The divisive debate over Oak Lawn’s emergency dispatch center continued Tuesday night during a contentious village board meeting that included a five-minute recess to subdue tensions between trustees.
Mayor Sandra Bury called for the break after telling Trustee Carol Quinlan that she was out of order for speaking without first being recognized by the mayor.
Quinlan became upset when Trustee Tim Desmond criticized former Mayor Dave Heilmann for his involvement with an anonymous political blog that routinely criticizes the Bury administration.
Desmond told trustees that he received a brochure on election day that was critical of the village’s 911dispatch center. The woman distributing the brochures told Desmond that they were prepared by the blog.
Desmond criticized the blog for anonymously publishing the information, much of which he said was inaccurate. He also ripped Heilmann and Trustee Robert Streit, who are widely believed to be behind the blog. Desmond said after the meeting that he did not raise the issue with the intent to raise the ire of other trustees.
“I just wanted to bring it up to clarify,” Desmond said.
Quinlan, an ally of Heilmann’s, said Bury should have stopped Desmond’s personal attack against the former mayor.
“Talk about political crap. This is so unfair,” Quinlan told Bury. “My God you’re a piece of work.”
Bury praised Desmond for his remarks, which she described as statements of fact not personal attacks.
“It needed to said,” Bury said.
Earlier in the meeting, Streit recognized former Trustee Tom Phelan, who was in the audience, and said he likely was instrumental in the decision to outsource the dispatchers.
“I won’t have you attack a resident,” Bury told Streit.
Phelan helped run Bury’s campaign and authored the notorious hit list, which includedthe names of those serving on various village commissions and committees and who they supported in the mayoral race.
Quinlan, who is not running for re-election in April, has traded barbs with Bury during previous meetings. She has formed the board’s minority faction along with Streit.
The emergency dispatch center issue got kick started Tuesday when Trustee Terry Vorderer criticized Streit for ripping the dispatchers rather than working with fellow board members to improve the dispatch center.
He added that Streit exaggerated the severity of complaints lodged by Oak Lawn firefighters against the dispatchers.
“Humans make mistake. Even with the highest level of training emergency responders can make mistakes,” said Vorderer, a former Oak Lawn police officer. “Mistakes occurred 30 years ago, mistakes occur today and I’m assuming mistakes occur in the future. Now, we can turn them into political issues. That’s what’s being done here. Ongoing public safety in this town is just fine.”
Streit said he believes that the decision one year ago to outsource the dispatch center staff was “probably the worst decision I’ve seen here at the village.”
“To say that (the complaints) were investigated and that there is no problem is a serious understatement,” Streit said. “We can pretend, I guess, that there aren’t serious problems.”
Trustee Mike Carberry said he’s not heard one complaint about the dispatchers.
“If it’s real, Bob, and you really want to dig into it, why don’t you say, ‘Mike, why don’t you take a look at some of the documents.’ ” he said.