The report that Oak Lawn taxpayers paid $453,000 for and were promised they’d get to read after the last “i” was dotted and “t” crossed.
Tressler was fired as the village attorney in September 2009 after some Oak Lawn trustees expressed concern when the village’s legal fees tripled—even though they had approved paying those bills.
Unfortunately for residents a confidentiality agreement was hammered out as part of the terms in accepting a $500,000 settlement from the former village attorney—which the Oak Lawn Village Board also unanimously approved.
With all the new friendships being forged on the village board lately, Patch thought it would be helpful to bring everyone up to speed by revisiting some past stories:
Trustee Bob Streit (Dist. 3), sharing his thoughts after hearing the Odelson Report in executive session in April 2011: “In my 20 years on the board, I have never seen anything like it. It’s worse than I expected. Clearly evidence was presented in the report that indicated a misrepresentation by the law firm and gross mismanagement of the legal team that went to the highest level of village government.”
Mayor Dave Heilmann, responding to charges that he had dragged his feet in firing Tressler because “he had friends there”: “I do know a guy at Tressler. I’ve known him my whole life. He’s someone I talk to every five years.”
Trustee Streit on the “gross mismanagement” of the village legal team from 2005 to 2009: “I think they already know that the mayor brought in his friends to serve as lawyers for the village. Unfortunately, the taxpayers paid dearly for it.”
Mayor Heilmann, answering why he didn’t show up at the special board meeting to review the Odelson Report in April 2011: “I spoke to [Trustee] Carol Quinlan, and my understanding is that it was an all-out attack on me. All this is are trustees using Burt Odelson to attack the mayor, which is an illegal use of public funds.”
About all we know about the Godfrey and Kahn report is that it’s four inches thick. It contains “observations” about the mayor’s attorney friend and community theater partner who is described in the Odelson Report as the “gatekeeper” to the alleged Tressler money train. A person that the mayor said was exonerated of misconduct by Godfrey and Kahn, yet still appears in the final report in an unflattering light.
Trustee Tom Phelan (Dist. 6) offers a glimpse of the legal report prepared by his former fraternity brother in his July 10 constituents’ newsletter (put me back on your list, bro).
Phelan attributes “duplicate and erroneous” payments to Tressler that resulted in $2,359,083 in underreported legal fees over a period of years which were spread across residents’ property taxes.
“These are the same board members who have been fighting since the [April 2012] settlement to prevent the attorneys who did the investigation from completing a report of their findings for the Board," Phelan says in his newsletter, "… who out of spite and retribution, instead contrive a ‘scandal’ involving the village’s Fall on the Green festival … that I have been intimately involved with since first being elected in 2005.”
The mayor says that he “personally has no apprehension” of anything that might be said about him in the report. Other village board members are free to call Godfrey and Kahn and “ask questions.”
“I never heard of a situation where after a case has settled spending thousands of dollars for someone to prepare a report that is of no benefit or seeking a claim against anyone,” Heilmann said, a practicing attorney. “For some mysterious reason [Godfrey and Kahn] is doing up another report up of up to $25,000.”
“You have a fraternity brother of a village board member preparing the report,” the mayor continued. “Anything prepared there’s going to be questions.”
DJ Sartorio, managing partner at Tressler LLP, would not answer questions on the advice of the firm’s counsel on whether Tressler was in control of FOIA requests, or if all this talk of “duplicate and erroneous payments” and “observations” violated the confidentiality agreement.
Sartorio vehemently defended his firm last year when the allegations of malpractice and overbillings in the Odelson Report “came out of left field for us.”
“As much as we’re caught in the middle, we actually feel that citizens of Oak Lawn are caught in the middle too,” Sartorio told Patch last year. “That’s particularly unfortunate because they are very good people.”
If that’s the case, than why can’t the Oak Lawn taxpayers read the report?