 60 timer."

"G-force compass. Check that out!"

We asked some residents paying bills at Bellwood Village Hall whether they knew what their mayor is driving.

"That surprises me," resident Robert Ford said. "I would've thought he was driving something like-- not like that. That's a sports car."

Asked if it was an appropriate use of her money, Angela Broom had this to say: "No. Not at all. When we have other things that need to be fixed around Bellwood."

"I pay for my car. I work every day and I pay for my car. So why should I have to pay for a car for the mayor?" Rose Riggins asked.

Pasquale makes $95,280 a year as Bellwood's mayor. He's also collecting a state university teacher's pension of $87,723.

He also owns a Ford Police Interceptor as a personal car, which he bought from Bellwood employee Floyd Green. You may remember Green as the guy we found sleeping in front of the mayor's house in the middle of the night a couple years ago while making a six-figure salary.

Just a few spaces down from the mayor's gleaming muscle car, we found what the rest of Bellwood's municipal employees drive: the Ford Focus, with a sticker price of about $15,000.

Sources tell FOX 32 that the mayor handpicked the car himself at a local dealership, and the village board approved the purchase without question.

The Bellwood spokesman says the mayor needed the police package put into the car because he likes to respond to emergency situations.

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