Minor accident involving OL village manager raises questions from trustee
It’s rare that a one-car accident that did not involve injuries, alcohol or other suspicious circumstances would generate much attention, but such is not the case when the driver is the Oak Lawn village manager.
Larry Deetjen was involved in a minor accident last Thursday near Southwest Highway and Route 83 in Palos Park in which he drove a village-owned Crown Victoria into a ditch after attempting to make a U-turn, according to police reports. The accident occurred at about 9:15 p.m. The only damage suffered was to the undercarriage of the car.
Two days later, Oak Lawn Trustee Robert Streit arrived at the Palos Park police station and requested copies of reports pertaining to the accident involving a village of Oak Lawn official. Streit said that since Deetjen was driving a village-owned vehicle, he should have been given blood alcohol tests.
Streit was told the report was not accessible that night. He was given Freedom of Information Act forms and told he would need to contact the police department on Monday.
Streit told police he became aware of an accident “involving a person in a management position with the village of Oak Lawn through dispatchers who had contacted him,” according to reports.
The veteran trustee said he was told that Deetjen was picked up at the scene by Oak Lawn Police Chief Mike Murray. Both Deetjan and Murray deny the chief was on the scene.
Streit said he received several calls from Oak Lawn emergency dispatchers who asked about the details of the accident and were seeking “justice.” He said “sometimes incidents like these can easily disappear” and wanted to make sure that did not happen, police said.
“I didn’t believe the things I was hearing,” Streit said Tuesday. “They all seemed incredulous. I really have a duty to be aware of what’s taking place.”
Streit criticized Deetjen for failing to inform the village trustees of the accident. He said he was not notified nor was Trustee Carol Quinlan. Other trustees may have been told, he said.
Streit has opposed Deetjen on several controversial issues over the past few months. He also has participated in imbroglios with Mayor Sandra Bury. Streit was an ally of former Mayor Dave Heilmann, who was defeated by Bury in April.
For example, the village board on Nov. 26 voted 4-2 to privatize Oak Lawn’s 911 dispatch services, a move that could save the village $1 million over two years, said Deetjen, who recommended the move.
Streit, who voted against the decision, was a vocal critic of the outsourcing plan as well as other recommendations made by Deetjen and Bury, such as cuts to balance the 2014 budget and transferring control of the senior center to the park district.
Ron Cicinelli, an attorney for the Metropolitan Alliance of Police, the union the represents the dispatchers, was unaware that dispatchers contacted Streit.
Deetjen’s minor accident also caught the attention of a blog that has been highly critical of the village manager for many years.
One day after Streit visited the Palos Park police station, the Florida-based blog implied that Deetjen’s accident may have been DUI related. The blog has frequently ripped Deetjen since he was the village manager in Deerfield Beach, Fla.
Deetjen was not arrested nor did he receive a citation, according to Palos Park Police Chief Joe Miller.
Deetjen would not comment on the motivations behind Streit’s actions or the blog post.
Deetjen told police he was looking at land related to a property matter in Oak Lawn and missed the driveway on Southwest Highway. He said he was not familiar with area at night. When he made the U-turn, the car went into a ditch in the 11900 block of Southwest Highway, according to reports.
Deetjen said he walked to the nearby CVS Pharmacy with his wife, a passenger in the car, and contacted Oak Lawn Public Works, who picked up the car. He also called for a ride home from CVS, according to reports.
Streit wondered why Deetjen did not stay with the car and call police.
“What did Larry do? Larry left the scene,” said Streit, who believes Deetjen should be cited for leaving the scene of an accident.
A witness saw the car in the ditch as he was driving on Southwest Highway. He saw Deetjen and a woman exit the car, stopped and asked if they were all right, police said. Deetjen confirmed that he and his wife were all right and that we would call a tow truck. Deetjen did not speak to Palos Park police until 11:06 p.m., reports said.