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Ethics Measure Gets OK But Not All Agree

At a rare Friday evening meeting with half the trustees missing, the Oak Lawn Village Board approved an ordinance April 26 that will bar former elected officials from being hired or appointed to village positions for two years after their elected term ends.

The ordinance was proposed by trustees Robert Streit (3rd) and Carol Quinlan (5th), who had wanted it to be voted on at the regular meeting on April 23. With Village Manager Larry Deetjen sitting nearby, Streit claimed at the meeting that Deetjen wrongly kept the ordinance off the April 23 agenda.

ÒI’m sorry we had to bring everybody out here tonightÉBut in my 22 years on the board, I have never seen an instance such as this,” said Streit, asserting that Deetjen went beyond his duties in preventing the measure from being put on the agenda although he had brought the proposed ordinance into the Village Clerk’s office on the previous Thursday, which he understood to be the deadline.

ÒWe’ve all heard the rumors that one trustee agreed to not run for re-election, in exchange for getting appointed to the Village Treasurer position,” said Streit, referring to Trustee Thomas Phelan (6th). He said the ordinance was simple, and was aimed at preventing such agreements. ÒIt is not forever, it is just for two years,” he said.

Phelan and trustees Alex Olejniczak (2nd) and Thomas Duhig (4th) were not at the meeting, so the ordinance passed with the support of Trustee Cynthia Trautsch (1st), and Streit and Quinlan Ñ the only two current trustees who will be on the board after the new term begins May 14. Outgoing Mayor Dave Heilmann cast the fourth vote.

ÒIt is not the village manager’s job to decide what goes on the agenda,” said Heilmann. ÒIt is completely inappropriate for the village manager to act as the filter.

ÒAs for this particular ordinance, I don’t think you should leverage your weight to get a job afterward, so I am in favor of it. As a general rule, you don’t want people to use their jobs in this way.”

Heilmann pointed out afterward that during a discussion of Robert’s Rules of Order at the board meeting on Aug. 14, 2012, Phelan is mentioned agreeing that as long as an item is submitted to the Village Clerk’s office by the Thursday before the Tuesday meeting, it should be put on the agenda. ÒEight months later, that was not followed,” he said.

Deetjen said afterward that he was not playing any political games when he made the decision to keep the ordinance off the agenda. He said Village Clerk Jane Quinlan was on vacation when Streit called, so Deputy Village Clerk Christine O’Grady asked him about the procedure when Streit called about getting the ordinance on the agenda.

He said the deadline was actually Tuesday, and Streit was told that. When Streit came in with the prepared document at 4:50 p.m. Thursday, Deetjen questioned it because the village attorney had not seen it.

Deetjen said, ÒIt is important that the attorneys vet these ordinances before they are voted on” to avoid legal complications later.

Deetjen noted that he was busy handling flooding issues that day, and got no response from Streit or Quinlan when he asked for more information. He said keeping to the deadline was important, because residents want to be able to pick up the agenda before the offices close on Friday.

Deetjen said that, by email, he offered a compromise to the two trustees, saying the item could be put up for discussion and then voted on at the following meeting.

ÒThere was no need for this Friday meeting,” said the village manager. ÒOrdinarily, things like this are handled on the alternate Tuesday, when there is no regular board meeting.”

Deetjen said that he held up the agenda deadline until Friday evening, waiting for a response from the trustees, but none was forthcoming, and he said they avoided speaking to him at a retirement party that night for Police Chief Bill Villanova.

Newly elected mayor Sandra Bury observed the meeting, and while Streit and Quinlan said she and her allies should be happy since they campaigned on a platform of ethics reform, Bury said the ordinance was mainly a personal attack against Phelan, and the hiring issue was not important to anyone she met on the campaign trail.

For his part, Phelan said this week that there was no truth to the rumors of him wanting the treasurer position anyway.

He called Streit’s ethics reform claims Òsad, pathetic and beyond hypocritical. And a waste of everyone’s time, too.”

He recalled Streit Òpounding the table in April 2005 over the then- Board of Trustees’ efforts to pass laws and approve the Target development,” and Òdecrying the lameduck efforts of those board members and their blatant disregard of the message the voters sent” in the recent election.

ÒI don’t need to be on a committee or appointed to a position to continue to expose the corruption and fraud. Not when people like Streit and his allies make it so easy to do. I ran the campaigns of the Oak Lawn First candidates because I wanted to stop the damage that Bob Streit, Dave Heilmann and their allies were doing to Oak Lawn. And I am grateful that the clear majority of Oak Lawn voters wanted the same thing,” said Phelan, asserting that the two trustees are Ògoing to bizarre and almost comical lengths” to prevent corruption and fraud from being exposed.

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