'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Frat Brother'
Attorney from law firm hired to investigate the former village attorneys discloses past connection to Trustee Tom Phelan.
An attorney from the new law firm that has been hired to audit the village’s former legal counsel disclosed to the Oak Lawn Village Board that he and Trustee Tom Phelan (Dist. 6) both belonged to the same college fraternity chapter.
Godfrey & Kahn – which touts a former Watergate prosecutor and former U.S. attorney on its white-collar defense team – was hired by the village to conduct a high-level investigation into possible overbillings and malpractice by the former village attorneys last month.
Eric Wilson and another attorney from the firm's white-collar defense and investigations group met with village board members to discuss potential litigation against the former village attorneys on June 14.
Wilson revealed his past relationship with Phelan toward the end of the exevutive session.
Phelan told Patch that he and Wilson were both members of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at the University of Illinois in Champagne-Urbana.
Phelan said he joined the fraternity around 1985 and was a member until 1988, when he graduated from college. Wilson, he said, was in the pledge class “two or three years” behind him.
“I knew him two or three years altogether. I don’t want to say that we socialized together,” Phelan said, adding that because he was two years older, he and Wilson hung out with different crowds.
According to Wilson’s bio on the Godfrey & Kahn website, Wilson graduated from the University of Illinois in 1990.
Some village board members – Phelan included – have criticized the mayor for his reluctance to fire the former village attorneys after alleged overbillings because he had friends at both firms. Heilmann is himself a practicing attorney.
Asked about his own relationship to Wilson, Phelan said, “I haven’t seen or talked to him since 1988. I’m interested in getting the taxpayers’ money back for the village. I’m not interested in Dave or his friends’ narratives.”
“This is about finding the best attorneys we can to advocate for the village,” Phelan added.
Phelan explained that Wilson had been recommended to him by one of his pledge brothers at an Illinois-Northwestern football game last November.
The friend mentioned that Wilson might be available after Phelan shared the village’s problems with its legal fees. Phelan’s friend contacted Wilson on Phelan’s behalf.
Impressed with Godfrey & Kahn’s credentials – including stints as the legal fee examiner in the GM and Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcies – Phelan also made village manager Larry Deetjen aware of the firm last November.
“This was when we thought all our problems were legal fees,” Phelan said.