Village Changes Legal Counsel
Johnson Peterson Murray SP replaces Querrey and Harrow as village attorney effective immediately.
As of 5 p.m. Friday, the village switched its legal counsel from Querrey and Harrow to a new firm with Wisconsin ties, which assumed duties as the village attorney.
Paul O’Grady, who has sat at the dais during Oak Lawn Village Board meetings for Querrey and Harrow for the past two years, will continue representing the village in his new role as managing partner for Milwaukee, WI-based Johnson Peterson Murray SP. The announcement comes after rumors that O'Grady had parted ways with Querrey and Harrow last week.
“It was a personal decision for my family. It was a great opportunity we couldn’t pass up,” O’Grady said. “It was a great opportunity that we couldn’t pass up.”
The village has since contracted two legal teams to investigate alleged overbillings and malpractice by Tressler LLP, the firm Querrey was hired to replace in 2009 under a cloud of controversy.
In August, village board trustees tabled renewing Querrey and Harrow’s contract after a 15-minute executive session prior to a board meeting, when trustees were informed the village had been served with a federal subpoena seeking records and documents related to the firm’s hiring.
Village Manager Larry Deetjen informed the village board on Feb. 29 that he had appointed new legal counsel. Under the managerial form of village government, Deetjen said he was authorized to make that appointment.
“We did not hire Mr. Querrey or Mr. Harrow,” Deetjen said. “We hired personnel we thought could do the job … They’ve done an outstanding job.”
Mayor Dave Heilmann, also an attorney, said the law of the village manager's appointing the village attorney was “open to interpretation.” He said he wasn’t aware of the change until he received an email from the village on Feb. 29.
“I trust it will be put on the next village board agenda,” Heilmann said. “There certainly is an argument that the manager has the right [to hire the village attorney] but the board has the power of the purse strings.”
O’Grady will become the managing director of Johnson Peterson Murray’s Chicago office, which is expanding into Illinois. The legal team that handled all of Oak Lawn’s governmental work will remain intact and follow O’Grady to the new firm.
The village attorney represents the village in civil rights, labor, workman’s compensation claims, appellate work, and daily ordinances and board work.
Querrey and Harrow will continue wrap up pending litigation for the village. For example, this past week, O'Grady finalized the dismissal of Sears Holdings Company’s 5-year litigation against the village for leasehold rights over the Kmart at 110th Street and Cicero Avenue, paving the way for a new commercial development.
O’Grady is also the Orland Township supervisor, who recently fired Burt Odelson and his firm as legal counsel for the township. Mike Stillman, the former managing partner of Querrey Harrow and O’Grady’s former colleague, switched firms to Odelson and Sterk last month.
Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers and U.S. News and World Report have recognized Johnson Peterson Murray for the quality of their legal expertise and representation the firm provides across a broad range of practice areas, according to a press release issued by the law firm.
Hourly rates--$185—are expected to remain the same as with Querrey and Harrow. O’Grady also anticipated a "seamless transition" of the village's legal business as his team moves to their new firm’s digs on the 84th floor of Willis Tower.
“This is a group of young guys with families and an opportunity to go out on their own to head up this new venture,” O’Grady said. “We’re so excited.”