Conflict of interest prevention vital to trustees in wake of 2012 roofing controversy
An ordinance designed to prevent conflicts of interest and improper influence on the part of village officials and employees was approved Tuesday by the village board.
Trustees approved the changes after rejecting a proposal by Trustee Bob Streit to send the ordinance back to committee for further consideration. He said the board needs to close loopholes that exempt village attorneys and former employees from the restrictions. Additionally, he said, the ordinance was crafted without public input. Specifically, Streit alleged that former Trustee Tom Phelan recently solicited village on behalf of the company for which he works. “It isn’t a good ordinance unless it applies to everyone,” Streit said. “I do believe it’s a good starting point.” Trustee Terry Vorderer said the ordinance can always be fine-tuned but delaying a vote at Tuesday night’s meeting would be a mistake. “I hate to see it postponed and lost forever,” Vorderer said. Trustee Alex Olejniczak agreed, admitting that the ordinance was not a finished product. He criticized Streit for playing to the camera by reading “another well-written diatribe.” Mayor Sandra Bury’s campaigned on stricter rules for disclosing conflicts of interest and she added to each board meeting’s agenda an opportunity for trustees to disclose any conflicts with potential board action. The ordinance comes several months after the FBI launched an investigation into a deal in which a roofing company with political and familial connections to Streit received a contract to replace the roof on the village’s public works building. The village board in November approved the $166,085 contract despite the fact that two other companies submitted lower bids for the work. The FBI in December issued a grand jury subpoena to village manager Larry Deetjen, asking him to produce all documents related to the bid process and selection of Joliet-based Adler Roofing and Sheet Metal to repair the roof. Streit’s brother, Mike, works at Adler Roofing as an estimator, and Streit’s political committee has received contributions from the firm. Streit said his brother does not have an ownership interest in the company and the issue was used to defame him and former Mayor Dave Heilmann, who was in office at the time the contract was awarded. Trustees later voted to rescind the contract and throw out the other bids for the work.
Alfreda Giedrojc sat stoically in a chair Sunday morning, moments after allegedly beating her infant granddaughter to death in her Oak Lawn home, authorities said.
Giedrojc, 62, 6605 W. 91st St., was charged with first-degree murder and is being held without bail at Cook County Jail. Authorities refused to comment on the motive that led the long-time Oak Lawn resident to kill her six-month-old granddaughter, Vivian Summers, by hitting her repeatedly with a handheld sledgehammer and cutting her throat with a carving knife, police said. Giedrojc admitted to the murder in a videotaped statement. Police also gathered physical evidence that implicates her, said Oak Lawn Police Division Chief Mike Kaufmann. Kaufmann, a 28-year veteran of the Oak Lawn police department, said such crimes are typically driven by “plain evil or something with mental health.”Giedrojc did not display any anger, denial or rage during interviews with police, he said. “She professed love for the child,” Kaufmann said. Kaufmann said he’s investigated other heinous crimes in Oak Lawn, but few compare to the brutal murder of an infant, he said. “Everybody can relate to a young, infant baby,” he said. “For all of us, it touches (the) heart.” The incident took place after Vivian’s father, Joe Summers, of Bolingbrook, brought his infant daughter to Giedrojc’s home. Summers and the defendant’s adult son went across the street to work on a home rehab project. Giedrojc’s husband, Boleslaw, left the home a short time later to see what the men were doing, leaving Giedrojc alone with Vivian for about 10 minutes, Kaufmann said. Cook County prosecutors offered details of the alleged homicide Monday afternoon at the courthouse in Bridgeview. Giedrojc removed Vivian from the couch where she was sleeping, “placed the baby on the floor and retrieved a sledge hammer from a closet, which she had placed there the night before. The defendant then hit the victim repeatedly in the head and body with the sledgehammer,” Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Deno said. The baby continued to move and cry, leading Giedrojc to retrieve a large carving knife from the kitchen, Deno said. “The defendant then picked the victim up, held her and then slit her throat with the knife,” he said. Giedrojc’s husband returned home, saw the incident and called 911. Police received a call at 10:46 a.m. reporting an armed subject in the home, they said. While en route, officers learned that there was an injured child at the home. Giedrojc was not armed when police arrived, Police Chief Mike Murray said. Vivian’s father performed CPR until police arrived, Kaufmann said. She was pronounced dead at Advocate Christ Medical Center. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office determined that the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head wounds to the neck. A Polish immigrant who came to the United States three decades ago, Giedrojc has no criminal record, police said. Giedrojc is due in court on Oct. 28.
