Mayor: 'I Sure Did Get Paid' for 'Speeders'
Mayor Dave Heilmann fights back charges from mayoral challenger that he broke the law by using his position as elected official to gain personally and financially from work on cable TV show.
Like the pesky speeders that once appeared before him on Speeders Fight Back, Mayor Dave Heilmann fought back questions that he used his position as an elected official to gain personally and financially from the cable TV series during Tuesday’s village board meeting. (107:17 for those recording the board meeting playbacks on Ch. 4.)
Charges that he may have broken the law by accepting payment for his role as the judge on the TruTV reality show featuring people’s bizarre excuses when caught breaking traffic laws, were lobbed by the mayoral challenger, Sandra Bury. Heilmann is running for his third term as mayor.
In a blog post on Patch, Bury alleged that Heilmann possibly received up to $33,000 for his role as “Judge Dave” on the show. Further, village taxpayers footed the bill of $4,000 in overtime costs compensating Oak Lawn police officers when the production ran beyond their scheduled hours, a fact confirmed during Tuesday's meeting.
The show, Speeders Fight Back, was a spinoff of an earlier cable TV series called Speeders, featuring ride-alongs with Oak Lawn police officers as they enforced traffic laws.
“I’m not sure who put this on the agenda but have at it,” Heilmann said when the item came up.
Trustee Alex Olejniczak (Dist. 2), who is also up for reelection in April, asked the mayor if it was true that overtime was paid to village personnel on the taxpayers’ dime.
“I’m just concerned how this came about,” Olejniczak said. “Is it legal? Who benefitted from it?”
Heilmann pointed out the fact that a four-year-old television program coming up for discussion “90 days before an election” was politically motivated.
“I really think we’re supposed to be working on issues that people care about and moving the community forward,” the mayor said. “I think this is exactly what residents don’t want this board to be doing here. They want us to be doing things that impact their lives and help them.”
Deferring to the Oak Lawn police chief, Bill Villanova said that officers were not paid for their participation in the original Speeders, with the exception of a $1,000 donation made to the Oak Lawn Police Club by the show’s producers.
In the original series, most of the filming took place on officers’ regular work shifts, hours which the police department controlled. Villanova said that his department did not have control over the production hours on Speeders Fight Back.
The police chief also acknowledged that he authorized $4,000 in overtime costs for his force, for which the village was to be compensated. Villanova said he was unaware that the producers had never paid the village back until he saw it “in the newspaper.”
Heilmann later claimed that the village never submitted an invoice to the producers for the overtime costs.
“Did anybody in the village other than police receive compensation?” Olejniczak asked.
“What you’re trying to do is bring up an issue to work in a political statement,” Heilmann said. “Why don’t you just say it and we’ll move on to the next item on the agenda.”
The mayor, who is a professional actor as well as a practicing attorney, acknowledged that the producers approached him about playing the judge in the spin-off series.
Further, in documentation that his mayoral opponent obtained through a freedom of information request, Heilmann received a consulting credit and signed a contract for payment of $1,000 per show with a minimum guarantee of four shows, and the potential of 29 additional shows.
According to Bury’s timeline, the mayor became the village “point person” for the producers and authorized use of village employees as well as the boardroom as a “set” for the production.
“I sure did (get paid),” Heilmann said. “You want to talk about me—my pleasure. If I get approached by them and they asked me to read a script and play a role necessitating 60-70 hours of work off my job, yes I got paid for the work I did.”
The mayor eventually gaveled Olejniczak out of order, citing a violation of Robert’s Rules.
Afterward, Olejniczak said the mayor baited him into asking questions and then used Robert’s Rules to quash his argument.
“[Heilmann] committed a felony because he got paid in his political capacity as mayor to produce and participate in Speeders,” he said.
Heilmann compared the $4,000 in police overtime costs to the “tens of thousands of dollars” spent on the legal investigation into the former village attorney, including a $500,000 legal investigation by a trustee’s fraternity brother.
“They used their position to take up village employees’ time for three years to do political work as a retaliatory action and hire one of their friends on a mission of attack,” the mayor said. “It’s up to everyone to decide if it’s true or not.”