Former Lakewood Village President Paul Serwatka said the RedTail Golf Club manager was fired for dubious reasons.
Serwatka, who resigned during the summer, said some trustees focused too much on Terry Remke’s criminal past and tried to assassinate his character. He said they never gave Remke a chance to succeed.
“It was potentially putting the village at risk of lawsuits from some of the comments that were being made,” Serwatka said. “I know that [Trustees] Jason McMahon, Patrick Rexroat and Amy Fues Odom, the three of them were gunning for Terry Remke since his hire.”
Remke was hired when Serwatka was president. Serwatka resigned during the summer and moved to Alabama.
Serwatka said he believes some trustees ousted Remke because they thought he was close friends with Serwatka.
“I couldn’t help but feel suspicious that less than a week after my resignation, or two days after my resignation, all of a sudden they’re letting him go,” Serwatka said. “I hate just thinking that they’re gunning for him because they think he’s my friend, and he’s truly not.”
He called Remke “the most qualified candidate” for the job despite his past.
McMahon took issue with Serwatka’s accusations.
“As a board, our main concern is the continuing viability of RedTail and to prevent it from becoming a liability to Lakewood taxpayers,” he said in a statement. “Any suggestion by former President Paul Serwatka to the contrary is uninformed and an attempt to continue his divisive campaign.”
Remke, a former Lisle golf professional, was charged in 2008 with stealing more than $10,000 from the Lisle Park District. He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of Class B misdemeanor theft for unauthorized control of property not exceeding $300, and was placed on two years of probation, according to DuPage County court documents.
Remke worked at the golf course owned by the Lisle Park District for
14 years and resigned as superintendent of the club in May 2007.
Remke declined to comment Wednesday.
Rexroat, Fues Odom and interim Village President J. Carl Davis could not be reached for comment by phone or email Wednesday.
Remke wants more money
Remke is demanding the village offer him more money.
Lakewood trustees unanimously voted to fire Remke in August. He held the position at the village-owned club, 7900 Redtail Drive, for about six months.
Remke’s attorney, Mike Leonard, said the village offered Remke a “token severance” of $10,000, which he declined.
Leonard said he sent a demand letter to the village regarding Remke’s ouster. Leonard contends that the village violated its employment agreement with Remke and terminated him in a “discriminatory manner.”
Chief administrative officer Jeannine Smith said Wednesday that she could not reveal the demand letter to the Northwest Herald.
“It’s litigation. I can’t comment on that. ... This is executive session stuff. It’s attorney correspondence. It’s not for public discussion. ... We gave them an offer, and they didn’t accept it, so the ball’s in their court,” Smith said.
The Northwest Herald submitted a Freedom of Information Act request Wednesday night to view those documents.
Before he was terminated, Remke faced a series of complaints from Smith, according to records obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request for any village documents regarding disciplinary action against Remke.
The partially redacted records shed light on what Smith, who was Remke’s supervisor, called “unsatisfactory performance” by the golf club manager. Remke’s attorney disputes her claims.
Remke was hired by Smith in the spring.
In July, Smith sent Remke a memo outlining several instances of “unsatisfactory performance of assigned work” that created or contributed to “an unsafe condition on village premises.”
Among the problems in the memo are poor communication with Smith, delayed repairs, food service preparation, inaccurate rates on the club website and poor customer service.
Trustee Phil Stevens said he voted to remove Remke “more in support of Jeannine’s action than us wanting to get rid of anyone.”
Stevens said there “obviously” were many complaints, but he isn’t familiar with the specifics. He said he knows nothing about the demand letter.
Jean Heckman, the village treasurer, is serving as interim manager of the village-owned club.
Smith, who has maintained that village employees are not allowed to talk to the media, said the club is improving.
“People are happy to be there, and people are happy to golf there,” Smith said. “It’s a very warm and inviting environment.”