By DAVE HEILMANN
Why are Oak Lawn manager Larry Deetjen and village attorney Paul O’Grady fighting so hard to keep certain emails they exchanged hidden from board members? They have been asked seven times by elected board members to turn over these emails, but refuse to turn them over.
For some reason, now the mayor and certain trustees are helping them keep these records secret. At the last board meeting Sandra Bury cast the deciding vote to keep these records hidden from other elected trustees.
O’Grady’s law firm has been paid $3 million over the past 3 years, Larry Deetjen over $500,000. These are not personnel files or personal records. These are emails about village business on an email network owned by taxpayers. They both charged taxpayers for the time they spent creating those emails. The Attorney General has made it clear that emails on a municipality's email network are public records. Despite this they are now allowed to block access to their own emails on the Village network?
Here is what happened.
Back in May when I was still in office I asked for certain email records between Larry Deetjen and the Village Attorneys because I had received multiple complaints that Deetjen improperly interfered with a million dollar contract an Oak Lawn business had with a prospective tenant, possibly for racial reasons.
I was shocked when a village employee told me that Deetjen and O’Grady told him not to turn over their records to me. The manager and attorney have no authority over a mayor when it comes to inspection of records. Mayors have a statutory right to inspect records under Illinois law. They also have this right in Oak Lawn under the Village Code. That law had always been followed the prior 8 years. I guess they felt they could get away with blocking these records because I had lost the election. I did tell the attorney and manager that they were breaking the law and violating our code, and made a second request, but that was ignored.
I don't think we should look the other way when the village manager and attorney break the law. But that’s not why I write. The point is that records should not be kept from board members, especially when you have officials looking into complaints on behalf of Oak Lawn businesses or residents.
After my requests were blocked, new requests were made for these records in May by a sitting trustee. While there is no law which would permit the manager to deny a trustee access to these records, or give the manager authority to block access, he did it again.
Attorney O’Grady then issued a legal opinion in early June which stated that the mayor has the right to inspect all records, basically acknowledging that he advised the village to break the law when denying me access.
After receiving that memo Sandra Bury could easily have said to turn over the records. That was June. Nothing was turned over. Why not?Then a different trustee submitted a FOIA request to Clerk Quinlan for those records. This was the fourth request . That was denied. The Clerk’s office said it was too burdensome even though staff previously told me it’s quite simple to do. Apparently this burdensome argument came from their belief that the village attorney should be paid to review and screen his own emails (which he already charged for once) before turning them over to the board that hired him.
The same trustee submitted a second FOIA, and the Clerk’s office refused to turn over all records, this time claiming attorney client privilege. Does that mean that Sandra Bury, Jane Quinlan and Larry Deetjen are the client, but other trustees are not? Does it seem fair that only certain officials - the Mayor, Clerk, Manager, Attorney - have the privilege of seeing records, while others elected by the same residents do not? I had disagreements at times with trustees, but I said publicly at the board table that all trustees should always be allowed access to records.
After 5 efforts had been blocked, two trustees placed on a board agenda an item amending the village code to clarify that all trustees have the right to inspect village records, not just the mayor. The Board majority and Sandra Bury denied these trustees the right to even speak on the issue at the Board meeting, in clear violation of Roberts Rules. Despite the improper motion, the attorney said nothing. After all, it was his records that were being sought. This was the sixth effort blocked.
Then there was the seventh effort, again a request to amend the code to allow the elected representatives of Oak Lawn the right to review records of the Village. Sandra Bury voted no. She and the majority voted to keep Deetjen’s emails hidden from trustees.
I have heard that the manager commented in executive session that the Village better defend him if his records are turned over. If that’s true, what was meant by that? A number of executive session minutes were recently released. Release the recent one where the manager commented on why he wasn’t turning over his emails.
If the manager is working only for the betterment of the community, why would he care about trustees seeing his emails with the attorney?
What is in those records that they don’t want out?
Refusing to disclose records to the public is one thing. Far worse is saying that some public officials can see records while others cannot. The attorney is a political contributor to the mayor’s campaign and is very close to the manager who appointed him. Now when records are sought because an Oak Lawn business makes a serious allegation of misconduct, the mayor and board votes to keep the manager’s emails on the village network hidden from other elected officials. Isn’t there a duty to investigate the complaint openly and thoroughly?
