Our View: Good insight into fest oversight
SouthtownStar editorial December 3, 2012 10:06PM
Updated: January 5, 2013 6:21AM
Oak Lawn officials have a blueprint for more responsibly running the village’s main festival, having paid $20,000 for the advice. Now they just have to follow it, which is no sure thing in a town as political as Oak Lawn.
Trustee Bob Streit (3rd) last week publicly revealed the findings of a forensic audit that the village ordered in May after Streit questioned Trustee Tom Phelan’s oversight of the Fall on the Green festival in recent years as chairman of the village’s special events committee.
Streit accused Phelan (6th) of using the festival to make political capital — alleging that he abused his authority as committee chairman, engaged in favoritism regarding VIP tickets and free food vouchers and approved a $10,000 payment for a Bruce Springsteen tribute band, far more than the village typically pays for a band.
Phelan defended his actions, saying they all were approved by village manager Larry Deetjen, who has feuded with Mayor Dave Heilmann and Streit. Heilmann cited what he felt was Phelan’s poor supervision of the festival in removing him as special events chairman in June, replacing him with Streit, a political ally.
The firm’s audit report found that Oak Lawn has little, if any, formal policies for running the three-day event. The village did not keep track of the distribution of VIP freebies (such as food vouchers), the audit says. It recommends the village board approve the allocation of VIP tickets and that a village employee be assigned to control their use.
The audit also says the village board should assume more control of the cash generated by the festival and the negotiation of contracts with vendors and bands.
We’re aware that the audit was politically motivated, stemming from the dispute between rival factions of the village board and the feud between Heilmann and Deetjen. But that doesn’t detract from its conclusions and the apparent need for the village board to get more involved in overseeing the event.
Village officials should implement its recommendations so the festival is managed better and more fairly. Sometimes, bitter politics can have a sweet outcome.