Posts Tagged Village Manager Larry Deetjen

Oak Lawn politics in the news (more)

Excerpts from the

What went wrong in less than one year’s time that had the Village of Oak Lawn going from pounding its chest and claiming it was going to terminate an employee to protect the safety of the public and then signing an agreement admitting its own wrongdoing?

The answer is found in a quietly signed side agreement between village officials and the Oak Lawn Professional Firefighters Association Local 3405 IAFF.  The six page document settles a dispute between the firefighters union and the village for allegedly illegal actions taken by village officials.

A very public employee discipline case came full circle with the village issuing a press release alleging phone sex, theft of union funds and sexual harassment and then inexplicably a year later writing a check for $100,000 to the very same employee with the agreement that he would retire.

According to sources familiar with the litigation between the Village of Oak Lawn and the firefighter and the union, the Village of Oak Lawn turned a minor discipline case into a full fledged witch hunt using questionable and perhaps illegal means to secure information.

The result after a year, according to the same sources, was that the Village of Oak Lawn was unable to fire the firefighter/paramedic in question based on the evidence, without facing legal repercussions for administration officials.

The union’s legal representatives seized upon the village administration’s improper overreaching and insisted on a side agreement in which the union was not required to bargain away anything other than the resignation of one firefighter who received a payout of $100,000, while maintaining his pension benefits, and a strong letter of reference.

According to sources familiar with the village’s misconduct, village administration officials attempted to videotape an employee discipline interview with firefighter/paramedic Robert Lanz even though villages are not authorized under state law to do so. The village has agreed that it will not videotape any fire department employees in the future.

Just as damning, according to our sources, the village attempted to conduct a criminal investigation of the union using the Oak Lawn Police Department and the Cook County State’s Attorney to investigate charges of the theft of union funds even after union officials did not ask for such an investigation. The village agreed that it will not interfere in the internal administration of the union in the future.

The same village officials ordered firefighter/paramedic Robert Lanz to produce his private cell phone and other personal records through subpoena power that the village does not have by state law.  The side agreement provides that the village cannot take such action in the future and the village now admits in the agreement that it does not have such power.

In the Lanz case, the firefighter/paramedic produced personal records after being threatened with termination if he failed to cooperate.  The village is now agreeing in the side agreement that it can no longer threaten fire department employees with discipline for failing to comply with such threats.  The agreement also makes the union representatives part of any disciplinary process and adds an arbitrator to decide issues that can’t be agreed upon.

Lanz had been accused of using his cell phone to call sex phone lines and the village issued a press release to that effect about a year ago.  A local blogger printed the release along with photos of someone who allegedly was called.  Lanz denied the charges.  According to our sources, the village did not have any legal right to even search the cell phone records.  Firefighters and paramedics are at the fire station for 24 hours straight with 48 hours off thereafter.  The union had contended that there was no prohibition against using one’s cell phone while at the station.

Now, the village has admitted in the document that it shall not violate anyone’s constitutional rights to privacy and that fire department staff are not currently prohibited from using cell phones while at the station.

The side agreement is a stunning admission by the village that Mayor Sandra Bury’s administration overstepped its authority and violated various fair labor laws. In addition to Lanz filing multiple actions against the village, the union had maintained a separate action which resulted in the side agreement.

The village and firefighters union has had a contentious relationship with Mayor Sandra Bury and Village Manager Larry Deetjen, who have supported reducing the number of employees on a shift.  In typical collective bargaining agreements each side must give something in return as part of a bargain.

Mayor Sandra Bury told the Daily Southtown that the terms of the agreement with Lanz left her somewhat hamstrung to articulate the village’s case against Lanz and its decision to settle with him but she implored taxpayers to trust that the board had acted in their best interest.

She is quoted in the Daily Southtown speaking about the Lanz settlement and failing to mention the side agreement:

Not everything is as it seems,” she said. “(Taxpayers) have to be confident that we acted in their best interest on this financially. There’s no benefit to the other path for the taxpayers. What’s important is closure and moving on for all parties.

However, our source said, “they (Deetjen and Bury) screwed up so badly, that they had to sign away everything and promise not to do it again.”  The same source said that the Bury and Deetjen team did not want this information made public.  The Oak Lawn Leaf received the agreement through a Freedom of Information request.

thanks Dan

The full side agreement can be downloaded -> Oak Lawn side agreement


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Oak Lawn politics in the news (more)

Excerpts from the

An Oak Lawn firefighter who was dismissed in February after being accused of on-duty misconduct has reached a six-figure settlement agreement with the village over his termination.

Robert Lanz, a 15-year veteran of the Oak Lawn Fire Department, will receive a combined $100,000 — $42,040 for his accrued paid time-off benefits and an additional sum of $57,960 — and have all records of being disciplined over the allegations rescinded and removed from his personnel file, according to the terms of the agreement.

He will be considered to have resigned Feb. 16, rather than terminated, and will be entitled to collect his accrued paid time-off benefits, which had been specifically designated for him, as a result, village officials said.

While village officials continue to contend that Lanz engaged in on-duty misconduct, they said they opted for a pragmatic resolution of the issue to avoid further expensive and time-consuming litigation.

Officials said they felt confident in the village’s ability to prove its case but that if an arbitrator were to reinstate Lanz under the “just cause” standard, which protects against arbitrary or unfair termination, the financial consequences — like providing back pay and continued health insurance and pension obligations — would have been significant, likely in the high six figures.

