In a turn of events that surprised some regulars in the board chamber last Tuesday, Oak Lawn Trustee Cindy Trautsch (Dist. 1) voted no to an ordinance that would have amended the how village board meetings are conducted.
The measure was introduced by Mayor Dave Heilmann over the summer to cut down on the “unnecessary fighting” during village board meetings.
Last month, the village board voted 4-3—the mayor flexing his newfound board majority—to approve the "language" in the proposed revisions to Title I, Section 6-5, Rules and Order of the village code.
The Oak Lawn Village Board's rules of decorum are based on Robert’s Rules of Order, long considered the gold standard for running meetings effectively and fairly.
Trustees Alex Olejniczak (Dist. 2), Tom Duhig (Dist. 4) and Tom Phelan (Dist. 6) were the loud dissenters.
Among the changes the mayor wanted to introduce was a rule that gave the village board president sole authority to remove an item from the agenda deemed “obstructionist,” or a perceived attempt by other board members to use parliamentary procedure to push a political agenda.
Trautsch, who went along with the board majority at the August 16 village board meeting, astonished many by voting no on the ordinance. It was defeated 4-2.
“We don’t need any more rules,” she said. “We’ve got ‘Roberts Rules of Order’ already. We should work with what we got. If we can’t behave ourselves we shouldn’t be in office.”
Trautsch said the mayor “has all the Robert’s Rules he needs to gavel in and out whoever he wants.”
Appointed to fill former Trustee Jerry Hurckes’ seat last year when he resigned to go back to his old job as Congressman Dan Lipinski’s chief of staff, Trautsch has maintained a mostly quiet demeanor on the Tuesday night dais.
Asked why she changed her mind, she said: “I thought about the last meeting, going back and forth with [Tom Phelan] on the length of three minutes and five minutes comments. I thought we were all in agreement about the length of time to comment. We weren’t.”
Mentioning that she was putting pajamas on a young grandchild when contacted by phone Sunday night, Trautsch said that nobody called or conferred with her to change her vote prior to last week’s village board meeting.”
“I don’t talk [to the other village board members] ahead of meetings,” she said. “I have too many other things to do.”
Trautsch neither confirmed nor denied that the mayor was upset with her after the meeting.
“Things happen,” she said. “I vote the way I think. You can’t make everybody happy all of the time. You got to do what you think is right.”
Like many in the board chamber last week who were wondering, “What the hell just happened here,” Heilmann said he wasn’t sure either. He thought village board approved the amendment when they voted on its language last month.
“Even though it wasn’t approved as an ordinance, the prior vote (August 16) on the language puts it into effect,” Heilmann said. “The lawyers are figuring out what it means. I’m not going to weigh in a legal opinion.”
The mayor said he hadn’t had a chance to talk to Trautsch since last week’s meeting.
“I didn’t know if she had a change of heart or if there was something she wanted to change,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll talk about it.”
Asked if he was mad at Trautsch after the board adjourned its executive session last week, Heilmann said: “I wasn’t mad. Not about Robert’s Rules.’”
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