Mayor Sandra Bury, after offering to work with Trustees on appointments to various boards, unilaterally withdrew the olive branch of cooperation and dumped three residents from the Planning and Development Commission targeted in the infamous “Phelan Hit List”.
The political double cross comes after the Mayor publicly stated that she was asking all the Trustees for recommendations for their appointments to the many commissions and committees. In a story reported by the Oak Lawn Leaf, Bury offered an olive branch at a recent meeting that appeared to be an attempt to work with all board members and even critics. She said at the time that people who complain about the decisions or have ideas of how it should be operated are welcome to apply.
That announcement of cooperation even caught longtime Trustee Robert Streit by surprise. At the time, Streit said that he viewed Bury’s statement regarding appointees as a positive first step. “It sounds like the Mayor is offering a new way of doing business for her administration and that’s a good thing for Oak Lawn,” said Streit. According to Streit, he asked his district residents via a newsletter if they have any interest in serving on a board. “I’ve sent my input to the Mayor regarding current appointees and I’ve also reached out to find out if new people are interested in serving,” he said.
One of those residents that Streit said should be retained is Sean Schrader, a third district resident and an architect by trade. However, Schrader was one of three members replaced by Bury at a recent board meeting. Schrader was unavailable for comment. However, Streit said that Schrader, as an architect, was a valuable resource in his three years on the commission.
Bury also dumped second district resident John Eggert, an attorney, who had served as the chairman of the commission. The third person replaced by Bury is Timothy Reilly, a fourth district resident, who ran for Trustee on a slate with former Mayor Dave Heilmann.
Bury has been criticized in the past for the use of a “hit list” compiled with her campaign manager, Tom Phelan, to determine which appointees should be allowed to remain in their positions. Streit said that it is apparent that despite Bury’s own statements regarding an open process, she is still relying on Phelan and the hit list.
The hit list did name all three individuals as officials that should be replaced due to their political views.
The “Hit List” clearly targets all three of the former appointees and notes when the terms end and who they supported in the last Mayoral election between Bury and Dave Heilmann. The “Hit List” also includes the following entries:
- Village’s Most Important Committee
- Opposition Needs to be replaced when terms expire
Bury has now replaced four of the five committee’s members targeted for removal on the hit list. She reappointed the members listed in blue, who were her supporters in the election and displayed lawn signs. Shortly after Bury won her election in 2013, it was revealed in the Oak Lawn Leaf that she and her running mates had met and developed a “hit list” with the campaign manager and political adviser Tom Phelan. At first Bury denied the existence of a hit list to longtime Daily Southtown Columnist Phil Kadner, claiming, “I have no hit list. I have none.”
After the Oak Lawn Leaf published the Hit List, Bury changed her story telling the Oak Lawn Patch editor Lorraine Swanson “Is this what they’re calling a hit list?”
Eventually, Phelan admitted he drafted the hit list and Trustee Alex Olejniczak called it “good advice”. The hit list was formulated over discussions at Palermo’s Restaurant and targeted some employees and appointees by name, making it clear that political allegiances should be considered in determining who is appointed or reappointed to committees and commissions.
The hit list states, “ALWAYS REWARD SUPPORT” and “IMMEDIATELY REPLACE NONSUPPORTS WITH NO APOLOGIES.” Bury appointed three individuals to replace Eggert, Reilly and Schrader.
Eggert was replaced by Matthew Egan, the President of the Oak Lawn Community High School Board of Education. Egan has a BA in English and a EdM in Education. He also is a member of the St. Gerald Holy Name Society. Schrader was replaced by Vernon Zumhagen, a senior accountant with Gogo Commercial Aircraft. Zumhagen, of district three, holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Roosevelt University. James Pembroke replaces Tim Reilly. Pembroke is a retired teacher who taught at Evergreen Park Community High School for 37 years. He is a member of St. Germaine Church.
Streit said that he didn’t have a problem with any of the appointees but rather the process. Streit said that he told Bury that Zumhagen would be a good appointee for the Special Events Committee or the Appeals Board. “We shouldn’t make appointments based on a hit list”, he said. Bury did not explain the reason for the changes at the board meeting when she announced her appointments.