Mayor’s shuffle upsets two Oak Lawn trustees
BY BOB RAKOW Correspondent May 23, 2012 9:00PM
Updated: July 3, 2012 8:58AM
Oak Lawn Mayor David Heilmann’s decision to change the makeup of village board committees is politically motivated, according to two trustees affected by the restructuring.
Heilmann denied the allegation and said the changes were necessary to prevent some trustees from continuing to exceed their authority.
Trustees on Tuesday voted 4 to 3 to approve the restructuring, with Heilmann casting the deciding vote.
Trustees Tom Phelan and Alex Olejniczak said Heilmann “blindsided” them by not providing advance notice of his proposed changes. A memo outlining the restructuring was presented to trustees shortly before the village board meeting.
“We got (the memo) at 7 o’clock tonight,” Phelan said. “It’s the first time you’re raising the issue.”
Heilmann said the behavior of some trustees was a factor in his decision to restructure the committees.
Phelan, for example, should not have participated in a 2011 conference call between village officials and the village’s bond counsel, Heilmann said. His involvement in the call could have cost the village its credit rating, he said.
Heilmann said some village officials complained to him about Phelan’s involvement.
Phelan said his involvement in the conference call was appropriate.
“As finance chairman, I absolutely had the right to participate in that call,” he said.
Phelan also was replaced as chairman of the special events committee because he did not give Fall on the Green hospitality tent passes to all trustees, Heilmann said.
Phelan denied the accusation and said Fall on the Green has been profitable every year that he has chaired the special events committee.
Phelan said he is not opposed to changing committee assignments but that the way it was done was purely political.
“It was an effort by some board members to close the ranks,” he said.
All six trustees now will sit on the finance committee. Trustee Bob Streit will head the special events committee, while Phelan was shifted to the technology committee. He also was replaced as fire department liaison by Trustee Carol Quinlan.
Quinlan, Streit and Trustee Cindy Trautsch will comprise the public works committee.
Heilmann said he also has received complaints about Olejniczak claiming he overstepped his bounds as trustee by twice interfering with police reports to protect friends.
Olejniczak denies the allegations.
Olejniczak, who was replaced by Trautsch as police department liaison, said Heilmann has the right to make the changes but that he should have discussed the complaints in private rather than criticize trustees at Tuesday’s meeting.
“It was kind of unsettling the way he criticized (Phelan),” Olejniczak said. “Wouldn’t a good leader say, ‘I’ve had some complaints, let’s talk about them.’ ”
Heilmann said he’s had no success trying to talk to his opponents on the board.
“It’s a massive fight every time I say anything,” he said.
Heilmann said changing committee assignments is a “fairly routine issue for the board” and noted that any trustee could have made recommendations.
“I don’t gain anything by who sits on a committee,” he said. “I’m not punishing someone.”