OL trustee says fire department lodged 46 complaints against 911 dispatchers

  • Written by Bob Rakow

The firestorm over 911 dispatchers continues to rage.


Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury’s administration “has clearly demonstrated their contempt for the safety of our residents” by refusing to address complaints about the 911 emergency dispatch center,” Trustee Robert Streit said Tuesday.


“The safety and well-being of our residents should always be the primary concern of our village government,” Streit said at Tuesday’s village board meeting.


Streit provided a report that briefly summarized 46 complaints lodged against the 911 dispatchers by the members of the fire department.


He also chastised Bury and Village Manager Larry Deetjen for refusing to provide records of the complaints until last week then Illinois Attorney General’s office opened an inquiry at his request.


“Months ago, I requested that the village turn over documentation detailing problems with the dispatch service,” Streit said.


The village “denied, deflected and generally ignored official requests for information,” he added.


Streit opposed the village’s decision to outsource its emergency dispatch operations, a move trustees approved nearly one year ago.


Since that time, Streit repeatedly has alleged that Norcomm Public Safety Communications, the company that took over dispatching operations, has performed poorly.


Bury responded to Streit’s allegation, saying the village did not have the records he was seeking when he submitted his Freedom of Information Act request.


Carmie O’Leary, one of the village’s nine FOIA officers, forwarded Streit’s request to her counterpart at the fire department, Bury said.


The fire department responded saying it did not have the information Streit was seeking, the mayor said.


“In this case, however, the FOIA officer said ‘we do not have information concerning the FOIA request,’” Bury said. “When the error was discovered, the documents were released. When someone says we don’t have information, we tend to believe them, sir.”


“No one is hiding anything,” Bury said after the meeting.


She added that some firefighters may have filed the complaints because they opposed the village decision to outsource the emergency dispatch center.


“Clearly, there are some bitter feelings,” she said.


Streit also called for three ordinances to be considered at the Nov. 10 village board meeting.


The first ordinance would direct the village manager to post on the village website all Freedom of Information requests within five business days. The second proposed ordinance would call on the manager to post on the website all responses to Freedom of Information requests within five days of sending the response. Streit’s third ordinance would require the manager to include in trustees’ meeting packets responses to all Freedom of Information requests.


“Government records are the people’s records,” Streit said.


Village Attorney Pat Connelly explained the village's position.


“We treat every FOIA the same way regardless of the requestor,'' he said. “The mayor is not involved in the FOIA process.”