Oak Lawn trustee wants audit of Fall on the Green fest
BY BOB RAKOW Correspondent June 1, 2012 9:30PM
Updated: July 6, 2012 10:25AM
An Oak Lawn trustee is crying foul over the village’s Fall on the Green festival, questioning how another trustee — his former political ally — has run it in the past.
Trustee Bob Streit, the new chairman of Oak Lawn’s special events committee, said he wants a forensic audit of the festival. Streit is questioning the contracting, accounting and management tactics by Trustee Tom Phelan, the former chairman, and claims Phelan used the festival as a political tool to punish or reward people based on politics.
The annual festival is overseen by the village’s special events committee. Streit was named committee chairman last month.
Phelan, who had chaired the committee since 2005, denied the claims and said he asked for a similar review during the 2012 budget hearings. Phelan said the event, which splits profits 50-50 between the village and Oak Lawn-based nonprofit Park Lawn, was profitable under his leadership.
“I have been advocating for more than a year for a formal budgeting process for our special events and a board-approved formula to determine how we calculate the net donation to Park Lawn,” Phelan wrote in an email.
Mayor Dave Heilmann said he removed Phelan as special events chairman because he personally negotiated contracts for Fall on the Green and distributed VIP tent passes to certain people while excluding others. Heilmann said Phelan had a staff member pick up food vouchers from the printer and deliver them to his house.
Heilmann claimed Phelan controlled the flow of festival VIP wristbands and free food vouchers. Streit, in a news release, said Phelan had used passes as a reward for his political allies.
“The problem is that Fall on the Green became (Phelan’s) own private party,” Heilmann said.
Streit said in an email that his information came from various sources, including village officials, staff and records. Streit could not be reached to comment beyond his news release and the one email statement.
Streit also said Phelan distributed free food vouchers for the festival.
“Right now, we don’t know who was given those vouchers, and you have to ask whether someone was giving away vouchers paid for with public funds,” Streit said.
He said it is possible some vouchers were given to non-volunteers.
Phelan denied the claim.
“We order 2,000 (vouchers) because we are never sure how many we will need given sponsor-level participation,” Phelan said.
In addition to the 365 food vouchers requested for volunteers, tickets also were given to beer tent workers, volunteers from Park Lawn, village employees who worked the fest, sponsors and bands, Phelan said. Vouchers also were used to pay for extra food at the VIP tent, he said.
Streit also claims Phelan gave 130 lunch vouchers intended for volunteers to Trustee Alex Olejniczak, who also was given 780 beer tickets.
“Alex Olejniczak never asked for any passes to be used for his supporters,” Phelan said.
Instead, the vouchers were given to residents near the Village Green and the section of 53rd Avenue where the Fourth of July Parade is staged to show the village’s appreciation for the inconvenience the events cause, Phelan said. The mayor said he was upset because it was done without village board approval and the cost of the beer and food vouchers came out of the village treasury.
Phelan said he never selectively distributed passes to the VIP tent.
“Last fall, Bob Streit demanded and received 12 passes for each day, but he wanted more. I told him that it was way over the top, especially since he hadn’t volunteered for any of the 100-plus spots for the festival. He got very angry at that and apparently never forgot it until today, obviously,” Phelan said.
He said allegations that he controls contracts for the fest are unfounded.
“Every contract for Fall on the Green and other special events were signed by the village manager or his designee, not me,” Phelan said. “I have never in the seven years I have been involved handled even one physical dollar for our special events.”