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Judge Tosses Unity Party Lawsuit Against Mayor

United they stand, divided they fall, former Unity Party slate members' attempts to recoup campaign funds controlled by mayor fails in court.

A Cook County judge dismissed a lawsuit filed against Oak Lawn Mayor Dave Heilmann and Trustee Carol Quinlan (Dist. 5) that alleged both had absconded with campaign funds belonging to the former Unity Party.

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Village Clerk Jane Quinlan and Trustees Alex Olejniczak (Dist. 2), Tom Duhig (Dist. 4) and Tom Phelan (Dist. 6)—the mayor’s former Unity Party slatemates—filed a lawsuit in February 2011 in which they claimed $25,929 in campaign funds were improperly transferred by the mayor to his village board ally, Carol Quinlan.

Judge Mary Mikva said in her order of dismissal on June 28 that the plaintiffs did not present any facts that would suggest there was a “fiduciary duty owed to them by [Heilmann or Carol Quinlan].”

The mayor formed the Unity Party political action committee in 2003. Heilmann, Jane Quinlan, Olejniczak and Phelan

The party split in 2009 over political differences after Heilmann and Carol Quinlan, who is related to the village clerk by marriage, objected to Oak Lawn’s hiring of the Querrey and Harrow law firm.

According to a press release issued by the mayor’s attorney, —Jane Quinlan, Phelan, Olejniczak and Duhig, who was elected to the village board in 2009, “met in a bar” and formed bylaws of a new group called “Unity Party of Oak Lawn.”

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Claiming that they were now in control of all the committee’s campaign funds, they sued Heilmann over improperly expending funds raised by the former Unity Party. The lawsuit also alleged that Carol Quinlan was an improper beneficiary of the campaign funds.

Heilmann has called the lawsuit an “embarrassment” to Oak Lawn during an interview last year. The mayor said that he and his friends raised the Unity Party’s first $24,000.

“You have the village clerk suing the mayor she ran with,” Heilmann said. “What disappoints me is that my wife spent six months putting together a musical fundraiser… my friends spent three months working their hearts out and raised $16,000 or $17,000 in 2005 … all these people did that for Erica (the mayor’s wife) and I.”

The mayor added that none of the other Unity Party members’ fundraising events “brought in that kind of money.”

As chairman and treasurer of the Unity Party, Heilmann controlled the campaign funds from 2003 to 2011. In his attorney’s press release, Heilmann said he had to sue the other members of the former Unity Party to get Carol Quinlan’s share, about $18,000, of the campaign funds.

Village Clerk Jane Quinlan said the group only wanted a “six-way split” of the remaining funds.

“I brought a substantial amount of money to the party and labor,” Jane Quinlan said. “Everyone brought something to the party. “You’re a team and if someone would have told me that the mayor would have taken all our money I wouldn’t have believed it.”

Jane Quinlan said Heilmann brought her on board as candidate for village clerk after he first approached her to run for the Dist. 6 trustee seat.

“Dave knew my sister. They were in plays,” the village clerk said. “He came a back a month later and asked if I’d run for clerk.

According to Jane Quinlan, the mayor reached out to her through Carol Quinlan, because their husbands are cousins. The Unity Party parted ways in 2009, when members met at Jack Desmond’s Irish Pub in Chicago Ridge

“That’s a bar,” Jane Quinlan said. "Dave had mentioned he’d like to have fundraiser down the road and we found out that the invitations already went out. How do you think we felt then?”

Before Heilmann transferred funds and dissolved the Unity Party, Jane Quinlan said the mayor offered her $1,000.

“I’m not pimping my party for $1,000,” she added.

Krafthefer called the dismissal of lawsuit “a significant victory for Mayor Heilmann and Trustee Carol Quinlan.”

“Maybe the clerk and trustees will now be able to set aside their political differences and work together with the mayor for the good of Oak Lawn,” Krafthefer said.

Do you think village board members will be able to work out their political differences? Tell us in the comments.

Catch up on LOCAL GOVERNMENT NEWS:

Oak Lawn Gal July 04, 2012 at 11:25 PM
One loyal member? The mayor has Carol, Bob Streit and Cindy Trautsch voting with him. The major votes lately have been 4-3 in the Mayor's favor. The judge tossed the 2011 lawsuit. Nuf said about that. Now Phelan and Alex have their lawyers and that sideshow will continue. Guessing that will go in the Mayor's favor too due to the wording he used. But we'll see,
District 666 Resident July 05, 2012 at 03:19 AM
That's right the Mayor seems to be working well with Quinlan, Trautsch and STreit. He also seems to be winning a lot lately. Perhaps he's smarter than Tom and Alex. Maybe Tom and Alex have gone for the long touchdown when a steady easy running game may have been better. Maybe the constant "got ya" mentality they exhibit just doesn't work. In any case, the election is shaping up with Streit and Heilmann working together. That can't be good for Phelan
QC?? July 05, 2012 at 04:42 AM
Hey Satan, Do you think Dave actually likes Bob and Vice versa?? It's a team of mutual hatred against Alex and Tom period. Dave campaigned against Bob in 2011. His Lawyer in this case Ms. Krafthefer, was the same attorney for Bob's opponent Daniel Sodaro in the election board hearing!! Dave gave Sodaro a thousand dollars for his campaign and wrote a letter to residents on his behalf.This alliance will not last very long and don't underestimate Tom and Alex
Oak Lawn Gal July 05, 2012 at 08:13 PM
I think it was 2 months ago, maybe 3, that the mayor's demeanor changed and at times he seemed tougher. I believe he knew then about the complaints against Phelan and Alex. That was also likely when he made an alliance with Bob, Cindy & Carol. I think with Phelan all the mayor has to do is produce the complaints. And I'm guessing the audit will show that he gave tickets away and maybe more. But if you remember that meeting it was Phelan who pressed the mayor for the reasons for the committee changes. Alex may have a stronger case - I haven't looked at the allegations there.
District 666 Resident July 05, 2012 at 10:03 PM
I think Bob and Dave like working with each other more than they liked working with Tom and Alex. It is easy to underestimate Tom and Alex because they haven't accomplished much. Tom is the boy who cried wolf and Alex is like a sheep afraid of the big bad wolf that Tom creates.

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