Oak Lawn’s appointed Village Manager, Larry Deetjen, misspent over $34,000 on granite and had it installed before coming to the Village Board of Trustees for approval without disclosing any conflicts of interest after being told by the Department of Justice that the expenditure was unlawful.
At the last Village Board Meeting, Trustees approved spending over the 9/11 Rotary Club Memorial. The resolution states that the board directs own ruling in which it said that the use of Drug Forfeiture Funds could not be used for such a project.
Trustees Robert Streit (Dist 3) and Carol Quinlan (Dist. 5) voted against spending taxpayers’ funds on the project. Streit noted that Oak Lawn Rotary Club had originally promised that no public funds would be used Deetjen did not explain to the Board that the granite was already installed as depicted in the photo above.
During the meeting, Trustee Robert Streit outlined charges that Deetjen had spent Drug Forfeiture Funds and was now asking for permission to replace those funds with the parking lot fund money while he lobbies the federal law enforcement agency.
Trustee Michael Carberry asked Streit what he thought was being done in secret but when Streit attempted to answer, Mayor Sandra Bury interrupted.
In addition to failing to inform the board that the granite had already been purchased and installed, neither Deetjen or Bury disclosed any conflict of interest. Both Bury and Deetjen have been active in the Rotary Club.
The agreement between the Rotary Club and the Village, which was signed by Village Manager Larry Deetjen without any board discussion, limited the village’s funding to providing the five beams from the World Trade Center and paying for architectural fees.
Prior to seeking the office of Mayor, Sandra Bury, as a member of the Rotary Club, pushed the memorial forward and in her campaign literature she took credit for the issue. Her literature noted her dedication to the village and stated as an example, “Spearheaded the fund-raising for and construction of Oak Lawn’s 9/11 First Responder Memorial”.
Despite the fact that both Bury and Deetjen were involved in the 9/11 Rotary Club Memorial Project, neither one of them disclosed the potential conflicts of interest at the board meeting.
Trustee Streit said “When the memorial was first announced, we were told by the Rotary and its members, including our own Sandra Bury, that it would be funded totally by the Rotary and private contributions”. Streit said that he has been “stonewalled” on his requests for records regarding the memorial. He said that he was never provided an audit by the Department of Justice regarding the use of Drug Forfeiture Funds, which were spent without board authorization.
Trustee Carol Quinlan agreed with Streit. Quinlan said that when the memorial was first talked about they were told that there would not be any taxpayers’ funds used on the project and she has heard as time has gone by that village funds have been used. She said it is wrong to spend taxpayers’ money because it’s not what the people were initially told. She said that she wished Oak Lawn had the money to spend on projects such as this and other worthy causes.
Streit said the use of Drug Forfeiture Funds to pay for the project withoutboard approval violates the village’s own ordinances. He said the process “lacked transparency from thd start and continues to lack transparency”.
The parking lot funds that were used are designated to be used to maintain the parking lots and the funds were paid into the account by commuters who park at the parking garage and other lot.
Both Bury and Deetjen have repeatedly refused to answer questions posed by the Oak Lawn Leaf.