Written by Bob Rakow
The Oak Lawn village board on Tuesday approved a contract with a part-time village employee who will provide inspection and business development services to the village.
Steve Radice, a former chairman of the village’s planning and development commission, will be paid $75,000 via the annual contract, which was approved by a 4-1 vote. He will not receive health insurance benefits as part of the deal.
The contract replaces the village’s previous arrangement with Radice, who worked as a part-time inspector and later took on business development consulting work through a contract the village had with his company, Bring It Inc.
Payments to Bring It, which developed a basketball game available in various sporting goods stores, caused quite a stir as former mayor Dave Heilmann and Trustee Bob Streit alleged that they were illegal because the village cannot do business with a company owned by an employee.
The pair attacked Mayor Sandra Bury, who campaigned on a platform of ethics reform and increased transparency, and village manager Larry Deetjen, for awarding the payments to Radice’s firm.
“This whole scheme is part of a massive cover up and I can’t support it,” Streit said Tuesday night.
Trustee Carol Quinlan abstained from the vote because of her friendship with Radice and his wife.
Streit voted against the contract, saying it was illegal and Radice lacked business development experience.
Radice took on a part-time inspector’s position with the village in October, 2012. At that time, he resigned from the planning and development commission to avoid a conflict of interest. Several months later, Radice and three other village employees applied for the new business development consultant position.
Radice was chosen, and the village board in October made a $3,400 payment to Bring It Inc. In November, the board made a $4,706 to the company. The new agreement calls for Bring It to reimburse the village for those payments.
Streit said Tuesday that awarding the personal services agreement was “an attempt to erase a serious violation of the law.”
“It was not legal,” said Streit, who added that Radice received the contract because he is a political supporter of Bury.
He added that Radice is not qualified to work in the business development arena.
“I like Steve,” said Streit, who recommended his appointment to the planning and development commission. “He is not qualified to provide consulting in the area of economic development. He doesn’t have a degree in this area or any area for that matter and he has zero experience.”
Radice has said that his experience as a corporate recruiter and consultant coupled with his time on the planning and development commission and his vast network of business contacts qualify him for the position, which is responsible for bringing new businesses to Oak Lawn.
Trustee Mike Carberry took issue with Streit’s allegations.
“Surely we didn’t enter into this, Bob, to jam us up and make us look stupid politically,” Carberry said.
He added that Radice is doing a good job providing inspection services and is an asset as a business development consultant.
“Right now, we have a guy who’s from Oak Lawn, who has a vested interest here. He’s not getting benefits or insurance. Quite frankly, I don’t know why. He’s met with several [retail] brokers that I know and every one of them has given him high praise.”
“I don’t think it was hidden from me or anything was done illegally,” Carberry said.
Quinlan criticized village attorneys for mishandling the agreement between with Radice and the village.
“You guys blew it,” Quinlan said. “I think you made this board look terrible.”
She added that Radice was blindsided because the attorneys did not look ahead to catch any problems that existed with the initial arrangement.
Village attorney Paul O’Grady said he initially was unaware that Radice was a part-time village employee.
Deetjen said the responsibility ultimately is his.
“If you want to blame anybody, blame me,” Deetjen told trustees.
He added that the idea of a part-time employee taking on a second role is not new.
“I saw some talents that he had. It is a little bit creative,” Deetjen said. “There is nothing secretive or covert.”