The Village of Oak Lawn’s battle with Firefighter and former union official Robert Lanz included a declaration from the Village Manager and other charges that some officials are calling a direct attack on the firefighter’s reputation and a stretch of common sense.
Lanz was accused by the village’s administration of calling “phone sex lines” possibly while on duty and was served with a notice to appear for an “interrogation”. In court documents filed by the Village of Oak Lawn, the village claimed that Lanz, as a firefighter-paramedic, sees and treats the citizens of Oak Lawn when they are at their most vulnerable. While employees and officials we spoke to did not disagree with that statement, it was the following statement that raised the ire of everyone who read it:
Firefighter-paramedics such as the Plaintiff (Lanz) see patients when they are not fully clothed, and the paramedics must have physical contact with patients, often of the opposite sex. Because of this, the village must have supreme confidence that the firefighter will not abuse the patient relationship for his own personal gratification
The allegation is being called “ridiculous” by two employees and officials that we spoke to on the condition of anonymity. “To connect an unproven allegation of phone sex to the possibility of a sex crime shows how far this administration will go to attack its firefighters”, said one employee who feared retaliation and asked for confidentiality.
One official called the entire dispute “a waste of money” and said it was arose entirely from the actions of Village Manager Larry Deetjen. In the court documents, Deetjen does state that he had heard “unofficial rumors” that a union audit revealed that union funds were misappropriated. Under Deetjen’s direction, the village had asked the Cook County Sheriff’s Office to investigate the matter. After an investigation, no charges were filed against any firefighter, current or past union officials for any misuse of union funds.
Despite the case being closed, Deetjen apparently filed a Freedom of Information request with the Sheriff and received a copy of the union’s own investigatory documents that detailed all charges made by all union officials for over four years. Deetjen admitted in the court documents that he then reviewed the charges and linked some of the charges to Lanz, with whom he has had an adversary relationship over the years.
Based on that review, Deetjen admitted that he checked the names of some of the companies on the internet and determined that two of the companies provide phone sex services. He then reviewed Lanz’s records and determined some of the charges may have occurred when he was at the firehouse. Firefighters in Oak Lawn work 24 hour shifts and remain at the firehouse during that time period.
The Oak Lawn official who asked not to be identified said that it was “painfully obvious” that Deetjen was trying to “smear” the firefighter’s reputation. “This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this attack mode from this administration. I’m not surprised that they are smearing his reputation but I’m surprised that they would be trying to stretch this into the possibility of sex crimes by mentioning the fact paramedics are in close contact with residents,” he said.
When Deetjen first told the Village Board about the issue, he reportedly told the board that Lanz was being disciplined. He wrote that the investigation concerned both inappropriate financial transactions and engaging in inappropriate “sex-related activities” while on duty. The statement may contradict Deetjen’s court declaration which states, “In late November or early December, 2015, I learned that the Cook County Sheriff’s Department concluded its investigation and decided not to press criminal charges against Plaintiff (Lanz).”
Lanz is reportedly on paid sick leave according to sources within the Village of Oak Lawn.