Is it in the cards that the Oak Lawn Senior Center is moving? Oak Lawn’s Josephine Voldrich, playing cards Tuesday at the current site, said she hopes so. Photos by Jeff Vorva. transitioning the village’s senior services to the park district, but two of her political opponents are asking her to lay her cards on the table before proceeding with the plan. Trustee Carol Quinlan said seniors queried her at a recent event about the proposal but she was unable to offer specifics because she said Bury has not shared them with the village board. “It’s inconceivable that the mayor has some sort of plan and has not shared it,” Quinlan said. Trustee Robert Streit also is opposed to the plan and wants to know why there are no records associated with the proposal. Bury said Streit has made no effort to learn more about the plan or offer other ideas. “Not once has Trustee Streit called me or contacted me to inquire as to the nature of what was being developed,” Bury said. She added that she has been forthcoming with information regarding the plan. “Everything that is ready for public disclosure has been said by me at various board meetings in my senior updates. They are readily available. As the concept develops into something viable, it will be discussed in more detail,” she said. Bury reiterated that the concept is a good one for the cash-strapped village. “The village is facing at minimum and $8.7 million dollar deficit. It is going to be a challenge to give seniors what they want and deserve while still being financially responsible. I believe it is possible to do this with creative partnerships,” she said. An Aug. 29 memo written by Bury and distributed at the senior center did offer some insights into the mayor’s proposal. Carole Gutsch (above) and Carol Hopp (below, right) enjoy a game of cards Wednesday at the current Senior Center on West 105th Street. The center could be moving. Photos by Jeff Vorva.
The memo informed seniors that the village board in August authorized Village Manager Larry Deetjen to explore the feasibility of transitioning the Oak Lawn Senior Center to the park district. The document added that the village is exploring in partnership with the park district the renovation of the shuttered bath house at Memorial Pool, 102nd Street and Major Avenue, into a 4,000-square-foot, free-standing senior center. The pool was a closed a few years ago. Memorial Park, meanwhile, is being renovated to include a splash pad, new paths and landscaping around the pond. Park district officials have said they support the mayor’s plan. Bury has made clear the park district is better equipped than the village to provide services for seniors. “We’re not really good at programs for seniors, we’re just not,” Bury has said. “It really does not fall into the domain of the village.” Currently, the senior center is located in a portion of the old McGugan School, 5220 W. 105th St. The facilities were moved from the longtime location on 95th Street after the building was sold to make way for a bank. Quinlan said the mayor has never explained why the Memorial Pool bathhouse was chosen as a preliminary site for the senior center or discussed how the renovations would be funded. “This idea is terrible,” said Quinlan, adding that the village board should meet with seniors before the proposal moves forward. “I believe their input would be invaluable,” she said. The village’s response to Streit’s Freedom of Information request provided no information. Streit sought: • Emails between the park district and village regarding outsourcing senior services; • Studies or documents regarding a partnership between the village, the park district and/or a local business to provide seniors with a senior center at Memorial Park; • Intergovernmental agreements between the village and park district regarding senior services or a senior center; • Documents, including memos or findings from focus groups, conducted to learn what seniors desire from a new senior center; • Documents, including memos, regarding field research performed to determine where the new senior center should be located and what services should be provided, and; • Emails or other correspondence between the mayor and other village or park district officials relating to the senior center or senior services. “The mayor claimed that they do exist,” Streit said. “If they do exist, (the village) has to provide them.” Streit added that Bury has “totally disregarded the Senior Citizens Commission” by not seeking its input on her proposal. Park District Director Maddie Kelly said she met with Bury, Deetjen, Trustee Alex Olejniczak and park board president Sue Murphy a few months ago to discuss the village’s proposal. The village hired an architect to study the renovation of the bath house, but park district and village officials have not met again to talk about the plan, Kelly said. “The ball is in their court,” Kelly said. “We have not heard back from them. It’s just been talk. It hasn’t been anything definitive.”
