Mayor Blasts Legal Report for Ignoring Federal Criminal Investigation
Mayor Dave Heilmann charges that Godfrey and Kahn attorney Eric Wilson ignored federal criminal grand jury subpoena because of relationship to Trustee Tom Phelan, a former college fraternity brother. Read the federal subpoena.
Oak Lawn’s new “best seller” – the Godfrey and Kahn report – is apparently missing an important chapter, according to Mayor Dave Heilmann.
Voicing his frustration with the “one-sidedness” of the Wisconsin-based law firm’s probe into the former village attorney now known as Tressler LLP, Heilmann blasted Godfrey and Kahn attorney Eric Wilson’s omission of a federal grand jury subpoena.
Read the mayor's timeline and the federal grand jury subpeona.
Godfrey and Kahn was hired by the village in May 2011, to look into the findings into alleged overbillings and botched litigation of Tressler by attorney Burt Odelson, who maintained that missteps by the former village attorney possibly cost Oak Lawn taxpayers millions of dollars.
Because of Wilson’s relationship with Oak Lawn Trustee Tom Phelan (Dist. 6)—both were in the same college fraternity at the University of Illinois—any hope for an independent investigation was prejudiced from the start, the mayor eluded.
The mayor and Phelan are both up for re-election in April 2013.
As reported by Patch in August 2011, the village was served with a federal subpoena requesting all records and email into the hiring of Querrey and Harrow, the firm who replaced Tressler in 2009.
Village Clerk Jane Quinlan signed for it on June 24, 2011, although some village board members, including the mayor, said they weren’t made aware of its existence for six weeks.
“Why would you give a record to a board member’s fraternity brother and not the mayor,” Heilmann said. “You can’t keep something like this from the board. I sat in a meeting for four hours with Eric Wilson in [July 2011], and at no time did he ever mention that he was hired to defend a criminal subpoena.”
Heilmann laid out his case publicly for the first time in a blistering, 13-page press release, that included a copy of the federal subpoena and a timeline of the period probed by the Godfrey and Kahn attorney.
The mayor also states that Wilson did not disclose to the village that he and Phelan were fraternity brothers “until he had incurred tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees five weeks into the investigation.”
According to Heilmann’s timeline, the whole mess started in May 2009, when: “Just weeks before Querrey was hired, Trustee Tim Phelan wrote in an email that he wanted to give legal work to his friend Mike Stillman, the managing partner at Querrey because Mike had helped him ‘personally and professionally.’”
At that time, Stillman was president of the Dist. 218 school board for most of 2008, which includes Richards High School. Heilmann said that two members of Phelan’s family were hired at Dist. 218 in 2008, the mayor’s press release said.
Phelan said that his wife had applied three times at Dist. 218 going back to 2004, and was not hired despite Stillman being on the D218 school board. D218 Superintendent John Byrne hired his wife in early 2009, after Stillman had resigned from the school board the previous fall to join the Worth Township Board.
“Her job is part-time [seasonal] and grant-funded,” Phelan said in an email. “At least twice since she got the job she received a letter staying the position might be eliminated due to funding problems."
“After paying for my son’s daycare, my wife netted about $11 per hour,” Phelan added.
Heilmann charged that on Sunday, June 28, 2009, Phelan send an email to the village manager at “5:45 a.m. telling him to meet with Mike Stillman that day at Roseangelo’s restaurant in Evergreen Park.”
According to Heilmann’s timeline, phone records show 900 calls between Phelan and Mike Stillman, nearly every day, in the six weeks leading up to Stillman’s hiring as the new village attorney.”
"It's clear form the email in May [Phelan] felt obligated to give someone something," Heilmann said. "All these deinals, phone records, a 5:45 a.m. Sunday meeting outside the village? How could that be on the up and up. I don't know if that record was turned over to the FBI."
Heilmann claims that “Wilson knew of Phelan’s email setting up the secret meeting and all emails showing Phelan behind the Stillman hiring because Wilson had to review these to respond the FBI subpoena.”
“Any objective attorney would have informed its client that the legal investigation could not ignore the related criminal matter,” the mayor added, “especially when the lead investigating attorney was subject to bias by being the fraternity bother of a sitting trustee possibly under criminal investigation.”
Phelan has denied the mayor’s claims, casting them in a different light, stating that he had recommended Stillman for a specific police brutality case that he believed Tressler bungled.
“I said as much to Tressler in the executive session where they were recommending a six-figure settlement after generating six-figures in legal fees,” Phelan said.
The mayor informed Phelan that he had a conversation with Stillman about the police brutality case because “Heilmann told me he was golfing in New York when the talked to Stillman about it.”
Heilmann said he tried to warn his former Unity Party slate mates that if they proceeded with the hiring of Querrey and Harrow “not to do it because it could be criminal.”
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