Oak Lawn trustees left wanting to speak up
BY BOB RAKOW Correspondent June 15, 2012 11:56PM
Updated: July 18, 2012 6:30AM
Two of the hottest topics in Oak Lawn politics have been the long-running controversy over the village’s legal bills and recent allegations about a trustee using a village festival for political favors.
Both were on the agenda for last week’s village board meeting, but neither was discussed publicly — and the explanations for the silence are creating another controversy, as Mayor Dave Heilmann and two political foes offer different reasons for why the board tabled the issues.
Trustees Alex Olejniczak and Tom Phelan, who placed the items on the agenda, said the mayor and his supporters tabled the talks to suppress the mayor’s most outspoken critics. Heilmann, who recently regained favor with a majority of trustees, countered that they were tabled to prevent “political garbage” from being discussed.
“Things that are put on the agenda to start a fight should be tabled,” Heilmann said. “The board members are just tired of the fight at the board room. It has been three years of board fighting on the same issue. The legal investigation is three years old. Move on.”
But Olejniczak said the mayor cannot determine ahead of time what a trustee is going to say.
“I never got to make my remarks because he gaveled me out. He violated Robert’s Rules of Order,” Olejniczak said. “What will prevent him in the future?”
Heilmann said Olejniczak could not comment on a recent settlement regarding fees between the village and its former law firm, Tressler LLP, because the settlement calls for a $50,000 fine if either side breaches a confidentiality agreement.
But Olejniczak said his statement would have addressed a topic already discussed at the May 22 board meeting — the timetable for the board to receive and review a report regarding the legal bills investigation.
The report, prepared by the Godfrey and Kahn law firm, covers the findings of an investigation by Evergreen Park-based attorney Burt Odelson into the billing practices of Tressler LLP. Odelson found the village’s legal expenses rose significantly after Heilmann proposed that the Tressler firm replace Klein, Thorpe & Jenkins as village attorneys in 2005.
Olejniczak wants the legal report submitted to the village manager and trustees for immediate review so a meeting can be held to present the findings.
Heilmann has asked Godfrey and Kahn to allow any trustee or staff member criticized in the report to be allowed to review and respond to the criticisms, and to have the responses included as exhibits to the report. Heilmann requested a month for the review.
The other item tabled was about a forensic audit of the finances for the village’s Fall on the Green Festival. Trustee Bob Streit claims Phelan, the former special events committee chairman, used the festival as a tool to punish or reward people based on politics.