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Oak Lawn settles with former dispatchers

Only five of 19 former Oak Lawn dispatchers who applied for their old jobs were hired by Norcomm, the private company hired by the village to run the emergency call center at the village hall.

The village board last week approved a $250,000 settlement to be split evenly among the 14 dispatchers who were not hired. That comes to a little less than $18,000 apiece.

Three of the 14 who were not hired went to the village board meeting to voice their displeasure with the chain of events. All said they realized their appearance would change nothing but that they wanted residents to know how they were treated.

Elizabeth McCarthy, of Hometown, was the first to speak in the public comment portion of the board meeting. Unlike at an earlier meeting weeks earlier, when the dispatchers’ jobs were first threatened, the room was not overflowing. Rather, just a handful of residents were in attendance.

“I was one of the 10 dispatchers fired (Jan. 21). First and foremost, we did not agree with the settlement between the village and the union. We were blindsided. In no way was this a choice we made. I’m disappointed the village told us we had a shot at keeping our jobs, that most of us would be retained. Only five were kept,” McCarthy said.

She was joined by Amy Goldsmith and Lori Cypranowski. Each ripped the settlement, which also includes half of their COBRA medical insurance payments being paid for three months.

When McCarthy said she was “honestly relieved to be free of the stress,” those in the board room applauded.

Cypranowski, who worked there for 20 years, said, “Anything I say is not going to make a difference” and “what’s done is done.”

She said she is concerned for the safety of families living in villages served by the emergency call center because those hired leave her “no longer confident with the level of expertise.”

The center serves Oak Lawn, Bridgeview, Burbank and Evergreen Park police, along with Central Stickney and Oak Lawn firefighters.

The failure to hire back more than five dispatchers shows that lies were told to dispatchers, she said.

Goldsmith, an Oak Lawn resident for 16 years and a dispatcher for 12, including nearly five in Oak Lawn, thanked all who supported the dispatchers in recent months.

She said she was informed via email about a half-hour after her shift ended Jan. 21 that she was not being hired by Norcomm.

Mayor Sandra Bury said she wishes the former dispatchers “the best of luck.”

“The village can’t talk publicly about labor issues. These types of breakdowns in communications are part of the reason, or the problem. That being said, you’ve got to move on,” Bury said after the women spoke.

Nearly four hours later, after the board meeting and a closed-door executive session, the board voted 5 to 1 to approve the $250,000 settlement with the union. The dissenting vote was cast by Trustee Bob Streit (3rd), who said he didn’t care for the way the village handled the entire issue.

“Over a year ago, we paid (a consultant) to come up with a plan for privatization. Let’s not forget we paid our attorneys and our share for a mediator for a nine-hour bargaining session. Now we’re paying a penalty, a settlement, to union members who were not hired. We’re paying hundreds of thousands of dollars because of the bad advice we received on this issue and I can not support this settlement,” Streit said.

Bury called it “interesting” that Streit didn’t voice his concerns “until the cameras were turned on,” she said. Board meetings are recorded for a local-access cable TV channel.

Village Manager Larry Deetjen declined to comment on what the dispatchers said during the board meeting, but said, “I must tell you it makes it very difficult for a manager and attorney to negotiate when there’s a divided board.”



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