Residents of Oak Forest who've received a parking ticket, red light violation, and other local ordinance violations might have met John Weimer, Oak Forest's Administrative Hearings Officer. Weimer, who is currently on medical leave, has been the at the center of a number of complaints from residents for allegedly being short-tempered, cursing during hearings and even yelling at residents.
However, Oak Forest Police Chief Greg Anderson said that complaints against a public hearings officer are nothing new. Anderson said that an administrative hearing is a 'quasi-judicial proceeding,' and that it works much like a regular courtroom, which some people aren't aware of.
He added that when Weimer, or any other administrative hearing officer, needs to take a stand, they do.
“They tend to run those things like a courtroom, because it is a quasi-judicial setting,” Anderson said. “Sometimes the hearing officers—and I'm aware of this elsewhere—sometimes the hearing officers have to put their foot down, sometimes, because sometimes people go too far.”
Anderson said that Weimer's leave has nothing to do with his demeanor during hearings and is strictly based on a medical leave. Ald. Chuck Toland said the number of complaints against Weimer, prior to the leave, were higher than previous hearing officers—a concern he voiced previously at a Oak Forest City Council meeting and reiterated to Patch.
“People are going to complain when they get tickets," Toland said. "It was just something that was said during court, there were complaints about the way he treated people."
While Weimer is on medical leave Nicholas Valadez was appointed as the temporary administrative hearings officer at the Sept. 21 city council meeting.
In his own defense, Weimer said he flatly denies ever uttering a curse word during a hearing, although he does admit to raising his voice from time to time.
“I've never, ever, ever cursed at anybody during a hearing,” he said. “I'm not into that.”
Weimer said that his record speaks for itself, stating that since he began his career as a hearings officer in 1998, 'you could count on one hand, maybe two, the number of appeals I've had.' He added that before every hearing he explains the nature of the hearing, what he expects from residents who are there and how the hearings will proceed.
“One of the first things I say is that respected and courtesy is a two way street, and people will get what they give me,” he said. “This is a quasi-judicial proceeding. I'm not up there to entertain people, I'm there to do my job.”
He also said that because of his job and the rulings he makes, some people are going to complain no matter what.
“I find people guilty, and I fine people money,” he said. “Often, they're not happy with that. … Some people will always be unhappy with that.”
Weimer added that he was unsure of when he would return to work, although he was seeing several doctors about a possible return in the coming days. Anderson said that he expects Weimer to return shortly, although he wasn't sure when exactly.
“It could be much shorter than longer, I don't know until I get clearance for him to come back,” Anderson said. “I can't speculate on when the time that will be, but I do expect it to be of a very short duration.”
Weimer replaced former hearings officer David Baitman, who died of apparent suicide in Aug. 2012, before facing charges of the kidnap and sexual assault of a woman from June 2012.