Calling at timeout at OL meeting

  • Written by Bob Rakow

The divisive debate over Oak Lawn’s emergency dispatch center continued Tuesday night during a contentious village board meeting that included a five-minute recess to subdue tensions between trustees.


Mayor Sandra Bury called for the break after telling Trustee Carol Quinlan that she was out of order for speaking without first being recognized by the mayor.


Quinlan became upset when Trustee Tim Desmond criticized former Mayor Dave Heilmann for his involvement with an anonymous political blog that routinely criticizes the Bury administration.


Desmond told trustees that he received a brochure on election day that was critical of the village’s 911dispatch center. The woman distributing the brochures told Desmond that they were prepared by the blog.


Desmond criticized the blog for anonymously publishing the information, much of which he said was inaccurate. He also ripped Heilmann and Trustee Robert Streit, who are widely believed to be behind the blog. Desmond said after the meeting that he did not raise the issue with the intent to raise the ire of other trustees.


“I just wanted to bring it up to clarify,” Desmond said.


Quinlan, an ally of Heilmann’s, said Bury should have stopped Desmond’s personal attack against the former mayor.


“Talk about political crap. This is so unfair,” Quinlan told Bury. “My God you’re a piece of work.”


Bury praised Desmond for his remarks, which she described as statements of fact not personal attacks.


“It needed to said,” Bury said.


Earlier in the meeting, Streit recognized former Trustee Tom Phelan, who was in the audience, and said he likely was instrumental in the decision to outsource the dispatchers.


“I won’t have you attack a resident,” Bury told Streit.


Phelan helped run Bury’s campaign and authored the notorious hit list, which includedthe names of those serving on various village commissions and committees and who they supported in the mayoral race.


Quinlan, who is not running for re-election in April, has traded barbs with Bury during previous meetings. She has formed the board’s minority faction along with Streit.


The emergency dispatch center issue got kick started Tuesday when Trustee Terry Vorderer criticized Streit for ripping the dispatchers rather than working with fellow board members to improve the dispatch center.


He added that Streit exaggerated the severity of complaints lodged by Oak Lawn firefighters against the dispatchers.


“Humans make mistake. Even with the highest level of training emergency responders can make mistakes,” said Vorderer, a former Oak Lawn police officer. “Mistakes occurred 30 years ago, mistakes occur today and I’m assuming mistakes occur in the future. Now, we can turn them into political issues. That’s what’s being done here. Ongoing public safety in this town is just fine.”


Streit said he believes that the decision one year ago to outsource the dispatch center staff was “probably the worst decision I’ve seen here at the village.”


“To say that (the complaints) were investigated and that there is no problem is a serious understatement,” Streit said. “We can pretend, I guess, that there aren’t serious problems.”


Trustee Mike Carberry said he’s not heard one complaint about the dispatchers.


“If it’s real, Bob, and you really want to dig into it, why don’t you say, ‘Mike, why don’t you take a look at some of the documents.’ ” he said.


Released documents allege misconduct on former area priests

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Each of the Catholic parishes in Oak Lawn was served at one time by priests who have substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct with minors, according to records released by the Archdiocese of Chicago.

The Archdiocese of Chicago released documents last Thursday related to 36 Archdiocesan priests who have substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct with minors, all of whom have been listed on the Archdiocese’s website for years.


The list includes the Rev. John E. Hefferan, who served at St. Gerald; the Rev. Robert Kealy, who spent time at St. Germaine; the Rev. Donald Mulsoff, who served at St. Catherine of Alexander; the Rev. Norbert Maday, who was an associate pastor at both St. Louis DeMonfort in Oak Lawn and Our Lady of the Ridge parish in Chicago Ridge; and the Rev. Michael H. Watson, who worked at St. Linus. The Rev. Gary M. Miller, who spent time at St. Bernadette Parish in Evergreen Park, also is on the list.


The documents released last week are in addition to those released in January related to 30 other priests. The release, in combination with the January release, covers all the priests who have substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct with minors identified on the Archdiocese’s website, with the exception of two priests where ongoing processes do not permit release, the archdiocese said.


Ninety-two percent of the cases included in the documents occurred prior to 1988. Additionally, all of the priests involved in this document release are out of ministry and 14 are deceased. Additionally, no priest with even one substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor serves in ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago today, according to the archdiocese.


