By Dermot Connolly
Oak Lawn Village Manager Larry Deetjen retired, effective immediately on Monday, after being charged Friday in connection with an Oct. 10 hit-and-run incident that critically injured a pedestrian at 101st Street and Harlem Avenue in Chicago Ridge.
Deetjen, 70, has been village manager since 2007. He was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation in Chicago Ridge. The Oak Lawn Village Board had planned to hold a special meeting on Tuesday night to discuss his fate. But the meeting was called off after he submitted a letter stating his intention to retire, effective at the end of the business day on Monday.
Last Friday, he turned himself in to Chicago Ridge police and was released on bond after being charged with misdemeanor counts of leaving the scene of an accident, failure to give information or render aid resulting in injury and failure to give information after striking a person. He also was ticketed for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and failure to exercise due caution, according to police.
It has been reported that Chicago Ridge Police Chief Rob Pyznarski had asked the Cook County state’s attorney office to charge him with felonies, but was denied.
In his letter, Deetjen did not give a reason for his retirement or mention the traffic incident in which a 48-year-old man from Worth was struck as he crossed the street about 8 p.m. The man suffered a skull fracture, brain swelling and other injuries. He remained in critical condition at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn this week.
Deetjen said he has “pledged to our governing body in the weeks ahead to provide full profession assistance in a smooth and effective transition.” Police Chief Randy Palmer was appointed to serve as interim village manager when he was placed on leave.
Deetjen had just left a wake at Schmaedeke Funeral Home for a relative of an Oak Lawn employee and was driving an Oak Lawn village-owned vehicle when the incident occurred. He continued driving, going to a gym in Countryside before picking up his daughter at O’Hare Airport.
Deetjen’s wife, Lynn, died in August, and his family gathered that weekend for a memorial ceremony.
Police tracked him down at his home in Oak Lawn later that night, after witnesses identified his vehicle as one owned by the village. A breath test did not detect any alcohol in his system, and he submitted a urine sample as well.
Deetjen told police that he continued driving because he thought he hit a construction barrel or barricade in the street. A headlight was damaged on the vehicle.
Attempts to get comments from village officials about his resignation were unsuccessful Tuesday night.
Deetjen said in his letter that he “would like to warmly and passionately thank” all Oak Lawn residents, village employees as well as the members of the volunteers on board and commissions, school board, Park District officials, leaders of neighboring communities and others that he has worked with during his tenure.
He called it a “unique and distinct honor to represent Oak Lawn and be a small part of the whirlwind of positive milestones we have achieved by all working together during my 12 years plus tenure. Many more positive opportunities are either in the construction, planning, or vision stages.”