Oak Lawn fest issues support audit
SouthtownStar editorial June 4, 2012 9:40PM
Updated: July 7, 2012 8:30AM
After a relatively quiet period in the past few months, things are heating up again in Oak Lawn politics.
The bitter divisions within the village board have flared anew, with the mayor changing committee assignments recently and claims last week that a trustee has abused his authority over the village’s annual Fall on the Green festival.
Trustee Bob Streit, the new chairman of the village’s special events committee, is calling for a forensic audit of the festival’s contracting and accounting — accusing Trustee Tom Phelan, the former chairman, of mismanaging its operation and using perks at the event to punish or reward people based on politics.
As part of his shakeup of committee assignments, Mayor Dave Heilmann removed Phelan, one of his political foes, as special events chairman. Heilmann said Phelan had personally negotiated contracts for Fall on the Green and showed blatant favoritism in awarding VIP tent passes and free food vouchers. The mayor said the festival became Phelan’s “own private party.”
Phelan strongly denied the accusations, saying Fall on the Green had been profitable under his leadership since 2005 in raising money for Park Lawn, a local charity that assists the developmentally disabled. He rejected the criticism from Heilmann and Streit as politically motivated.
Phelan also stressed that he had suggested during the 2012 village budget hearings that the village establish a budgeting process for its special events to better track revenue and spending. That’s a recommendation that the village board should follow.
Though Heilmann has denied it, his new committee assignments reward his allies and penalize his opponents. But he’s hardly the first mayor to do so.
And while the allegations regarding Fall on the Green have some political purpose, they can’t be so easily dismissed. They raise enough questions to justify an audit of its operations. Let’s find out if Heilmann and Streit are right.