Village’s Legal Tab for Investigation Into Former Attorneys Grows
Politics or a legitimate investigation? Whatever it is, it's so far costing Oak Lawn taxpayers over $200,000.
The tab for the investigation into alleged malpractice and overbillings by the village’s former legal counsel is now over $200,000.
The latest bills to date were acquired from the village by a Freedom of Information Act request.
Combined with other billings from Odelson and Sterk for $10,477, and a second bill from current village attorneys Querrey and Harrow for $6,392 – the total cost to Oak Lawn taxpayers now stands at $200,540.
Tressler handled the village’s legal business beginning in October 2005. The firm was terminated after a heated public debate among village board members in open session in September 2009 climbed to over $3.5 million. Tressler handled such high profile litigation as the Sharon Januszewski sexual harassment lawsuit and the Kmart lawsuit over the creation of the 111th Street and Cicero Avenue TIF District.
Querrey and Harrow took over the village’s legal business after Tressler was fired. In June, the U.S. Attorney’s Office served the village with a federal grand jury subpoena seeking all records related to Querrey and Harrow’s hiring, as well as audiotapes and minutes from the village board’s executive sessions between May and August 2009.
Godfrey and Kahn was hired in May following an investigative report by attorney Burt Odelson, who was contracted by the village board in December 2009 to conduct an independent audit of the former village attorneys.
Odelson’s report, submitted to the village board in April, maintained that mishandling of cases by the former village attorneys may have cost the village up to $10 million in economic damages. The report also implicated Mayor Dave Heilmann of covering up legal bills and other missteps by Tressler.
Other village board members have accused the mayor of defending the former village attorneys because he had friends working at the firm.
The village declined an earlier FOIA request by Patch to obtain Godfrey and Kahn’s billings for June and July based on “attorney-client privilege.” The FOIA was submitted a second time requesting only the monetary cost to village taxpayers.
An email response from Oak Lawn Village Manager Larry Deetjen said that “two interim briefings have been given to the Board of Trustees in executive session” including a “four hour session” on Aug. 30.
According to public minutes from the Aug. 30 briefing – a special village board executive session – Heilmann didn’t think the village could afford Godfrey and Kahn’s hourly fee of $375. The mayor also said he wanted to look at other firms to negotiate a settlement and/or file a possible lawsuit against the former village attorneys.
Village board trustees vote 4-0-1 to continue the services of Godfrey and Kahn. Jerry Hurckes, on his second to last day as a trustee before his resignation took effect Aug. 31 – abstained from voting. Trustee Carol Quinlan was absent from the special meeting.
Deetjen, in his email, said that “both the village and its adversaries are currently engaged in sensitive negotiations and any public commentary will undermine the good faith efforts put forth to date.”