Tuesday’s village board meeting ended on a familiar crescendo of acrimony in what one trustee described afterward as “more contrived theatrics by Oak Lawn’s biggest actor."
Mayor Dave Heilmann and Trustee Tom Phelan (Dist. 6) took aim at each other after the mayor revealed his recommendations for 2012 board committee and liaison assignments.
Some trustees found themselves removed from their high-profile assignments and banished to the quality control committee that hasn’t met in six years. The annual doling out of board committee assignments by the mayor is required every May in compliance with the Oak Lawn municipal code, Heilmann said.
“I’ve given my recommendations which the board has no obligation to follow,” the mayor told trustees. “The board can choose to vote on this but we are supposed to make a decision on this tonight.”
Phelan was removed as liaison to the fire department and replaced by Heilmann ally Trustee Carol Quinlan (Dist. 5). Phelan was also removed from the Special Events Committee, that produces such community events as Fall on the Green, and replaced by Trustee Bob Streit (Dist. 3).
Trustee Alex Olejniczak (Dist. 2) was similarly removed as police liaison and replaced by appointed last year t the former Dist. 1 trustee.
Olejniczak was also removed from the Public Works Committee, despite spearheading the successful Trautsch filled Olejniczak’s former slot on that committee as well.
Moving to table, Phelan said the mayor held no advance discussions with board members. Olejniczak seconded the motion.
“We just received these at 7 p.m. tonight,” Phelan said.
“Those are just my recommendations,” the mayor said. “The board has had a year to prepare.”
Phelan was voted down, with the mayor casting the tie-breaking vote. Trustees Quinlan, Trautsch and Streit sided with the mayor.
Phelan calmly asked the mayor on what basis he made his decisions. Heilmann explained that he had no "singular basis."
“I can tell you that there are a number of complaints that have come to me about what’s going on in committees that impacted my decision,” Heilmann said.
Pressed by Phelan on who filed the complaints, Heilmann replied that the complaints “are not known to you or other board members.”
“It’s about board members exceeding their authority and intervention that they should not have done,” the mayor explained.
Heilmann described that certain village staff members were “livid” when Phelan participated in a conference call with the bond underwriters as a member of the finance committee.
“You were insistent on being part of that when it’s not the role of a board member,” the mayor said.
Heilmann also took Phelan to task for “personally negotiating” contracts and handing out passes to the VIP tent at Fall on the Green to “certain people and not others.”
Phelan said that his purpose for participating in the bond conference call was to discuss the village’s lack of cash balances.
“My purpose was to let the bond underwriters know that there was a reason for that and the reason has to do with the $15 million or so that our coffers lost in legal representation,” Phelan said, referring to with the former village attorneys.
“This is not unlike you talking with and negotiating and recommending lawyers for the village,” Phelan continued. “You want to talk about overstepping our bounds? By the way, I received permission from our village manager to participate in that call and I believe I was very effective in that call.”
Concerning the mayor’s accusations that he had commandeered the VIP tent at Fall on the Green, Phelan said that extra tickets to the VIP area that provides free food and liquor to village staff, volunteers and sponsors, went to people who participated in the fest.
“If you’re talking about a certain elected official or officials who are miffed because they didn’t get their [extra tickets] that’s not what this is about,” Phelan said. “If you’re bringing up these kinds of allegations as a basis its bull.”
“I’m talking specifically about handing them to certain trustees and not to others based upon political affiliation,” the mayor replied.
Further accusing Phelan of personally dispensing VIP passes the mayor again chastised “that’s not the role of a trustee.”
“The fest that used to lose $50,000 now makes $50,000,” Phelan said of his role as special events committee liaison. “I’ll take that criticism from you all day long.”
Phelan also wanted to know the name of the staff member who was “livid.”
Heilmann gaveled the end of the discussion. The mayor was the tie-breaking vote for the second time that evening, backed by Streit, Quinlan and Trautsch.
Asked about his personal involvement in Fall on the Green vendor contracts, Phelan said he worked with business development director Chad Weiler in streamlining costs for bands that performed at the fest.
“[This is] just more contrived theatrics from Oak Lawn's biggest actor,” Phelan said via email, referecing the mayor’s involvement in community theater. “In every single case the village manager was given the proposed terms of the performances and was the signatory on those contracts. Neither Chad Weiler nor I have ever contracted with any band or performer ever.”
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