Ex-Oak Lawn official sues village, its manager
By Steve Metsch firstname.lastname@example.org July 1, 2014 8:18PM
Updated: August 3, 2014 6:40AM
A former Oak Lawn official has filed a federal lawsuit against the village and the village manager, claiming constitutional and civil rights violations.
Chad Weiler, the village’s former director of business operations whose job was eliminated last year, filed the suit Tuesday in federal court in Chicago.
The suit says the village and village manager Larry Deetjen engaged in racial discrimination and violated Weiler’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, along with Illinois’ civil rights and whistleblower laws in Oak Lawn’s dealings with JenCare, a Florida-based medical practice that planned to open an office in the former House of Brides store on 95th Street.
Deetjen steered the JenCare office elsewhere, eventually to the former Men’s Wearhouse store outside the village’s downtown and referred to JenCare’s “type of clientele” when talking with Weiler about JenCare, which caters to black and Hispanic customers, according to the lawsuit, which seeks $2 million in damages.
It says Deetjen told Weiler that he did not want a large number of black and Hispanic people downtown and directed Weiler to find another location for JenCare on the “outskirts of town.”
Deetjen had no comment Tuesday, saying the village had not received a copy of the lawsuit.
“When we receive that, it will be reviewed by the village’s legal counsel, which will make comment if necessary. Our attention right now is on the storm of (Monday) night,” Deetjen said.
The suit claims that JenCare in February 2013 negotiated a seven-year lease with the House of Brides owners, but Deetjen said he would not recommend to the mayor and trustees granting a zoning variance to JenCare for parking. The company later obtained a variance for parking at the Mens Wearhouse store, the suit says.
Weiler contends in the suit that he was the victim of political retaliation for placing a sign in his front yard supporting former Mayor Dave Heilmann instead of current Mayor Sandra Bury in the 2013 village election. After Bury won the election, she and some trustees formed a political “hit list,” targeting people who supported Heilmann and others on his political slate, according to the suit.
Heilmann later sent a letter to JenCare’s senior vice president, suggesting that the village had committed racial discrimination in determining the office location.
The suit says Weiler told Bury before she took office about Deetjen’s concerns about JenCare drawing minorities downtown, but Bury expressed skepticism, telling him she did not understand how “clientele” meant racial discrimination.
Weiler was offered a retirement agreement in exchange for dropping any claims against the village, but he declined to sign the deal, which would have enabled him to be vested in Oak Lawn’s pension system, the suit says. He was then dismissed, told that his job was being eliminated, according to the lawsuit.