Trustees Vote 6-0 to Release Confidential Legal Report
Oak Lawn trustees won't fight freedom of information act request for confidential legal report on former village attorney.
The Oak Lawn Village Board will not fight a freedom of information act request filed by mayoral candidate Dr. Sandra Bury to release a confidential legal report into the former village attorneys on Tuesday.
Village trustees voted unanimously not to fight Bury’s appeal to the Illinois Attorney General after the village denied her FOIA request in July.
Tressler, Soderstrom, Maloney and Preiss—now known as Tressler LLP—settled with the village for $500,000 in April after a lengthy investigation of its legal billings by a Wisconsin-based firm specializing in white-collar defense and investigations.
The settlement came with a confidentiality agreement that the report compiled by Godfrey and Kahn would not be made public even though the investigation was funded by taxpayer dollars.
Two different legal audits have been conducted costing village taxpayers $453,000, after some trustees alleged that the mayor stalled the former village attorney’s dismissal when it became apparent that Oak Lawn’s legal fees had tripled.
Oak Lawn trustees unanimously approved the settlement and agreed to keep the report confidential or be fined $50,000 if it was leaked to the public.
Tressler advised the village last month that it was relinquishing its financial obligations to pay for defending the report’s release in court.
Village Manager Larry Deetjen asked the village board for a “motion of direction” to make the report public or fight its release in court at taxpayers’ expense.
Mayor Dave Heilmann said he wasn’t sure what motion was being requested.
“We can move to release this as requested by whatever the language is that Godfrey and Kahn has told us,” Heilmann said.
Trustee Alex Olejniczak (Dist. 2) motioned to take a vote, which was quickly seconded by Trustee Tom Phelan (Dist. 6).
Olejniczak suggested that a date for a special finance committee meeting be set in the near future to review some of the village’s financial issues, such as special taxing districts and legal billings.
“I think we should review that part of the report as a village board to help us and the staff get better,” Olejniczak said.
Trustee Tom Duhig (Dist. 4) reminded his fellow board members that they had yet to hear Godfrey and Kahn’s final presentation.
Village board members are still prohibited from publically discussing “the party to the confidentiality agreement.”
“My understanding is … if anybody on this board made remarks about the law firm we would likely be liable for the $50,000 fine,” Trustee Bob Streit (Dist. 3) said. “We all have to be clear about it.”
Oleniczak said the confidentiality agreement didn’t preclude board members from discussing other people mentioned in the report “that we are free to make remarks about.”
After the village board approved the motion there was a smattering of applause in the board chamber.
Bury said she was happy.
“I feel like jogging,” she said. “This was a team effort.”
Village Attorney Paul O’Grady took down email addresses and phone numbers of those who’s FOIAs had been denied. Details are being worked out for the report’s release.