Village Explores Litigation Against Former Village Attorneys
Village manager says Oak Lawn will pursue "any and all remedies" to recover money and address possible misconduct.
The Oak Lawn Village Board has directed the village manager to engage a law firm to further investigate allegations raised in an explosive report against the former village attorneys.
In a news release issued last Friday, Village Manager Larry Deetjen announced that he engaged the law firm of Wisconsin-based Godfrey & Kahn S.C. to review alleged overbillings and practices of Tressler, Soderstrom, Maloney & Priess, LLP to determine if misconduct and possible malpractice occurred during the time the law firm provided legal counsel for the village between 2005-2009.
Also included is Martin, Craig, Chester & Sonnenschein, LLP, the firm that employed Norm Chimenti, a friend and theatrical partner of Mayor Dave Heilmann. Both firms were hired based on Heilmann’s recommendations.
Heilmann, who said he still hasn't read the “Odelson Report," described it as a political attack against him.
The action comes about as the result of a report compiled by Burt Odelson, of Odelson and Sterk, after a 15-month investigation. Odelson made a preliminary report to the board in open session last summer.
On April 18, Odelson presented his findings with recommendations to the village board in executive session. That report was leaked to Patch.
Deetjen recommended firing both firms after village board trustees and department heads raised concerns regarding mounting legal fees and poor performance. Tressler and Chimenti were terminated in 2009.
Tressler attorney D.J. Sartorio described the village's claims of inexperienced lawyers over their heads in municipal counsel and mishandling of high-profile lawsuits against the village as "coming out of left field for us."
Sartorio also said the village still owes his firm $96,000 in invoices and that he expected Tressler to prevail in any litigation.
Village trustees were asked to decide which course of action to pursue, based on Odelson’s recommendations and the findings of the report, and to provide direction to the village manager.
According to Godfrey and Kahn’s website, one of the firm’s areas of specialty is “white collar defense and investigations.” The firm’s white-collar practice group touts “a former Watergate prosecutor and former United States Attorney, three former Assistant United States Attorneys, and several former state prosecutors.”
The village manager described the village’s action as an “explicit demonstration,” adding that the village will pursue to the fullest extent of the law “any and all remedies available to recover monies rightfully due and address any possible official misconduct.”
Deetjen said he would have no further comment while Godfrey and Kahn’s investigation was under way.