Larry Deetjen, the Deerfield Beach city manager during the turbulent reign of Mayor Al Capellini, got into a fight early on the morning of May 12 in Oak Lawn, Illinois, the suburban Chicago city where Deetjen holds the same title.
It all started innocuously enough. Deetjen was watching a hockey game while tipping back pints with a couple of firefighters and village trustees, Alex Olejniczak, Bob Streit and Tom Phelan. I will let the local paper, the Southtown Star, try to reconstruct the events of that night and early morning at the Deja Brew (Get it?) Bar and Grill:
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
But the jubilation from the (Chicago Blackhawks) victory quickly soured when one of the "highly intoxicated" men began uttering profanities and making disparaging remarks against Oak Lawn's fire chief, the village officials said.
(Firefighters) Kovac and Weidner left the bar for a short spell, but returned a short time later.
The officials said that's when they got up to leave but were rudely interrupted by the firefighters, one of whom had some choice words for, then lunged at, Phelan.
"For lack of a better term, he tried to accost us," Phelan said. "But no punches were thrown ... really nothing happened."
Weidner is telling a different story, though. While he did not return a phone call Wednesday, he did speak with Mayor Dave Heilmann about the fracas.
Here's what he told Heilmann:
Phelan was needling him throughout the night and things escalated when the village officials were leaving.
Phelan shook both of the firefighters' hands on his way out but made one last prying remark to Weidner, who responded with a vulgarity.
That's when a cigar-chomping Streit pinned Weidner against a bar, the cigar within inches of the firefighter's face.
Phelan then gave Weidner the finger and asked if he "wanted to go outside."
About the same time, another village official, either Deetjen or Olejniczak, put a bystander in a headlock, Weidner told Heilmann.
I should point out that this drunken belligerence all took place immediately after a meeting of the village board, meaning that headlockin' Larry Deetjen has managed to find a town whose politics are even more rowdy than Deerfield Beach's. I didn't think it was possible!
One question: Is it really appropriate for the village manager to be socializing with three village trustees -- at the same time, no less? I'm less worried about the fisticuffs than the possibility that they were doing city business between intermissions of the hockey game.