Facts missing from case against street sweeper

Opinion

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I am the former wife of "Butch" Diederich, the street sweeper who was terminated from the village in 2002 and I, alone, am the legal owner of the residence where the work was done.

When Village Manager Carl Swenson gave a speech at a recent board meeting, he stated several things that weren't true and omitted some very important facts. First of all, Butch was terminated three years ago, not four. We have not taken this to three boards already. The first trustee we ever spoke to about this was Bob Milstein. Butch also didn't go to the paper with his story. The Journal called Butch and asked for an interview.

The main fact Mr. Swenson omitted was that Butch had a local contractor who was going to do the water service on my house. Butch went to the head of the Water Department and asked him when the village could do its part. The department head took Butch to the crew-chief to find out about scheduling. Butch was told mid-June. Butch said he would let the contractor know. In front of a witness, the department head said to Butch, "You didn't need a plumber, you're an employee; we take care of our own." Butch asked if this was OK and the director said he would take care of everything. The job kept getting pushed off, and wasn't done until Sept. 12, the day after "9/11," but Butch had nothing to do with the scheduling and didn't know two top men from the department were trapped out of town.

The day the water service was installed, Butch asked his supervisor if he could leave early as the Water Department was putting in the new service. During that day, several employees from different departments stopped by the house, and no one ever said a word about this being wrong.

Five months later the police knocked on my door. They asked who put in the water service. Butch told them the Water Department did and he explained how it came about. Butch didn't lie to the police or try to cover anything up because at this time he didn't know what he had done was wrong. During the course of the conversation, the police explained that this was wrong and asked us how much we paid for the job. We told them nothing and offered to let them go through our bank records to prove it.

At this point, one detective said, "You mean this was really nothing more than a favor?" Butch said he never thought of it as a favor since the department head said this was done for employees. The police again explained the department head was wrong, and we shouldn't have listened to him.

As they were leaving, the commander said their recommendation was going to be a $500 restitution fine and a reprimand. After talking to the detectives, Butch understood what he did was wrong and after that night, he admitted it was wrong. And yes, he did say he was sorry, and he truly was.

Butch was terminated for not having a licensed plumber, not having a permit and allowing the use of on-duty village personnel and equipment on a private residence. Being a union member, the union went through the grievance process. During this time, the union asked that Butch be allowed to make complete restitution as he didn't realize this was wrong at the time, but that was denied because the village said he should have known better.

A year later we saw an amended termination letter that the village sent the former crew-chief in the Water Department. In this letter, were several addresses that the crew-chief worked on, including mine, another employee's address and five residents who all had work done. It seems the crew-chief and the department head were running a side business and doing plumbing jobs for local residents, even though they weren't licensed plumbers.

Now, let's look at the other employee Mr. Swenson didn't talk about. This employee made a deal with the department head to do a side-job, to install in a new water service for an agreed upon price. No licensed plumber, no valid permit, on-duty personnel and equipment. Yet this other employee still has his job.

For years, Butch tried to get the union to ask to reopen his case and finally in April asked the village to reopen the case, based on evidence the village knew at the time of Butch's termination, that the union didn't know. The village's response was they would not reopen the case as there was nothing new in the materials the union sent. That was the whole point in the union's original letter; the village knew about the other employee, but the union didn't.

Mr. Swenson has contended that the two water service incidents are "different." While the circumstances may be different, the facts are the same: no licensed plumber, no valid permits, on-duty personnel and equipment. Both Butch and the other employee were blind-sided by the department head.

Mr. Swenson said tax dollars paid for the work on my house, but didn't tax dollars also pay for other employees' and residents' jobs?

Why is it, everyone else was given the benefit of the doubt, but Butch wasn't? None of the other employees are union employees. Maybe that's just a coincidence. Somehow the common link to the residents and the employees that had work done on their homes is the department head. Maybe that's why the Journal's editorial two weeks ago, stated that an investigation needs to be done.

Personally, Butch and I would welcome an outside independent investigator. We have nothing to hide. It appears the village does not want this to happen, but there are questions that need to be asked and answered. I have to ask myself "Why, what is the village afraid of"?

Donna Diederich
Oak Park

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