Updated: November 12, 2012 11:53AM
A forensic audit into the finances and management of last year’s Fall on the Green festival in Oak Lawn won’t be completed until next month, but the 2012 fest already is generating controversy.
It was the subject of heated debate at Tuesday’s village board meeting, as Trustee Robert Streit, chairman of the special events committee, told trustees that the village paid $10,000 to a Bruce Springsteen tribute band to perform on the main stage on the last night of the fest.
The fee is several thousand dollars more than the village pays other bands to play at the fest.
“I had no idea how bad it was,” said Streit, who called for the audit of the 2011 fest shortly after being named chairman of the special events committee in May.
The village typically pays bands from $400 to $3,500 to play at the annual fest, Streit said. The contract was negotiated while Trustee Tom Phelan was chairman of the special events committee.
Streit said the band’s contract included two free limousines, five complimentary rooms at the Oak Lawn Hilton for the weekend, and eight wristbands for the fest’s VIP tent.
The New York-based band, Tramps Like Us, also played at 115 Bourbon Street and Hard Rock Cafe Chicago over the weekend. The village was billed for the equipment the band used at those venues.
Mayor Dave Heilmann said he told village staff not to pay the bill.
“I don’t believe that’s a legal expense,” Heilmann said. “Why would we pay for services outside the village of Oak Lawn?”
Heilmann said the village overpaid for the band.
“It’s a neighborhood festival,” Heilmann said. “I don’t think we should be paying that kind of money.”
Phelan defended the contract, and said the band’s performance helped increase attendance and helped beer sales improve significantly on Sunday night, typically a slow time for the fest.
“We made more money and had more success,” Phelan said.
Phelan said the limousines and hotel rooms were donated, and the band’s rate was negotiated down from $18,000. He said the band was allowed to use the musical equipment throughout the weekend to “bring down their overall costs.”
Phelan criticized Streit’s allegations as “juvenile.”
“It’s always about the drama,” Phelan said. “Nothing, I predict, is going to come out of this audit. This is so perverse is what it is. It’s ludicrous. It’s laughable.”
It was Streit who called for the audit into the 2011 fest, questioning the contracting, accounting and management tactics by Phelan. Streit said Phelan used the festival as a political tool to punish or reward people based on politics.