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Oak Lawn trustees form committee tasked with upholding ethics

  • Written by Laura Bollin

Oak Lawn's new mayor was sworn in Tuesday night, and wasted no time implementing her agenda as trustees voted to adopt an ordinance that establishes a legislative license and ethics committee.

Sandra Bury, who defeated incumbent Mayor Dave Heilmann in the April 9 election, as well as Trustees Tim Desmond (District 1), Alex Olejniczak (District 2), Terry Vorderer (District 4) and Michael Carberry (District 6) took their oaths of office Tuesday and immediately got to work. Trustees voted 4-1 to create the committee.

Trustee Carol Quinlan was absent and Trustee Bob Streit voted against creating the committee. Streit, a political opponent of Bury’s who supported Heilmann’s candidacy, asked for the village attorney’s legal opinion of the ordinance.

COLOR olethicsstory 2colCook County Judge Denise K. Filan administers the oath of office to Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury at Tuesday's Village Board meeting.The ordinance was drafted at the request of Bury and Oak Lawn village manager Larry Deetjen. Bury wanted to reinstate the three-member committee to bring ethics and transparency to Oak Lawn, she explained.

"One could say the lack of a committee was the reason for some of the problems Oak Lawn faced [under Heilmann]," Bury said.

Bury believes an ordinance adopted last month that prohibits former elected officials from holding village jobs for two years after their terms end was a "personal attack," not an attempt to instill ethics. Trustee Bob Streit claimed the ordinance’s adoption was prompted by “a certain trustee,” who he did not name, offering to not seek re-election and instead run Bury's mayoral campaign in exchange for the village treasurer position.

The committee will be responsible for maintaining Bury's campaign promises, possibly even setting term limits for elected office and placing financial caps on campaign contributions. The committee will work with village staff to help Oak Lawn reach a 100-percent transparency score on the Illinois Policy Institute's checklist. The only Illinois community to earn a perfect score is Orland Park.

"One of the things I ran on was ethics reform," Bury said. "You can't have the appearance of pay-to-play politics. With campaign contributions, you can't have everyone running for office asking every local business and village vendor for money. That's inappropriate. It hurts the business climate. What if you are a small business owner and can't afford it?"

Trustee Alex Olejniczak, who ran in last month’s election on Bury's Oak Lawn First Party ticket, said trustees and the mayor have made a commitment to transparency.

"I commend Mayor Bury for living up to the promise of bringing ethics to the village and doing it the right way," he said.

Bury is expected to announce her committee appointments at the board’s next meeting scheduled for May 28.