Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury is poised to take over the Oak Lawn Social Service Corporation, a registered 501(c)(4) entity and its $460,000 in funds designated for the various social service entities in Oak Lawn by converting the charter of entity, rewriting the by-laws and ousting the various directors that have served on the corporation for years, including Ken Lukhard, the President of Advocate Christ Medical Center, Jennifer Villafan, the Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce President, and the Village’s senior Trustee, Robert Streit.
In January of 2015, Bury announced that she wanted to convert the organization from a 501(c)(4) not for profit corporation for social service corporations to a 501(C)(3) not for profit corporation, because donations to 501(c)(3) corporations can accept tax deductible contributions.
The corporation was originally formed with a donation from Multimedia Comcast Services, the original cable television company serving Oak Lawn. In 1980, as part of that negotiation for the exclusive cable television rights, the company donated $500,000 to the Oak Lawn Service Corporation entity that was formed. The Mayor, Village Manager, senior Trustee and Treasurer are some of the board members. There is also an appointee from each of the village’s six political districts. Advocate Christ Hospital’s President and the President of the Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce round out the list of directors.
The original idea of the donation was to fund an entity to provide social services to residents. With an initial donation of $500,000 the board decided to limit donations to charities to 90% of the annual earnings. Since the entity relied on investment earnings, this amount became very small in bad economic times but was robust at other times. Some may even remember the board being somewhat stingy with donations as the amount of $500,000 increased substantially. Along the way, in 2009, the board decided to donate more than the allowable “limit”. Recipients have included the Oak Lawn Community Partnership, the Children’s Museum of Oak Lawn, and other charitable entities.
So, the Oak Lawn Social Service Corporation now has only about $460,000 instead of the $500,00 it started with in 1980.
In January, Mayor Sandra Bury claimed that she was angered by that fact and wanted to “explore” the concept of increasing the financial balance by switching to an entity that could accept tax deductible contributions. She claimed at the time that it would cost about $15,000 in legal fees to make the change and never mentioned any other proposed changes.
On Tuesday, at noon, however, the Social Service Corporation Board is set to meet to adopt new bylaws that would dramatically change the make up of the board guaranteeing the termination of the representative from Advocate Christ Hospital and from the Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce. It would also, most likely, result in the termination of Trustee Robert Streit as a member of the board.
The new proposed bylaws provide that Bury is the chairman of the organization and has the power to appoint four additional directors, two of which must be elected village officials and two current village employees. The five board members, including Bury, would then appoint the sixth member. The proposed bylaws, in addition to eliminating the hospital, chamber of commerce and senior Trustee, seeks to eliminate all six community members who are now appointed from each district. The effect would be to reduce the board in half and eliminate all input from any other entities. Streit is not an ally of Bury’s and it is considered “highly doubtful” according to multiple sources that he would be appointed to the new board.
The new bylaws also allow Bury to determine which charities may receive grants from the Oak Lawn Social Service Corporation. In the past, the decision was made by the corporation’s entire board. The Oak Lawn Village Board of Trustees have not discussed this issue in a public meeting according to a review of village records of agendas and minutes.