Like a family turning once again to noodles and beans for dinner because of a balky and unbudgeted transmission, the Village of Oak Park has just fired a veteran deputy police chief because of a balky and unbudgeted lawsuit.
We admit to being slightly dubious that Deputy Chief Carl Leidy’s distinguished career – 30 years in Chicago, five in Oak Park – is kaput solely because of Oak Park and River Forest High School’s increasingly costly lawsuit against the village and the elementary schools. But that, along with cleanup costs from the gargantuan recent rainstorms, are the two unbudgeted costs the village cited last week in giving Leidy a pink slip instead of a gold watch.
There are a few editorial points to make in this story.
Certainly the village is playing some political PR in putting Leidy’s head on the end of the lawsuit stick. We have a story this week reporting that the village was a million bucks over budget last year in unexpected workman’s comp and lawsuit-settlement payouts. Maybe that’s why Leidy lost his job.
The village has no cash reserves. We all know this recession is battering but years of inadequate financial management put the village government in the position of entering this downturn already at the brink. The high school is sitting on $80 million. The village hardly has two nickels to rub together. Taxpayer-respectful planning would have the high school with significantly less of our money in the vault, and better financial acumen would have prepared the village for this austere moment.
Given the reality it inherited, we admire the current village administration’s determination to hold the line on its small share of property taxes and to repeatedly cut its expenses as revenues declined or unexpected costs were incurred. Did we mention a certain lawsuit? As we report today, the village was into the lawyers for $80,000 by the end of May. OPRF has already spent more than $6,000. This is stupid. Sit down and settle it.
Meanwhile, let’s pray for a snowless winter. Or the village will be pawning our fire trucks.