Lanz, a onetime International Association of Firefighters Local 3405 union officer, came under scrutiny last year after being accused of misappropriating union funds for personal use, court records show. The Cook County sheriff’s office investigated the allegations but did not pursue criminal charges.

However, when village officials reviewed an audit of the firefighter union’s expenses performed as part of the sheriff’s investigation, they found numerous unsupported (phone) charges were attributed to Lanz, Village Manager Larry Deetjen said in a sworn court statement. Many of the charges Lanz incurred stemmed from two businesses that offer phone sex services and appeared to have happened at times when he was on duty, Deetjen said.

As a result, the village conducted a multiweek investigation into Lanz’s actions and ultimately fired him in early February for violations of multiple departmental rules and regulations.

He denied any wrongdoing and filed a grievance contesting his termination.

“All they have are some records, and they have no other information other than what they’ve interpreted records to mean,” Lanz’s then-attorney Patrick Walsh said last December.

Walsh, who claimed the village’s case was based on speculation, attributed his client’s dismissal to his involvement with the union.

In addition to agreeing not to speak ill of Lanz and his tenure in Oak Lawn, the village also provided him a reference letter that notes his good operational skills as a firefighter-paramedic, as part of the settlement agreement.

Mayor Sandra Bury, who said the terms of the agreement left her somewhat hamstrung to articulate the village’s case against Lanz and its decision to settle with him, implored taxpayers to trust that the board had acted in their best interest.

“Not everything is as it seems,” she said. “(Taxpayers) have to be confident that we acted in their best interest on this financially. There’s no benefit to the other path for the taxpayers. What’s important is closure and moving on for all parties.”

thanks Dan

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Oak Lawn politics in the news (more)

Excerpts from the

Oak Lawn Village Manager Larry Deetjen is being charged with sending a politically charged press release to news outlets announcing the termination of Robert Lanz, a longtime firefighter/paramedic while simultaneously smearing the fire department with allegations of “animal house behavior” and a previously unreported child porn allegation.

Lanz was accused by the village’s administration of calling phone sex lines possibly while on duty and was served with a notice to appear for an interrogation. The press release said that Lanz violated departmental rules by allegedly making those phone calls on his cell phone while at the firehouse.  The press release quotes Fire Chief George Sheets referring to the calls as reckless animal house behavior.

While the press release claims the decision to fire Lanz was made by Sheets, it also quotes Mayor Sandra Bury, who seemed to contradict the statement that the decision was made by Sheets saying “consideration for public safety made this difficult decision a simple one”.  While the village has not alleged that Lanz made any phone calls while on paramedic or fire calls, the public safety issue has been previously raised by the administration to the chagrin of firefighters.

In court documents filed by the Village of Oak Lawn, the village claimed that Lanz, as a firefighter/paramedic, sees and treats the citizens of Oak Lawn when they are at their most vulnerable. While employees and officials we spoke to did not disagree with that statement, it was the following statement that raised the ire of everyone who read it:

Firefighter-paramedics such as the Plaintiff (Lanz) see patients when they are not fully clothed, and the paramedics must have physical contact with patients, often of the opposite sex. Because of this, the village must have supreme confidence that the firefighter will not abuse the patient relationship for his own personal gratification

“To connect an unproven allegation of phone sex to the possibility of a sex crime shows how far this administration will go to attack its firefighters”, said one employee who feared retaliation and asked for confidentiality.

However, that connection has now become even more pronounced in a press release and has been used to smear the entire fire department in what appears to be unsubstantiated allegations that were never acted upon over five years ago despite the village manager’s push to have the matter investigated by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. … who investigated and found no evidence of any criminal activity. Those allegations, according to a press release from Deetjen, involve child porn on computers. Nonetheless, Deetjen included the allegation in the press release that referred to animal house behavior.

Trustee Robert Streit confirmed that he had seen the press release but did not have any input into the decision to fire Lanz or to send out a press release.  “It is highly unusual to send out a press release to announce that you are terminating an employee and it strikes me as a morale killer within our employee ranks,” said Streit. He called the unrelated charges cited in the press release a smear against the whole department.

One former village official, who asked not to be identified, said that the old child porn revelation raised by contractors hired by Deetjen and referenced in the press release were ruled as unfounded charges.  The official said that the leaking of information regarding child porn seems to be Deetjen’s modus operandi … and  … “Deetjen seems to take ridiculous allegations and run to law enforcement agencies in order to scream that there is an investigation but nobody is ever prosecuted leading you to believe it is all a smear”.  He added that firefighters will not be the last victims of such smear campaigns and noted that they aren’t the only individuals to suffer from unsubstantiated innuendo.

In the Lanz investigation, Deetjen admitted that he personally investigated the names of some of the companies on the internet and determined that two of the companies provide phone sex services. He then reviewed Lanz’s records and determined some of the charges may have occurred when he was at the firehouse.

Streit said that Deetjen is an expert at the political smear noting that he too has been on the receiving end of Deetjen’s unfounded attacks.

The termination was not a complete surprise.  Sheets had told Lanz twelve days ago that he intended to seek termination and provided Lanz an opportunity to appear before the mayor’s appointees at the Police and Fire Commission to fight the charges.  Lanz is represented by the firefighters’ union and has decided to file a grievance instead contesting the termination. The grievance will be decided by an arbitrator.

The press release makes it clear that the administration will continue to fight with the firefighters.

Oak Lawn Termination Press Release

thanks Dan


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