Oak Lawn’s former Fire Chief George Sheets submitted his resignation recently after the Mayor and Board of Trustees butted heads with the Chief on questions of policy regarding the ongoing labor negotiations with the Oak Lawn Professional Fire Fighters Local 3405.
According to sources close to Sheets, the former Chief vehemently disagreed with the board majority’s edict that Sheets support a reduction in the minimum manning number as well as other hard line stances during the discussion. Sheets, we are told by the same sources, agreed that a reduction would be acceptable but the board’s number was “too low of a number” and other ideas were “morale killers that wouldn’t be approved in arbitration or in a court case.”
In a resignation letter to the Village Manager Larry Deetjen, Sheets refers to the disagreement stating, “With the direction you and the Board of Trustees laid out in Executive Session, it’s going to take someone with fresh ideas and perspectives to move this department forward.”
Sheets had been a stalwart supporter of Deetjen and the board majority even allowing Mayor Sandra Bury to use his name in a political mailer in which he disavowed his own public comments regarding the fire department. Despite that support, sources close to Sheets said that the pressure of working with a board that “micromanages” the department had gotten to him and the last year has been one in which Sheets was seen as “disloyal”.
Sheets also served as Chief of Chicago Ridge but he recently questioned the arrangement noting that he had 15 bosses including two mayors, one village manager and 12 trustees. In addition to the union negotiations, Sheets reportedly disagreed with the board’s decision to rescind its SAFER Grant application, which pays for the village to hire firefighters during a two year period.
Sheets submitted his resignation after nine years as the Chief. Sheets was perceived as Deetjen’s guy within the fire department and never gained admiration from the firefighters and paramedics he supervised.
Ironically, the Oak Lawn Professional Fire Fighters Local 3405 sat out the last election and various trade unions supported Mayor Sandra Bury and her allies in the municipal election despite their anti-union track record.
Sheets told several individuals that he believes that the members of the department need to be treated with respect during negotiations and that the hard line demands of Deetjen and the board are unreasonable.