Most of us would say that if we caused our company to lose millions of dollars, we probably would be checking out the furnishings at the unemployment office. Perhaps, if we are related to the owner, we would just get moved from the corner office to the basement.
But, if you work for Oak Lawn in a top management spot and earn $200,000 a year in salary and benefits, you apparently don’t have to worry about mistakes that cost your bosses millions of dollars.
You see, Village Manager Larry Deetjen has cost the taxpayers $3.2 million dollars by starting and then continuing a fight with the Oak Lawn firefighters’ union over the issue of minimum manning. The village, which Deetjen was hired to serve as its top administrator, chose to violate a binding collectively bargained contract.
If you think you’ve heard that story before, you have, because this isn’t the first union contract that Deetjen summarily chose to ignore. He cost the village a couple of hundred thousand when he fired 20 union 911 dispatchers and the union filed an unfair labor practice charge. Oh well, it’s only money.
Of course it isn’t Deetjen’s money that he’s losing. He’s losing the taxpayers’ hard earned money. The taxpayers are the people who Mayor Sandra Bury and even Deetjen himself claim that they are protecting in their never ending battle with the firefighters.
Arbitrators and Judges have told Deetjen and the Village Board that Deetjen’s strategy is WRONG. Yet, the Village Board continues to support running into the fire caused by Deetjen.
One Trustee, Robert Streit (Dist. 3) long ago abandoned Deetjen’s plan and has argued vehemently that his fellow board members should be asking questions instead of blinding nodding their heads “yes” like bobblehead dolls.
Bury and her allies counter the argument by blaming the union members and saying that they are protecting the taxpayers from bad decisions by the court. The problem with that argument is that the bad decisions were made by Deetjen.
Deetjen implies that the board shouldn’t have to listen to the Judges and arbitrators because they aren’t Oak Lawn Taxpayers or Village Board Members. The 7 arbitrators and Judges who have ruled against the village were merely following the law. After seven losses in court, even the thickest skull on the village board should be able to realize that the village’s position is contrary to Illinois law.
Unfortunately, the taxpayers can’t vote Larry Deetjen out of office. He’s appointed and serves at the pleasure of the Mayor and Board of Trustees.
Deetjen is fond of comparing public employees to the “private sector” but in the private sector you don’t get away with wasting $3.2 million dollars. In fact, if he was running a private company, such a loss might cause the company to go bankrupt. But then again, it isn’t Deetjen’s money or the Board Members’ money. The loss falls squarely on the taxpayers and Mayor Bury acknowledges that the board may have to institute a special tax levy to pay for the mistake.
Yet, Deetjen recently told the Board of Trustees that his strategy was fiscally prudent. The board members’ heads bobbled up and down in blind agreement.
If you were to include the settlements with the dispatchers and the legal fees to pay a handful of law firms he has hand-picked, the number is closer to $4 million dollars.
Larry Deetjen should be held accountable for the loss of $4 million dollars. Perhaps, like attorneys, doctors and engineers, he has professional malpractice insurance. If so, the village should look into making a claim in order to protect the taxpayers.
Deetjen’s financial mistakes are adding up and it is time that the board take action and dismiss him as the village manager.
Voters can do their part too. Ask the candidates if they support retaining Larry Deetjen as the Manager. If a candidate says yes, you can eliminate that candidate from consideration. The Village Manager already has enough “yes” men.