The day after he publicly accused the village manager of holding a secret meeting with developers to discuss the former Beatty Lumber property, the mayor forwarded to news media email from the village manager inviting one of the developers to an out-of-town golf tournament.
“The manager and developer and the realtor all went on a golf trip to Florida a few weeks ago,” Mayor Dave Heilmann said. “During the pendency of a major development proposal that Oak Lawn will have to approve, the village manager invites and then goes on a week’s vacation to Florida with the developer?”
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During his report at Tuesday’s village board meeting, Heilmann revealed that one of the preliminary concepts for the vacant lumberyard at 96th Street and 52nd Avenue was a 9-story office tower.
Heilmann said the developers Tony Ruh and Karl Shea had never disclosed such a concept with him. He further alleged that Larry Deetjen, the village manager, had met with the developers behind his back to explore plans for an office tower in a residential area, before the mayor's meeting with the developers took place.
“[The developers] said they wanted to meet [the village manager] before they talked to the mayor,” Heilmann alleged Tuesday. “The village manager sent an email back saying he would meet them outside of the office face to face.”
Forwarding several communications between Deetjen and Ruh, Heilmann called the emails “public records.” One of them, sent from Deetjen’s village email address to Ruh on Dec. 24, confirming the arrangements for a competitive golf tournament in Tampa, FL. Also copied on the email was Chuck Groebe, the realtor who arranged the sale of the Beatty property.
“Glad you can join us Tony. You are locked in. Chuck [Groebe] can get you details on our early flight out of Midway to Ft. Lauderdale on Wednesday January 11th and return on the following Tuesday a.m January 17th. I have copied the President of the PGA Tournament Committee my brother-in-crime [name and place of business redacted by Patch] (Boston underground syndicate) and our practice round and roommate [name redacted by Patch] of [redacted by Patch] who is currently skiing downhill (on his face) at Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Tony, be prepared for a lot of fun and excitement. Leave your guns at home in Chicago. Larry.”
Deetjen and Ruh both confirmed the trip did take place, adding that all travel and tournament costs were paid for at their own expense. No public money was used to fund the trip.
The village manager added that Ruh was a last-minute replacement for someone who dropped out of the tournament and had been invited by Groebe, a fellow Rotarian.
[The mayor is] trying to paint a picture that I’m in bed with the developer,” Deetjen said. “I’m in face to face contact with those when funding and growing jobs for Oak Lawn, and getting investors for the community and I do a pretty good job.”
Deetjen said he didn’t know Ruh or his business associates prior to their involvement in developing the new fitness and veterans’ outpatient treatment center at 10201 S. Cicero Ave.
“I am highly offended at any inference that calls to question my ethical behavior in this case,” Deetjen said. “I happen to enjoy competitive golf and through the years have been fortunate to build a large network of acquaintances and friends both professionally and personally.”
Most of the weekend was focused on competitive golf and family, Deetjen said, who still has a condominium unit in Deerfield Beach, Fl, where he once served as city manager.
“I do not vote on these projects. My job is to recommend. Furthermore, this was not a village initiated project,” Deetjen said. “The Beatty Lumber project is not before the board at this point formerly as it is merely in its early planning and feasibility phase.”
Ruh stated that his email communications to the village manager “speak for themselves.”
“I was asked to go down two, three days before the tournament,” the developer said. “I couldn’t get down until a day after the tournament started and played golf down there.”
Ruh added, “Bottom line, I don’t understand all this. I don’t understand what’s being accomplished,” he said in response to the mayor’s forwarding his email to the news media.
The village manager reemphasized that the development was in the preliminary stages and that the developers would spend a lot of money on redeveloping the Beatty property, provided they “adhere to the desires of the people and create jobs for Oak Lawn.”
“To quote Shakespeare and people in theater who are actors, this is much ado about nothing,” Deetjen said, taking a dig at the mayor who is active in community theater. “I know my ethics.”
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