Confidentiality Agreement Hides Truth about Mayor Heilmann’s Friends From Voters
With confidentiality agreement in place, Oak Lawn voters will never know the truth behind the village's settlement with former village attorneys despite promises of the "public's right to know."
It looks like the village’s wishes to settle its legal battles with Tressler LLP (formerly known as Tressler Soderstrom Maloney & Priess LLP) conveniently includes verbiage that forever hides from voters the facts concerning the alleged overbilling of the village by the mayor's friends at Tressler, LLP.
With a sweep of a pen behind closed doors, voters will never know if Oak Lawn Mayor Dave Heilmann--as alleged in an investigative report--put the financial gain and interests of his friends at Tressler LLP over the interests of the village and voters. This is outrageous.
Clearly the legal bills were mounting and one can argue that settlements such as this save taxpayer money. There’s nothing wrong with that.
The issue here is that details of the negotiations are hidden from the voter under a confidentiality clause under the guise of preventing the “dissemination of false or misleading information,” as quoted in the agreement. Huh? It seems to me that the best way to prevent the dissemination of false or misleading information is to tell the truth, tell it in writing, and make it part of the public record. Any 6-year-old would know that. Why was it so difficult for Mayor Heilmann?
If the voters should ask Mayor Heilmann for an explanation, conveniently under the agreement he is only required to say that “the parties have resolved the issues between them,” and nothing more. The facts are forever swept under the rug in a nice and tidy fashion. There is nothing more he can do. It is a legally binding agreement, after all. The taxpayers may have been made into suckers, Mr. Mayor, but the voters hopefully will remember this complete disregard of their right to know the truth for a long time.
The Illinois Freedom of Information Act states that “it is declared to be the public policy of the State of Illinois that all persons are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts and policies of those who represent them as public officials ... Such access is necessary to enable the people to fulfill their duties of discussing public issues fully and freely, making informed political judgements and monitoring government to ensure that it is being conducted in the public interest.”
Taxpayers and voters are entitled to transparency and accountability of their elected officials by law. This agreement states that they are exempt from this law. These kind of legal maneuverings are designed to confuse and obscure the facts from voters. This is wrong.
The big question is whose rights are more important in this issue? The rights of tens of thousands of voters to know and understand the actions of their elected officials, or the rights of attorneys hired to represent the village?
The voters have a right to know the contents of this “confidential and privileged report,” and I call for its immediate public release. People have a right to know if their elected officials conduct village business in an ethical fashion and in the best interest of the voters they are entrusted to represent. This right to know should be considered sacred and not subordinate to back room attorney wrangling.
With this “confidential and privileged agreement,” it seems the mayor yet again put the interests of his friends and colleagues above the interests of the taxpayers and voters. It’s simply outrageous.