Longtime Oak Lawn resident Jan Schaller, who previously accused Village Manager Larry Deetjen of “harassment, bullying and intimidation” has now been reprimanded by one of her bosses, who happens to also serve as the Treasurer under Mayor Sandra Bury.
The latest episode in this political free speech battle occurred last week on Facebook when Jan Schaller posted a message on a Facebook after receiving a campaign email from Mayor Sandra Bury and her Trustee candidate Tom Phelan. Schaller insinuated that the email address used to send her a campaign message was taken by the Bury campaign from village records, including the Everbridge System.
Schaller is as part-time employee at the Oak Lawn Library and one of the library board members jumped to the defense of the Bury/Phelan campaign with a post of his own attacking Schaller.
Joe Skibinski, an ardent supporter of Bury, who wears dual hats serving as a Library Trustee as well as the village’s Treasurer, let his disappointment with Schaller’s post be known claiming that Schaller should have had verifiable facts and comprehensive research before asking how her email could have been used by the Bury campaign.
The problem with Skibinski’s claim, in addition to appearing to be a response in his capacity as a Library Trustee, is that others, including former Mayor Dave Heilmann, have previously made similar claims. In fact, many residents complained during the 2013 Bury Mayoral campaign that Trustee Tom Phelan had used emails that were only provided to the village for Everbridge alerts.
Phelan denied the claim then and also claimed that he had been cleared by “an investigation”. However, the new revelations from Schaller and a leaked email appearing on Facebook may support Schaller’s claim. The email chain below lays out a discussion between Village Manager Larry Deetjen and Trustee Tom Phelan in which Phelan alerts Deetjen, Village Attorney Paul O’Grady, and the then police chief, Bill Villanova that the police department had contacted him investigating allegations that he had used email addresses from Everbridge for a political email.
In his email, Phelan makes the unusual move to demand answers to his questions about the investigation, including under what authority the investigation was taking place. The police department received a complaint and the department was apparently acting upon that complaint.
It is the second time in two months that Oak Lawn resident Jan Schaller has been in the news. She previously has accused Village Manager Larry Deetjen of embarking on a course of “harassment, bullying and intimidation” after she exercised her rights to free speech in regard to a village issue.
She claimed that Deetjen, beginning in August of last year, embarked on a course of harassment, bullying, and intimidation to try to prevent her from exercising her right to free speech. Schaller told the board specifically, that Deetjen contacted both of her employers after she expressed her opinion.
Case in point, he attempted to pressure the leadership of the church I attend and where I work part-time as the church secretary, to force me to refrain from making and or writing public comments. On December 15, Mr. Deetjen replies to an email I sent to the Village from my personal email account about a scheduled village meeting and cc’d (copied in) the Director of the Oak Lawn Public Library where I also work part-time.
Schaller said that “by contacting her employers, Deetjen crossed the line and that his actions constitute intimidation by a public official.”
Schaller asked that the Board instruct Deetjen to immediately cease and desist his bullying, harassment and intimidation of private citizens. She also asked for a ” public, written apology from Deetjen for these actions and suggested the Board instruct one of its many attorneys on retainer to explain the term ‘civil rights’ to Mr.Deetjen.
Skibinski is elected separately from the village officials, as a library Trustee. However, he serves as the Village Treasurer due to an appointment by Mayor Sandra Bury.