The priests with ties to Oak Lawn, Chicago Ridge and Evergreen Park are:


Ordained in 1956, Hefferan was removed from public ministry in October 2003, three years after he retired. Hefferan served several parishes throughout the Southland, including St. Gerald from 1990-97. Information released by the archdiocese include reference to a letter from a victim who said Hefferan “inappropriately” felt and kissed her once in the late 1970s when she was 12.


Kealy was an associate pastor at St. Germaine in Oak Lawn from 1972-77, the first parish he served after his ordination. Documents released by the archdiocese indicated that it received phone calls from a victim in 2007 and 2011 regarding Kealy. The victim also sent emails to a member of the archdiocese’s review board for child abuse regarding complaints of sexual abuse against Kealy.

In June 2001, the archdiocese received complaints that Kealy abused a male minor. The cardinal's review board deemed the accusation unsubstantiated, but in March 2002, the anonymous informant shed his anonymity and provided additional details that led to Kealy's removal from his position of pastor in Winnetka.

He was limited to ministry with restrictions and monitoring in March 2002, removed from public ministry three months later and resigned in April 2006.


Mulsoff, who is deceased, served Oak Lawn’s St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish from 1969-74. Documents released show that the mother of a victim wrote Mulsoff and the archdiocese’s vicar for priests about her concerns that Mulsoff was engaging in sexual acts with minors. One victim accused Mulsoff of molesting her at St. Catherine when she was 13. Mulsoff was ordained in 1969 and removed from public ministry in 2002.


Maday, a former associate pastor at St. Louis DeMontfort Parish in Oak Lawn from 1969-77 and Our Lady of the Ridge Parish in Chicago Ridge from 1983-89 was convicted in 1994 and given a 20-year prison term for molesting two teenage boys in separate 1986 parish outings to Oshkosh, Wis. Other victims accuse him of acts of sexual abuse dating back to the 1970s. Maday was removed from the priesthood in 2007, 43 years after his ordination.


Miller served at St. Bernadette Parish in Evergreen Park. A review board determined that there was reasonable cause to support an accusation that Miller sexually abused a minor. Miller resigned in 2012, nearly 30 years after he was ordained.


Watson was an associate pastor at St. Linus Parish in Oak Lawn and served at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills. An archdiocesan review board determined there was reasonable cause regarding allegations that Watson sexually abused minors, and he left active ministry in 1993.

Volleyball, senators, congressmen and a turkey leg

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Jeffs Col Impressions


One of the cool things about the journalism profession is that no two days are the same.

One day, people can praise you for a story, column or photo. The next day, some crackpot at a political rally is screaming at you and calling you a “communist’’ because you don’t want to tell this daffy goofball who you are voting for.

This job is not normal. You never get to settle into a routine.

That being said, some days are crazier than others. Nov. 4 was one of the wildest days I’ve had in a while. When it was over, I couldn’t believe how much was crammed into one day. It was election day, but the elections were a part of a bigger meal on my plate. It had some fun. It had some angst. But it was lively.

So here is a diary of that day that I won’t be forgetting soon:

7:30 a.m. – After dropping my daughter and her friend off to school, I head to Mariano’s in Oak Lawn to search for a giant turkey leg for a picture we are running in a future issue of the paper. Mariano’s only has chopped up turkey legs but the friendly staff tells me to go to Fair Play on 111th Street and Western Avenue and there would be a “50-50’’ chance they would have it.

7:55 a.m. – I hear from Senator Bill Cunningham’s people. He will be campaigning at Kolmar School in Oak Lawn for a little while if I want to grab a photo.  I tell his people I have one quick stop to make but don’t  tell them it’s to buy a turkey leg.

8 a.m. – After the doors open at Fair Play, I don’t find an uncut turkey leg on display so someone in back bails me out and finds a couple of legs for me. I choose the bigger leg. The process takes longer than I want it to, but I got the leg, by golly. Now it’s on to see the senator!

8:20 a.m. – On 111th street in Mt. Greenwood a speed light flashes. It wasn’t me was it? I don’t think so. I don’t know, though. I doubt the paper – or the senator – will pay for the ticket if it was me.

