With the release of the Godfrey & Kahn report, a new view of the Village’s inner workings became available to taxpayers with a hunger for knowledge as to how their tax dollars have been spent.
This expansive document is not light reading, but nothing worth doing is ever easy. Everyone I ask is uniformly happy that the report is released, but nearly 100-percent are confused over the circumstances leading up to it, what it says, and what it means for the residents of Oak Lawn.
This confusion certainly isn’t helped by Mayor Heilmann’s recent comments to Patch which imply that a subpoena concerning of the hiring of Querrey & Harrow (to replace Mayor Heilmann’s friends at Tressler and community theater friend Chimenti) falls within the scope of the work they were contracted to perform.
Heilmann included these documents in his press release despite written instructions by the Assistant United State Attorney asking “that you not disclose, directly or indirectly, the fact that you have received this subpoena or your response to it.”
To be clear, Godfrey and Kahn was retained by the Village of Oak Lawn with one specific purpose: The “analysis of the basis for and amount of potential claims for damages the Village may have arising from its relationships with certain third parties.”
The Village Manager’s office released a public information release in May of 2011 that stated that the former legal team was terminated because of “concerns regarding billing practices and mounting complaints of performance deficiencies received from department heads and Village Trustees.”
Furthermore, based upon the “authority and duties vested in the Village Manager’s office under Illinois Law and the the village of Oak Lawn charter, the Village Manager has engaged the law firm of Godfrey and Kahn, S.C....This action explicitly demonstrates the Village will exercise to the fullest extent any and all remedies available to recover monies rightful due and address any possible official misconduct.”
Mayor Heilmann’s actions are featured prominently throughout the Godfrey & Kahn report. He attended the executive session meetings where these items were discussed. He is intimately involved with every detail in the report. Despite 1000+ pages that allege shocking concerns about the legal work rendered the Village by his attorney friends, he’s criticizing Godfrey and Kahn for something he knows is beyond the scope of what they were hired to do.
Could Mayor Heilmann be trying to divert attention away from a document that states: “From 2005 through 2009, the largest single donor to the Unity Party was Tressler. In conversations with individual trustees around the time that Tressler was fired, you referred to Tressler as 'my friends.'”
These are the very friends that he negotiated an unbelievable $21,000 monthly retainer for, despite the previous attorney’s retainer of less than $4,000 per month. These are the very friends who have refused to turn over hundreds of documents related to the investigation, even though those items are paid for with taxpayer dollars - a clear violation of legal ethics and standard practices.
Despite alleged damages totaling several million taxpayer dollars as a result of Mayor Heilmann’s legal strategy and friends, he has nothing to say to the residents who have seen their public trust in him betrayed except more finger pointing and convoluted accusations.
Ironically, in his press release he warns that “ ...we have a duty of loyalty to those who elected us. A public official can be held to have violated that duty and convicted of a felony if he knowingly creates a false appearance that he is acting in the public interest, when, in fact he is affected by a concealed desire to protect or enhance his private interest or the private interests of those he benefits.”
Mayor Heilmann does have a duty of loyalty indeed. As outlined in the Godfrey & Kahn report and the Odelson report, that duty of loyalty appears to have not been to the taxpayers, but to the friends who helped get him in office and keep him there. That is the take home message of the Godfrey & Kahn report, plain and simple. It’s the message Mayor Heilmann does not want you to notice.