Heilmann's 'Annus Horribilis'
Oak Lawn mayor responds to comments from other village board members that he somehow orchestrated the referendum petition fiasco.
In many ways, the past year has been an “annus horribilis” for Mayor Dave Heilmann—marked by the death of his father and his wife’s cancer diagnosis shortly after the birth of the couple’s fourth child.
He said as much at last Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the new outpatient pavilion at Advocate Christ Medical Center hours before the news broke of a community activist’s indictment that she had forged signatures on an election petition to place a referendum on the 2011 ballot.
The mayor, who couldn’t be reached for comment last week, responded by email to other village board members’ accusations that he was somehow involved in a effort to perpetrate petition fraud or knew about it and did nothing to stop it.
“Isn’t it interesting that someone else was indicted but yet the first comment out of certain board members’ mouths, who claim it isn’t political, is a shot towards me,” Heilmann said.
Myrna Jurcev, the former chair of Oak Lawn Tax Watch, was indicted on charges that she forged signatures on a referendum petition to eliminate the village manager’s position and put an elected mayor in charge of the village.
Trustee Bob Streit (Dist. 3) said the mayor had stooped to “serious hardball politics” by thwarting a legal investigation after it appeared that hundreds of signatures appeared to have been signed by the same hand.
Trustee Alex Olejniczak (Dist. 2) called it “concerning” that Jurcev had nothing to gain while the mayor stood to gain everything by switching to a mayoral form of government. Both trustees took part in a pair of meetings at Stony Creek Golf Course in January to collect affidavits from hundreds of residents who claimed they never signed the petition.
Now, Olejniczak said, Jurcev is the one who will be “held accountable.”
“When someone immediately tries twisting something to make political attacks like that,” Heilmann said, “it becomes very obvious that the person leveling the attacks is really more concerned about his own political advancement, and everything else is a distant second.”
The mayor was not aware of any grand jury proceedings, nor was he interviewed by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office about any role he may have played after allegations of fraud surfaced.
“There appears to have been many signatures forged and the states attorney has taken a strong position on stopping that,” the mayor said.
Heilmann said he supported the referendum. “There’s nothing wrong with placing a public issue on a referendum before the voters—is that a bad thing?”
While he believes that the village should have a manager, “the final decisions should rest with a mayor that people have elected and can be removed from office, and not an unelected manager that residents have not chosen.”
Circling back to his “annus horribilis”—the Latin phrase for “horrible year”—Heilmann said the pending referendum was low on his list of priorities.
“If [other village board members] are suggesting that during this period when I lost my father, had a new child born, and my wife diagnosed with serious disease, what I decided to do was tell someone to forge a bunch of signatures of neighbors of mine for an election petition so I could irritate the whole neighborhood and then risk losing my law license to really top off a banner year, they couldn’t be more wrong.”