8:30 a.m. – I arrive at Kolmar and the senator, phew, is still there. I take some photos and chat with the senator. We talk politics, weather, sports and newspapers. Then I mention the turkey leg. The Senator is all of a sudden hungry.

9:15 a.m. – I get a call from Congressman Dan Lipinski’s people telling me  that he will be at the Orland Park Sportsplex at 11 a.m. I tell them I will be there and don’t mention the turkey leg.

9:30 a.m. – I head to the office for the first time and knock out some work including writing up the popular WHATIZIT? feature. To my dismay, only one couple guessed the right answer and the other contestants guessed wrong, which will mean that I’ll get some sarcasm and ridicule.

10:45 a.m. – I drop off the turkey leg at home and put it in the refrigerator. This should be the last reference to the turkey leg in this column although I may be writing about turkeys later on.

11 a.m. – I arrive at the Sportsplex and Lipinksi is on PT -- politician time -- and running late. This never  surprises me. It’s hard to pin a politician down on election day. In the meantime, an old boss of mine stops by to vote and we have a nice chat about how wonderful the newspaper business is.

11:15 a.m. -- Lipinski arrives and legislator Fran Hurley is already there. They meet and greet the public. I shoot photos. The problem with the Sportsplex is that there are usually more people there to work out than vote. It makes for some comical and awkward moments when they pass by the pols.

1 p.m. – After a lunch break, I go to vote. For the first time in a long time, I have to wait for a little while. Because I’m a “communist” I won’t tell you how I voted but once I got the ballot, I checked roughly 8 million boxes to retain a bunch of judges that I never heard of. Hopefully, if that flashing light on 111th street pertained to me, one of those judges will show mercy on me.

1:30 p.m. – I go back to the office for the second time and knock off a bunch of work. With designer Kari Nelson working on overdrive, we wrap up nine of our 12 pages with the rest being reserved for election coverage.

5 p.m. – I arrive at Mother McAuley High School and get one of the few remaining spots in the main parking lot. I’m there to shoot volleyball photos for sports. McAuley and three other high-level teams are fighting it out in sectional play. Two winners go on to play each other. The two losers flood the locker room with tears after their season is over.

8:30 p.m. – Back to the office for a third time after watching all of Mother McAuley’s three-set victory over Sandburg and a portion of Lyons Townships’ three-set triumph over Marist. It was a night of incredible volleyball and drama. And yes, tears. Now back to the election…

9 p.m. – Pizza arrives. It’s an election night staple in newsrooms across the nation to serve pizza on election nights. When we talk about some of the area daily papers in the area that no longer have offices I joke that their reporters have to pick up a slice and eat it in their cars.

10:15 p.m. – I am in charge of the governor’s story so I pay attention when incumbent Patrick Quinn comes out and says he is not conceding but challenger Bruce Rauner comes out and proclaims he has won.

Midnight – I haven’t turned into a pumpkin yet, but I put the finishing touches on the Rauner story and edit Bob Rakow’s stories from the election.

12:30 a.m. – I am done for at least a few hours (there is still more editing and placement of the stories and photos to be done early Wednesday morning) and ask Regional News reporter Tim Hadac if he wants the last pieces of pizza. He declines. So I agree to take it home.

12:45 a.m. – I am driving halfway home when realize I forgot the pizza.

1 a.m. – I arrive home to find no one has taken the dog outside and put him to bed. So, I take him outside and he decides that instead of going to his room like he normally does, he wants to go into the dining room and hide under the table. At least he didn’t eat the turkey leg.

So how was your day?

Face of kindness

  • Written by Claudia Parker





 Photo by Jeff Vorva

Mary Cate Lynch, left, receives thumbs-up from Northeast Elementary School sixth-grader Pearl Opokue during an assembly in October urging students to Choose Kind when dealing with someone who looks a little different.







Mary Cate Lynch has become a real-life “Wonder.’

When she was born two years ago with a facial deformity, few knew that this face would become a face of kindness.

In October, Northeast Elementary, in Evergreen Park, hosted its former hometown resident, Kerry Ryan Lynch, now of Beverly, and her daughter, Mary Cate for its ‘Choose Kind’ presentation. 

Mary Cate, who turns 3 on Dec. 8, and her mother have made it a mission to get out and tell Mary Cate’s story to young school kids so that when they see someone who is a little different, they won’t be quick to heckle.

