Mayor Defers Receiving Legal Report Until Trustees Can Read It
Residents may never get to see Godfrey and Kahn's final investigative report into legal billings by former village attorneys even though they paid for it.
Editor's Note: The headline of this story was changed to more accurately reflect the mayor's response to receiving the final legal investigative report into the former village attorneys. The rest of the story remains the same.
Oak Lawn residents may never get the chance to see an investigative report into the legal billings by the former village attorneys because of a confidentiality agreement tied to a legal settlement.
The Oak Lawn Village Board agreed to table penciling in a date to receive special counsel’s final report in alleged overbillings and malpractice by the law firm Tressler, Soderstrom, Maloney & Priess—now known as Tressler LLP—that served as the village attorney between October 2005 and September 2009.
Following a report by attorney Burt Odelson, whose firm was hired to conduct a legal audit that targeted the mayor and his attorney friend, the village hired the Wisconsin-based law firm Godfrey and Kahn to conduct a second investigation.
Oak Lawn trustees agreed to settle out of court with Tressler for $500,000 in April after a multi-year legal battle. Godfrey and Kahn, that touts white-collar investigations and defense as one of its areas of expertise, helped broker the out-of-court settlement with Tressler.
“I think we have a right as citizens to see the report,” Oak Lawn-resident Andy Skoundrianos said during public comments at Tuesday’s village board meeting. “It involved our community and our money. We should be able to see it.”
Told that the report would remain a confidential document under law, Skoundrianos said he would file a freedom of information act request.
Since the village launched its legal investigation in 2010, the village has run up a tab of $453,541 in legal billings.
Trustee Carol Quinlan (Dist. 5) asked that the item be pulled from the consent agenda. In addition to the settlement, the village board had previously agreed that Godfrey and Kahn would present a final report on its investigation not to exceed $25,000.
“I’m not sure why we have to have this special meeting,” Quinlan said. “[Godfrey and Kahn are] expensive. That’s been my biggest beef.”
Mayor Dave Heilmann has termed the investigation a political witch hunt after he was accused by some trustees in dragging his feet in firing Tressler amid complaints of mounting legal bills because he had friends at the firm.
“Why are we paying for that time even though it’s conclusive,” Heilmann said. “It’s all being done after this case was resolved.”
Quinlan suggested that board members read the report in advance, and then decide if a special meeting was necessary.
The mayor motioned tabling setting a date for a special executive session until board members could read the report and formulate questions.
“It doesn’t preclude us from setting a meeting date in the future,” Heilmann added.
The village board also discussed the format in which they would receive the report. Trustee Tom Phelan (Dist. 6) asked for hard and electronic copies.
Village Manager Larry Deetjen reminded board members of their responsibility in abiding by the confidentiality agreement.
“I just want to make sure everyone knows that the agreement that was executed does have a penalty clause for distribution to the public without any prior authorization,” Deetjen said. “Just keep that in mind.”
The village board agreed to table setting a date for an executive session until members have seen the report.