These mirror complaints against Mr. Deetjen from his last
employer, Deerfield Beach. At the time he was hired I didn't believe it. Then I
lived it, receiving many complaints from state legislators, heads of major
organizations, Little Company of Mary Hospital, Catholic cemeteries, local
businesses, and residents, about threatening and overbearing conduct by the
In the case of Catholic cemeteries, Oak Lawn was looking to utilize cemetery property for flood relief by St. Casimir. They refused, and in our meeting they were very clear in expressing how upset they were with the conduct of Mr. Deetjen. Sears Kmart, in the middle of negotiations, said they no longer want to deal with Mr. Deetjen. Now we have a business owner who says he lost $1 million deal because of Mr. Deetjen. (In fairness to our current board members, some may not know all the history)
Hiding the records allows this type of conduct to continue and that can continue to hurt Oak Lawn residents and businesses. We want people to have a positive experience when dealing with our government. Please take a look at some of these complaints from Florida newspaper articles. When you look at this history and then the complaints we have received in Oak Lawn, it’s difficult to justify keeping these records hidden.
Memos Trip Up Deerfield Manager
April 26, 2005|By Susannah Bryan Staff Writer
DEERFIELD BEACH — City officials say memos found on suspended City Manager Larry Deetjen's City Hall computer show he has been feeding confidential information to an attorney suing the city over growth and development issues.
In light of the discovery, city commissioners have called a special meeting at 6 p.m. today to amend the resolution listing the reasons for removing Deetjen.…
Deerfield Records May Be Missing
File Drawers Are Empty In Deetjen's Office
July 21, 2006|By Susannah Bryan Staff Writer
DEERFIELD BEACH — Acting City Manager Ada Graham-Johnson is investigating whether public records are missing from the office of suspended City Manager Larry Deetjen.
She ordered the locks to Deetjen's office changed last week after a secretary told her several files appeared to be missing. The office is open during the day and locked after hours….
Deetjen Office Files Investigated
City Official May Have Tracked Critics
July 25, 2006|By Susannah Bryan Staff Writer
DEERFIELD BEACH — Suspended City Manager Larry Deetjen kept files on former Mayor Jean Robb and a political critic on the City Commission, according to a secretary who first revealed some files were missing from Deetjen's office.
94-page Report Critical Of Deetjen
Witnesses: Deerfield Official Used Racial Insults
May 31, 2006|By Susannah Bryan Staff Writer
DEERFIELD BEACH — City Manager Larry Deetjen continues to insist he did not hurl racial insults at a parking official at Palm Beach International Airport, but witnesses quoted in a 94-page city report released Tuesday say Deetjen did just that.
Deetjen's Actions Mean He Must Go
May 13, 2005|Barbara Einheuser Deerfield Beach
I don't know what there is to not understand about the charges against Deerfield Beach City Manager Larry Deetjen. He must go.
Deetjen has a pattern of attacking the victims of his bad behavior, and this incident is standard Deetjen. In his statement to the city attorney, Deetjen refuses to acknowledge his inexcusable behavior, speculates on the bad motives of Mr. Kirby, and states that he (Deetjen) wants to file a complaint against the victim. This is a deliberately calculated move from a typical bully.
Issue: Manager Embarrasses The City Again.
June 2, 2006
The parking official didn't know about the time Larry Deetjen called the police to have an elected official he didn't like ejected from his office. He didn't know about Deetjen's subsequent month-long suspension as city manager of Deerfield Beach.
He didn't know officials had also found evidence that Deetjen was sharing confidential information with a lawyer who was suing the city. ..He didn't know Deetjen had misstated the City Commission's position on a county permit sought by a company with links to the engineering firm of Mayor Al Capellini, a Deetjen supporter in a childish feud that has been disrupting and embarrassing the city for more than a year.
Ed Kirby, a black parking official at Palm Beach International Airport, didn't know about any of that. He knew nothing about any feud, so he had no reason to take sides. To him, Larry Deetjen was just a guy who had parked illegally. And then hurled insults and racial slurs during a temper tantrum over having received a $10 ticket….
Capellini, Deetjen Embarrass City
June 4, 2006|Marge Hilton Deerfield Beach
Mayor Al Capellini and City Manager Larry Deetjen are an embarrassment to the city of Deerfield Beach. The entire city should be outraged at the negative attention they have focused on City Hall…
What more will it take? We have Deetjen aiding a lawsuit against the city, giving the county misinformation about Crystal Lake, causing a commotion at the Palm Beach International Airport, reportedly using racial remarks against a parking employee, embarrassing his employer at a district meeting, costing the city big money in employee settlements (with more to come)…
I know that some will say I shouldn't say anything because the election is over. The election is over. But what comes with that is the responsibility of those who are elected into office to follow the law. You are now accountable, and even though others may not be in the majority or even in office, it does not mean that we lose the right to stand up for what we believe is right. Whether or not I’m in office, I do still care about the community.