Oak Lawn Trustee Tim Desmond bristled with anger as he stunningly reversed his prior vote and voted to fire Jack’s Towing company as the village’s exclusive towing vendor.
Only two weeks earlier Desmond had voted along with Trustees Alex Olejniczak and Robert Streit to oppose Village Manager Larry Deetjen’s recommendation to dump the longtime vendor in favor of two vendors from outside the village. The other three Trustees supported Deetjen forcing Mayor Sandra Bury to break the tie at the time to keep Jack’s. But that changed two weeks later.
Desmond said that he asked that he wanted the matter put back on the agenda because “I believe there are a lot of questions left unanswered from the last meeting”. He never said what the unanswered questions were and didn’t explain why he was changing his position.
Instead, he criticized longtime Mayor Ernie Kolb’s administration, which entered into the contract over fifteen years ago at the recommendation of the Oak Lawn Police Department and then Village Manager Joseph Faber.
Desmond cited some of the contractual terms and in an apparent attack on the Kolb administration, said, “it is no wonder that people across this country are sick of career politicians and it is no wonder that the people of Oak Lawn voted overwhelming two years ago for term limits. These career politicians must think they can fool all of the people all of the time”. The late Mayor Ernie Kolb served Oak Lawn as Village Clerk from 1964 to 1977 and as Mayor from 1977 until his death in 2003. For most of those years, Kolb served as a full time elected official with the village.
After inserting himself into the debate on the towing contract, Desmond also declared that the village board should not be involved “in who tows cars for the police department”. Apparently forgetting that the police department favored Jack’s Towing fifteen years ago and in the latest discussions for this contract, Desmond said that the decision should be made by “the police department and the village manager, free from any influence from any elected officials”.
Trustee Robert Streit, who is the only official currently serving the village that served with Kolb, defended the former Mayor. Streit said that when the original decision was made it was based on a recommendation by Village Manager. He said he didn’t think there was any influence by any board member or the late Mayor fifteen years ago.
He said that he doesn’t believe that Desmond’s implication of wrongdoing based on the company receiving a windfall of one million dollars is correct. “I don’t know that but I certainly don’t believe it. I see three guys out here (Jack’s Towing owner and employees). I know that they are three hard working guys”.
Continuing with the idea that the employees are hard working men, he directly responded to the idea that Jack’s had unfairly profited by a million dollars as alleged by Desmond saying, “They are sitting here in Jeans and plaid shirts. They’re aren’t here in suits and ties like they’ve walked off with some grand prize”, which he said was Desmond’s allegation.
Streit said that Jack’s had a contract and it was reviewed by the attorneys. When the original contract came before the board over fifteen years ago, Streit said that he didn’t believe that Kolb or any of his fellow Trustees were acting unlawfully or to benefit themselves.
Streit said that he didn’t have a problem with the village having a process or seeking proposals. However, he said that to suggest that someone made a million dollars or there was wrongdoing is unfortunate.
Mayor Bury interjected at the end of Streit’s statement indicating that perhaps she too had changed her mind on the contract. She questioned how many contracts Streit had seen that lasted fifteen years. Streit attempted to answer but Bury continued to interrupt.
After the meeting, when contacted by the Oak Lawn Leaf, Streit said that there are many vendors that have long relationships of over fifteen years with the village. “We have all kinds of vendors that supply materials to our different departments and have done so in excess of fifteen years”.