The Village of Tinley Park and Trace Ambulance came to an agreement July 5, settling the 2015 lawsuit over improper billing.
The Village Board voted 4-1 to pay $147,500 to satisfy all claims. Trustee Brian Maher cast the lone dissenting vote, while trustee Jacob Vandenberg refrained from voting due to a tie to the contractor.
“It puts the lawsuit behind us,” Village Manager David Niemeyer said. “We’re not having to put the Village through the unpredictability of the litigation process.”
In August 2014, Tinley officials first learned of improperly billing and stopped making payments.
Eight months later, Trace filed a lawsuit alleging the Village failed to adhere to a contractual obligation. In it, the contractor sought $492,000 for extra ambulances.
Village records show a previous contract extension with Trace for July 2014 required Tinley to pay $80,569.90.
To date, officials have paid $46,466 in legal fees toward the Trace lawsuit.
Currently, Tinley Park is contracting with Kurtz for ambulance services.
Niemeyer said Tinley Park wouldn’t rule out working with Trace Ambulance in the future.
“Obviously, we could rebid and we’ll have to see,” he said.
Village amends open meetings policy for public comment
Those wising to address the board at an upcoming meeting or any open meeting will find a new comment policy in place.
New policy, approved July 5, stipulates that comments are restricted to four minutes, and each person is only allowed to speak once. In total, the public comments section will generally last 45 minutes.
“We’re following the attorney general’s recommendation,” Village Manger David Niemeyer said. “It gives everybody the opportunity to comment within a reasonable amount of time.”
In November 2015, the Village also began discussing the idea of recording video during open meetings.
“We did some research on other communities,” Neimeyer said. “It provides transparency. It’s a way of giving residents a way to know what’s going on at the Village Board level.”
Around that time, there was a complaint made to the Village that somebody wasn’t allowed to speak. Niemeyer said they were also interested in implementing a policy for the public comments section.
In May, the attorney general advised officials to implement a section in the Village’s policies for open meetings to address public comments.
Ultimately, the board moved to adopt the new policy.
A number of people in attendance for the meeting raised concerns regarding the proposed policy for the public comment section. Bill Byrns, of Tinley Park, said the timing of the matter serves as a reason to be concerned.
“The problem is until a few months ago, there would what be eight or ten people here in the room,” he said. “Maybe? I know you want to be efficient. You want to get things done around here. I want to see the village get things done around here.”
Byrns said the problem is there’s a level of distrust with the city’s governing that’s been brewing the last couple months.
“It’s a matter of the timing,” he said. “I’m not sure I disagree with needing to have maybe a little more decorum. The timing right now… you’ve got to win back the hearts and minds of the people of the village and I’m not sure that that’s the right way to go about it.”
Niemeyer said the measure is hoped to maintain public trust and accountability.
He said if there’s a concern that cannot be addressed during a meeting, people are encouraged talk to village staff individually at another time.
“We’re still interested in hearing their concerns,” Niemeyer said. “There’s certainly other opportunities to be heard, other than during a meeting.”