 Over the past year, the two have been schooling students on Apert Syndrome, a craniofacial condition effecting Mary Cate’s head, feet and hands. Lynch said, “We’ve been in about 60 schools so far and have another 50 scheduled for 2015.”

The stop in Evergreen Park was special for the school and the Ryan family because students at Northeast are reading “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio. This is a novel about a fifth grader with a facial deformity, whom after living life sheltered from the public, musters the courage to attend public school.

Jackie Janicke, Principal of Northeast said, “When I spoke with Kerry about her Choose Kind campaign, I learned it coincided with ‘Wonder.’ I purchased several copies and some of the upperclassmen have been reading the book to the lower grade levels during our lunch period.”

The lead character evokes an anti-bullying campaign that, in reality, is blurring the lines of fiction as Lynch and Mary Cate are collaborating in spreading the author’s precept of kind awareness.

“Reading the book, Wonder, is where my ‘Choose Kind’ slogan came from,” Lynch said. “There’s a chapter in the book titled ‘Choose Kind.’ ’’ Lynch said. “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”

Northeast sixth graders Pearl Opokue and Alyssa Purvis eagerly their feedback after hearing the Choose Kind presentation. Opokue said, “Now if I saw a kid with Apert Syndrome, I would be excited to go say ‘hi.’ ”

“We shouldn’t judge,” Purvis said. “We should always be kind, most of the people you think are different, are usually just like you.”

Janicke said District 124 is focused on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, which is a district wide approach to creating a positive and safe climate where students can learn and grow.

“Since becoming principal three years ago, I’ve seen a noticeable difference in how students treat one another,’’ she said. “Our PBIS system teaches and sets expectations for students while providing tools for them to make good choices.”

Northeast also has a Kindness Club.

“Our cap on enrollment was 20 students but my heart forced me to squeeze in a few extras,’’ Janicke said. “We had 50 students sign up.”

She said they narrowed their candidates by choosing the most compelling essays students wrote on how they would spread kindness within the school. 

The facility of Northeast put its motto of spreading kindness into action during the assembly with Mary Cate by wearing pink and white t-shirts that read, “Northeast School, Choose Kind.” Janicke credits her staff with the gesture saying, “I have an awesome team of people who have great ideas. They always make sure our events run smoothly.”   

Lynch expressed gratitude to Northeast in a posting on her My Mary Cate Facebook page. Lynch said she posts’ more regularly on FB than her blog.

“I created the blog to educate others about Mary Cate’s diagnosis,’’ Lynch said. “It became my therapy. I didn’t want pity, my husband, Chris, and I always find the positive side.”

Over time Lynch said her blog became a hub for families seeking information about Apert Syndrome.

With each school visit, this family’s crusade seems to gain momentum. Some consider them to be local celebrities. Their story has been printed in numerous publications as well as televised on ABC 7- Chicago, the Today Show-Australia, and just last month, they appeared on Windy City Live. 

During that interview, like a typical two-year old, Mary Cate wandered from the questioning of co-host Val Warner, slipped through the arms of her parents and climbed into the lap of her grandmother, Maun Ryan who was sitting smack in the middle of the audience. Maun and husband, Bob Ryan, are lifelong residents of Evergreen Park and still live in the family home where Lynch grew up.

Lynch is an alumni of Most Holy Redeemer and Mother McAuley, which inducted her into the McAuley Hall of Honor on October 25.


Lynch’s noticeably supportive parents were also in attendance at the Northeast presentation. They helped keep an eye on Mary Cate’s, one-year-old, little sister, Maggie.     

Maggie has become increasingly visible at Choose Kind events. Lynch laughed, “I’m in favor of starting the conversation of acceptance early.”

“During one school presentation, a child asked, ‘Why does Mary Cate have Apert Syndrome but not Maggie?’ ’’ Lynch said. “I told her the same thing I tell everyone else -- because God decided to make Mary Cate look a little bit different.

“And that’s ok, we’re all different.” 




New 911 hire brings up alarms and arguments in Oak Lawn

  • Written by Bob Rakow


The hiring of former Oak Lawn Police Chief Bill Villanova to oversee the village’s emergency dispatch center is the latest move in an ongoing saga that has evolved since the service was outsourced late last year.

