Village Spends $453K To Settle With Law Firm for $470K
Village agrees to settle with former village attorney after costly litigation.
The Village of Oak Lawn agreed to end the dispute with its former legal counsel after some village trustees accused the firm of malpractice and overbillings.
Oak Lawn trustees settled with Tressler, Soderstrom, Maloney & Priess for $500,000 during the village board’s executive session on Tuesday.
Tressler served as the village counsel from October 2005 to September 2009. The firm was fired amid complaints of rising legal fees, with some village board members criticizing Mayor Dave Heilmann for his reluctance to fire the Tressler attorneys because he had friends at the firm.
The law firm hired to replace Tressler—Querrey and Harrow—was released in February after members of Querrey’s municipal litigation team joined a new firm that has since taken over as Oak Lawn’s legal counsel.
READ the settlement offer.
Under the terms of the confidential agreement, Tressler will pay the village a settlement of $500,000. The third-party administrator that handled some of the village’s legal claims—CCMSI--is to pay the village $20,000.
The village has also agreed to settle an outstanding debt of $96,360 in legal bills that it has owed Tressler since 2009 by paying $50,000. Tressler will forgive the remaining balance of $46,360.
The agreement marks the end of a multi-year battle with political underpinnings that has cost the village $453,541 to resolve, including a pair of legal investigations by two different firms.
Village Manager Larry Deetjen placed the settlement at $566,000, including the forgiven debt balance to Tressler of $46,360.
“It should be noted that the unpaid invoices held back by the village since 2009 because of overall billings concerns discovered by the village were unrelated directly to the investigation,” Deetjen said by email Wednesday evening. “[They] were recorded on the village books as accounts payable and due if the village had not successfully secured a ‘global settlement.’”
Attorney Burt Odelson was hired by the village board in January 2010 to lead an audit investigation into possible overbillings and mishandling of such high profile cases as the Kmart lawsuit over the 111th Street and Cicero Avenue TIF, and a female village firefighters’ sexual harassment lawsuit.
Odelson’s final report estimated economic damages of $10 million to the village, and lacerated the mayor and his attorney friend and partner in community theater productions Norm Chimenti, who handled some of the village’s labor contract negotiations.
A month later, the village hired the Wisconsin-based law firm of Godfrey and Kahn to conduct a second investigation.
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.
A breakdown of the total $453,541legal fees to date include:
- Godfrey and Kahn, $436,672
- Odelson and Sterk, $10,477
- Querrey and Harrow, $6,392
The settlement payout—not including the forgiven $46,360 debt balance to Tressler—totals $470,000.
“In January 2010 I did recommend that the board consider trying to get the [outstanding] fees [owed to Tressler] waived for $96,000 without incurring additional legal fees,” Heilmann said. “If we had done that we would have had a net of $96,000, instead of paying up to $450,000+.”
Both parties agreed to not sue each other for future damages. In addition, each party would pay its own legal fees.
“The village sought a thorough and factual investigation and settlement,” Deetjen said. “We received exactly what we sought.”
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