A clown talks about why it’s not a good idea to give the finger to someone while in costume. Local kids try to sneak into an adult movie. A mayor mulls leaving office after his neighbor accuses him of adultery. What is this? The National Enquirer? Nope, just the good ol’ Reporter newspaper from bygone eras. Who says history has to be dull? In this case, it won’t be. After a month of absence, the archives return to our little paper. Only they won’t be known as the archives. That’s such a snoozer of a word. We’re dusting off the archives and polishing them up and hopefully making them shiny and bright — and fun. The new feature is called Retro Reporter and it debuts today on page 4. We hope to keep it on page 4 but if there are too many ads or photos on that page, we may move it from time to time. With designer extraordinaire Kari Nelson’s magic touch and my warped sense of news judgment, we hope to put together a package that is fun to look at and read. We will still break it up into three eras — 50 years ago, 25 years ago and 10 years ago. That won’t change. But within those eras, we will have three components. This movie caused a stir in Chicago Ridge 50 years ago and will be a topic in the new Retro Reporter feature found on page 4.One will be one of the top stories of that timeframe. Another will be a quote either from that story or another story. The third will be a fun fact such as the price of beer 50 years ago or a celebrity coming to the area. I’ve seen archive sections of other papers and sometimes they have stories about annexations and TIFs and who won first place in the petunia division of a garden club. We won’t have much of that here. This will feature items such as the aforementioned clown’s philosophy about his middle digit, the kids who tried to get into the adult movie (a movie called “Blood Feast” which, to this day I can’t figure out how it didn’t win an Academy Award) and the mayor and his problems with the neighbor in the coming weeks and months. We may re-open a few wounds — especially with some of the items from a decade and quarter century ago. That’s not the intent. The intent is to show that way back when — in the so called good ol’ days — there were tragic stories, stories of triumph and funny stories just like there are today. So take a look at page 4 and enjoy the sometimes wonderful sometimes weird trip down memory lane with us.
Hello Dolly winners Let’s try this again. Last week we tried to run these names but they were accidentally omitted. Some new subscribers from Oak Lawn from a recent Reporter subscription drive were presented with tickets to the play “Hello Dolly.” The list includes Linda Steiner, Gordon Hartmann, Marianne VonAsten, John Fox, Ray Klimes, Rosemary Passananti, Louis D’Amore and Donald Perreault.
Four-year-old Alex Muller, of Palos Heights, had just enjoyed a few days at Disney World with his family back in early May. He met Mickey Mouse. He loved Splash Mountain. On the plane ride home, his dad, Robert, mother, Lisa, sister, Amanda, and brother, Anthony, were all looking forward to getting back to their normal routine. That didn’t happen. As the plane started its descent, Alex wasn’t looking, or feeling, too good. And that started a night, and months, of hell for the family. “We gave him some Starburst candy on the way down,” Robert said. “He started drooling. He did walk off the plane and when we were walking toAlex Muller. photo by Jeff Vorva. the car he said his legs were tired. We got him in the car and on the way home he threw up. He walked from the car back to the house but fell right by the door and started screaming that he couldn’t get up. That’s when Lisa picked him up and he had that smile where you could see the droop on the left side. So we rushed him to the hospital.” Alex suffered a stroke and went through five weeks of rehab at the Advocate Children’s Center in Oak Lawn. The family hopes the worst is over, and now Alex is attending preschool at Indian Hill School. Alex was one of five people honored at the 25th annual Advocate Christ Medical Center and Children’s Hospital’s Rehabilitation Achievement Awards Ceremony Sept. 20. He joined a list of honorees that included Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton and Oak Lawn resident Kent Carson. Around the Oak Lawn facility, this kid was like a superhero, according to therapist Diana Daniak. “Alex’s great determination allowed us as therapists to obtain goals,” she said. “With Super Alex and his super suit and his cape, he literally soared and accomplished any tasks that were set before him. This hospital became and an adventure of his imagination every day.” Alex may have not been the picture-perfect patient, but the staff seemed to love having him around. “Despite the hair-pulling, biting, kicking and punching, Alex was the highlight of our day and always had a smile on his face,” she said. “And he always put a smile on our face.” Daniak lauded the Muller family for its support of Alex and said that Lisa frequently stayed many nights in a pullout bed at the hospital before heading to work. “In some ways Alex took all of this better than an adult would,” Lisa said. “He took it better than me. There were times when he needed therapy but didn’t always want to but he did it.” “There was a lot of screaming, kicking, yelling and biting,” Robert said. “I have a permanent bite mark. But overall, he went through a lot did a great job.” Doctors admitted they were flummoxed by Alex’s condition and looked nationally and internationally before finding a specialist. “The miracle part is that he was at infant stage when we started rehab,” Robert said. “He couldn’t hold his head up and had no feeling on his left side. But when we left the hospital he literally walked out. He’s still recovering and every day is something new. We’re learning more every day. “He still goes to therapy in the morning,” Robert said. “He goes four days a week. He started preschool at Indian Hill. He has therapy in the morning and therapy at school.” Attempts to talk to Alex featured mixed results. Shortly before the ceremony, he was an energetic dynamo who ran and spun around the hallways. When he saw an uncle, Alex was so happy he ran up to him and gave him a playful punch in the solar plexus region. When he settled down to answer a few questions, he nodded his head instead of a verbal exchange. When Alex was asked if he was happy with his treatment at the hospital, that caused the biggest nod of all.