Villanova retired in April 2013 after a 36-year career with the Oak Lawn police department. He replaces Roger Bessette, who decided to step down. Villanova assumed control of the dispatch center on Monday.

Trustee Robert Streit said the appointment of the former chief signals discord within the dispatch center.

“It demonstrates how serious the problems really are,” Streit said.

Streit voted against the privatization of the dispatch center and has continually railed against the performance of the dispatchers, who work for Norcomm Public Safety Communications. He maintains that they are not well trained or familiar with the village.

The appointment of Villanova comes just days after the village released more than 40 complaints about the 911 dispatchers submitted by Oak Lawn firefighters.

Many of the complaints are serious and prove that dispatchers are putting residents’ lives in jeopardy, Streit said.

Mayor Sandra Bury and Village Manager Larry Deetjen maintain that the complaints are not nearly as severe as Streit portrays.

“This is not something new,” Deetjen said. “Would we like to be perfect? Yes. We’re dealing with humans.”

Trustee Alex Olejniczak said Streit’s opposition to privatization of the dispatch center is politically motivated.

“Is it really an issue? Did these things exist prior to the (dispatch center) change over? Absolutely they did,” Olejniczak said. “He’s trying to get elected.”

Streit, the veteran member of the board, is up for re-election in 2015 and faces a challenge from political newcomer Scott Hollis. Streit retain his seat in a surprisingly close election four years ago. Some political observers believe he’s beatable this time around.

Olejniczak added that the village would receive complaints from residents or face lawsuits if the dispatch center was performing ineffectively.

“He’s making Oak Lawn look bad,” Olejniczak said. “If you listen to Bob Streit, Oak Lawn is going to hell in a handbasket.”

Streit said the firefighters’ complaints highlight some serious problems within the dispatch center. Complaints about firefighters or paramedics being sent to the wrong address, delays in dispatch, failure to dispatch the correct units and the wrong codes used during dispatch are among the grievances.

“I’m disappointed that the administration is trying to downplay the seriousness,” Streit said.

Perhaps the most serious complaint is outlined in an email to Assistant Fire Chief Scott Bowman from Battalion Chief Michael Jensen regarding the Oct. 5 fatal accident at 95th Street and Cicero Avenue that led to the death of three people, including two Little Company of Mary sisters.

The email asks why there was six-minute delay between the first call being received by dispatch and first responders being sent to the scene.

Bury criticized Streit for using the tragedy to further his campaign against the dispatch center.

Streit said he had no choice but to point out the complaint.

“For me, it’s an unfortunate incident that had to be addressed,” Streit said. “It happened. The facts speak for themselves. Address the issue. Address the delays. These are serious matters.”

Deetjen said the accident remains under investigation. He added that experienced dispatchers were working in the 911 center the afternoon of the accident.

“Our Oak Lawn regional dispatch had two veterans manning phones and both undertaking the critical functions of emergency call taking and emergency dispatching in addition to support from Nordcomm that Sunday afternoon,” Deetjen said.

At the Oct. 28 village board meeting, Streit distributed a packet that summarized firefighters’ concerns about dispatch dating back to February. But the packet did not include that emails that detailed the complaints.

Village Clerk Jane Quinlan chastised Streit for not including that documentation.

“If you’re going to get half of the information, why not get all of the information?” said Quinlan, who provided the emails to the media the following day.

“Now you know the details of things,” Quinlan said. “I wanted you to see the explanation. I’m not holding anything back.”

Streit believes otherwise.

“(Mayor Bury) was aware that problems existed,” he said.

He said he requested the firefighters’ complaints several months ago, but his Freedom of Information requests were denied.

Bury and Deetjen, he said, were instrumental in denying the requests. They were released only after Streit filed a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General’s office, he said.

Quinlan said neither the mayor nor the manager are involved in processing FOIA requests. She added that no one was aware of the complaints until Fire Chief George Sheets brought them to her on Oct. 24. The complaints were sent to the attorney’s general’s office on Oct. 27.

There was no effort to hide things,” said Quinlan, who said she was “shocked” when the complaints turned up.

Quinlan added that Streit has incorrectly portrayed the relationship between the village and the attorney general’s office.

“We never get nervous when we get something from the attorney general’s office,” she said.