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Trustees Consider Lawsuit

Mayor, Streit Question Oak Lawn Fall on Green Management

Oak Lawn trustees Tom Phelan (6th) and Alex Olejniczak (2nd) are pursuing a defamation suit against Mayor David Heilmann and Trustee Bob Streit (3rd) following claims they made questioning how the village’s annual Fall on the Green festival was handled while Phelan was chairman of the Special Events Committee. {{more}}

ÒWe have already engaged an attorney and served (Heilmann and Streit) with papers on a defamation lawsuit,” said Phelan on Wednesday.

In May, Heilmann replaced Phelan as chairman of the committee, and named Streit as his replacement. Upon taking over, Streit said that he wanted a forensic audit of the festival, and raised questions about the contracting, management and accounting practices since Phelan began overseeing the festival in 2005.

Phelan denies the claims that Streit made in a press release, and said he would be in favor of doing a forensic audit as well, and had even asked for one last year himself.

Funds raised at Fall on the Green are split between the village and Park Lawn, a non-profit organization that assists people with developmental disabilities. Phelan released figures this week showing that the village lost more than $25,000 when Fall on the Green was held in 2005, but from 2005-2011, has generated $1.1 million, with $191,124 in profit going to Oak Lawn, and $98,928 going to Park Lawn.

Phelan denies handling any money involved with the festival, and released statements outlining exactly who received the vouchers and how many were given. About 130 went to residents of 53rd Avenue, Raymond Avenue and who were most affected by the disruption caused by the nearby festival, and some were not used.

But Heilmann points to the documents as proof that Phelan was too involved in handing out the vouchers.

ÒThe issue is that a trustee personally was controlling and disbursing vouchers paid for with public funds Ñ he should not have been doing that. That is verified by his own emails directing where these free vouchers were to go and confirming that he in fact had them,” said Heilmann in an e-mail.

ÒThere is no defamation if what I am saying is true,” said Heilmann in his e-mail.

Furthermore, Heilmann said in the e-mail that Ò(Phelan) personally negotiated band contracts. In fact I confirmed this again with a band agent who informed me that he negotiated their $10,000 contract for a Sunday night performance with Tom Phelan. Why is a village trustee personally negotiating $10,000 contracts? That is not the job of a trustee.”

Streit said that as many as 1,200 free food vouchers were not accounted for last year, and accused Phelan of giving them, and tickets for the beer tent, to friends and associates. Streit also claimed that Olejniczak asked for and received as many as 130 lunch vouchers intended for volunteers, which both Olejniczak and Phelan deny.

ÒAlex Olejniczak never asked for any lunch vouchers,” said Phelan. He is also accused of giving wristbands for the VIP tent to certain people, and withholding them from others. Heilmann maintains that Special Events staff and others witnessed Phelan turning down a trustee’s request.

ÒThe shame of Heilmann’s and Streit’s accusations and allegations are that not only do they sully what has been a true feather in the village’s cap, but they are conferring on me far more credit than I deserve by virtue of their allegations that I am ‘too involved’ or that I ‘micro-manage’ the festival,” said Phelan.

He maintains that Streit was never denied the allowable amount of VIP passes, but claims he did not deserve them and did not get extra because he did not volunteer to help.

ÒTrustee Streit and Mayor Heilmann are certainly within their right to not volunteer to help with Fall on the Green, but I sincerely hope that their lies and slander don’t have a chilling effect on those who have come to love volunteering their time,” said Phelan.

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