When the Oak Lawn Village Board was asked to approve a motion authorizing the village attorney to file paperwork necessary to recoup costs relating to a lawsuit filed by a former employee, Trustee Bob Streit (3rd) took issue with the public nature of it.
The incident involves the lawsuit filed by Chad Weiler against Village Manager Larry Deetjen and the village after his job as head of business operations was eliminated along with the department in 2013.
Streit and former 5th District Trustee Carole Quinlan had voted against the elimination, calling it political retribution because Weiler had supported former Mayor Dave Heilmann. In addition to citing political recrimination, Weiler had also accused Deetjen of firing him because he complained about racially charged remarks.
But on Jan. 14, 2015, the Illinois Department of Human Rights dismissed former Weiler's complaint against the village.
Attorney Patrick Connelly noted that the funds in question were not legal fees, but rather transcript and copying fees that he estimated could amount to between $6,000 and $7,500.
Streit, who has been a trustee since 1991, said he would not stand in the way of the village recouping money it was entitled to, but he questioned the practice of “planting routine legal matters on the agenda.”
The trustee accused Deetjen of doing it “for show.”
“In all my time serving on this bar, I do not recall one time that this board was ever asked to do this. This is a public show of vindictiveness against a former employee, a village resident,” said Streit.
“That was not what it was about,” said Trustee Mike Carberry (6th), urging Deetjen to address the issue.
“There is no intent to be vindictive. It is the taxpayers’ money,” said Deetjen. “The only show that was put on was done by a former employee.”
At the time Weiler’s job was eliminated, Deetjen said it was just a cost-cutting measure that saved the village $101,000 annually.
In other business, the board also approved a resolution authorizing a settlement agreement with Andrew Carroll, a former police officer who recently retired after being on desk duty due for some time.
The board also approved the hiring of a new police officer off the eligibility list to replace Carroll.
Trustee Terry Vorderer (4th) pointed out that the village will now have 109 officers on the force, up from 104 when he retired from the department in 2002.
“We’re making efforts to keep the community safe and the statistics show it is working,” he added.