Oak Lawn Trustee Bob Streit (Dist. 3) lashed out at the mayor and village manager about complaints levied by a neighboring village regarding Oak Lawn’s 911 emergency call center since the changeover to a private vendor in January.
“I have to read it secondhand while the mayor and the manager who were aware of these issues never informed the board members of the problems,” Streit said during Tuesday’ village board meeting.
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Reading from an interdepartmental memo from Evergreen Park’s village attorney addressed to emergency communications director Kathy Hansen, on which Mayor Sandra Bury and Village Manager Larry Deetjen were both copied, Streit delved into recent allegations involving the new dispatchers.
“When we have real complaints about a delayed response where a squad was not even dispatched for over six minutes on a 911 call, the board isn’t even provided any information,” Streit said. “Or a complaint that an off-duty police officer in Evergreen Park claimed the offender had a gun and the dispatcher never mentioned the gun and didn’t properly transmit the call.”
In a copy of the interdepartmental memo obtained by Patch, Evergreen Park’s village attorney Michael Cainkur further stated that Evergreen Park had been in touch with Oak Lawn in January and February with their complaints about new 911 dispatchers.
The memo went on to say the Evergreen Park police chief “outlined a series of incidents over the past several weeks” about botched emergency dispatches, the Oak Lawn emergency dispatchers and team leaders “demonstrated an utter lack of concern, if not overt hostility” when members of the police department attempted to follow up on the incidents.
“Yet neither the mayor nor the manager thought it was important to tell the board about these issues,” Streit said, reading from the memo.
An angry Deetjen confronted Streit on the dais, expressing his "deep disappointment" that a trustee would discuss a matter “non factually,” as well as publicly discuss an interdepartmental memo.
“It’s shameful,” Deetjen continued. “I did speak to the village attorney for Evergreen Park. He, too, was flabbergasted that such a document would be displayed earlier today on a political blog authored by a former mayor and sitting trustee.”
Oak Lawn’s 911 center, which serves Oak Lawn, Evergreen Park, Burbank, Bridgeview and various fire districts, takes over 100,000 calls annually, Deetjen said.
“We do an outstanding job but we’re not perfect,” the village manager said. “We weren’t perfect before the change took place, Trustee Streit.”
After the meeting, Trustee Terry Vorderer (Dist. 4), a retired Oak Lawn police officer of 34 years, and former division chief of patrol, said nothing ever came back to him about issues with the new crew of 911 dispatchers.
“There has always been employee issues,” Vorderer said. “We’ve always made mistakes in the radio room and the police department … to make it political is just wrong. The employees work very hard. They’re learning and they’re human.”
Bury said she was aware of the correspondence from Evergreen Park but that it was a managerial issue. Typically, only disciplinary issues concerning village staff are discussed in executive session.
“You don’t want the public to feel that three calls out of 20,000 are an issue. You don’t want the public to feel unsafe. I’m not going to sit at a board table and berate staff.”
A call to Evergreen Park village attorney Michael Cainkur was not returned.
Evergreen Park Police Chief Michael Saunders said he wouldn’t comment publicly on any issues his force may be having with Oak Lawn’s 911 call center.
“There was some correspondence sent over to straighten out some issues between us and Oak Lawn,” the Evergreen Park police chief said. “From our standpoint we don’t have a public comment. It was addressed privately.”