In a stunning flip flop, only two weeks after voting to keep the firm, Trustee Tim Desmond led the charge to fire Oak Lawn’s longtime towing company without providing any new information to his fellow board members who voted exactly the same as they did two weeks earlier.
At the meeting two weeks ago, Desmond interrupted Trustee Robert Streit twice claiming that Jack’s contract would not be terminated. As Streit pointed out that Jack’s Towing was an Oak Lawn company employing Oak Lawn residents, Desmond seemed to be agitated eventually interrupting Streit after the latter said that the loyalty shown by Jack’s employees were being terminated as a result of the village’s actions despite the fact that they live in Oak Lawn and pay taxes. Desmond interrupted saying “nobody has been fired, can you speak the truth”. Shortly thereafter Desmond joined Streit and Trustee Alex Olejniczak in voting to retain Jack’s Towing.
Two weeks later, however, Desmond led the charge against Jack’s Towing. He said at the meeting that he asked for the discussion of the contract to be put back on the agenda because “there are a lot of questions left unanswered from the last meeting”. He then rehashed what he said were undisputed facts that Village Manager Larry Deetjen had shared with the board two weeks earlier that Desmond discounted when he voted to keep Jack’s Towing.
Desmond didn’t provide his fellow board members, the media or the public any additional information or explain why he had changed his vote so dramatically within two short weeks. The original contract between Jack’s Towing and the Village of Oak Lawn was entered into on the recommendation of the Oak Lawn Police Department during Mayor Ernie Kolb’s administration.
Desmond said it was a good deal for Jack’s Towing that he claimed saved the company over a million dollars in fifteen years. He also wrongly claimed that the owner had now sold the business. One of the two brothers who owns Jack’s, Mike Queenan, has retired, but his partner and brother Ron, maintains the business.
Trustee Robert Streit, who opposed the contract fifteen years ago, defended Jack’s Towing and took Desmond to task for insinuating that the owners had walked away with one million dollars. Streit said that Desmond’s math didn’t add up. He also said that he wasn’t aware of any influence by a board member to influence the contract fifteen years ago. Looking into the crowd, Streit said that the owner and workers were dressed in jeans and plaid shirts, not suits, and didn’t look like they walked off with “the grand prize”. He said that Desmond’s allegation of wrongdoing was “unfortunate”.
Jack’s Towing has enjoyed an exclusive contract with the village but they also constructed a building on the property owned by the village that will now become the village’s without any compensation to the owners. The owners also invested in trucks and equipment and received excellent reviews from firefighters and police officers for their responsiveness. Desmond even admitted that the company has received nothing but praise for the services they’ve provided.
Despite those facts, Desmond didn’t explain why he had changed his mind but he moved to reconsider the previous vote and effectively fire Jack’s Towing, which had settled all of its disputes with the village in between the two meetings by paying a large sum of money to Village Manager Larry Deetjen.
According to Deetjen and Jack’s Towing, the company hand-delivered a check for $29,279.87 to Village Hall a week before the Village Board Meeting and ahead of the 5 p.m. deadline set by Village Manager Larry Deetjen. With that payment, and their agreement to secure additional insurance, several sources confirmed that Jack’s believed that an understanding existed that the contract would be renewed for three years.
In the end, neither the payment nor Streit’s comments urging the support of local businesses and workers was enough to change the outcome of the vote. Every Trustee, with the exception of Desmond, voted the same as two weeks earlier and Jack’s Towing was dismissed by a 4-2 vote. Mayor Sandra Bury, who had also originally supported Jack’s by breaking the tie vote, spoke in favor of terminating Jack’s at the second meeting allowing onlookers to infer that she also had changed her mind.
Streit said that the board packet did not include Desmond’s explanation for the flip flop on the issue. “Trustee Desmond was for the contract before he was against it and I’m not sure what happened to change his mind”. An Oak Lawn area attorney with knowledge of the votes, and behind the scenes discussions, said that the “authorities should investigate this whole ordeal because something stinks when a Trustee does an about face like that without any real explanation”. The same attorney, who asked that his name not be used, admitted that investigations rarely take place without someone contacting the FBI and asking for an investigation.