The former village attorney won’t fight the release of an investigative report that it had between 2005 and 2009.
Tressler, Soderstrom, Maloney and Preiss—now known as Tressler LLP—settled with the village for $500,000 in April after a lengthy investigation into its legal billings by a Wisconsin-based firm specializing in white collar defense and investigation.
The Oak Lawn Village Board that the village would be fined $50,000 should the report become public.
Patch received a copy of a confidential email late Thursday evening that was sent to village officials on Aug. 29 informing them that Tressler would not be fighting an appeal to the Illinois Attorney General's office for release of the "Godfrey and Kahn Report."
The email further advised that Tressler was releasing itself of any financial obligations to pay for defending the report's release against freedom of information requests. The village is now responsible for such legal costs.
Community activitst Dr. Sandra Bury submitted a freedom of information request to the village the day that the report was delivered to on July 6. Her request was denied five days later. Bury filed an appeal to Lisa Madigan’s office on July 25.
“Basically Tressler felt their loose interpretation that the report should be kept from taxpayers was not worth defending,” Bury said. “They don’t even want to write a letter to the Illinois Attorny General in support of their case.”
Release of the report to the public is now up to the Oak Lawn Village Board, according to the email sent to village officials on Wednesday. The village board has until Sept. 5 to defend or release the report according to the terms of the $500,000 legal settlement with the former village attorney or ask for an extension.
Should the village board decide to fight the report’s release, it will be fought at the expense of Oak Lawn taxpayers.
“This is good news for the residents of Oak Lawn,” Bury said. “It reaffirms what I felt along that the people have the right to know and should know.”
Some Oak Lawn trustees have maintained that Mayor Dave Heilmann shielded Tressler while it was allegedly double billing the village and offering bad legal advice because he had friends that worked at the firm.
During the Tressler's tenure as village legal counsel, Oak Lawn trustees approved paying Tressler’s bills.
On Wednesday evening, the Quality Control Committee met for the first time in five years to hear presentations by energy suppliers after Oak Lawn trustees approved putting a binding electrical aggregation referendum on the November 6 ballot.
which saw some opposing trustees being removed from plum committee assignments and reassigned to the quality control committee.
Oak Lawn Trustee Carol Quinlan (Dist. 5), one of three village trustees assigned to the committee, did not attend Wednesday's meeting. Quinlan could not be immediately reached for comment.
Trustee Alex Olejniczak (Dist. 2), the ousted police liaison, and Tom Duhig (Dist. 4), who had yet to be assigned to a village board committee since his 2009 election, serve on the little known committee in addition to Quinlan.
Immediately following the quality control meeting, a special village board executive session had been scheduled. However, with only three village trustees in attendance—Oleniczak, Duhig and Tom Phelan (Dist. 6)—there were not enough voting board members for a quorum.
The special village board meeting—to hear a presentation of the Godfrey and Kahn report, per the terms of the settlement—was canceled.
The other elected officials including the mayor, trustees Cindy Trautsch (Dist. 1) and Bob Streit (Dist. 3), were also no-shows.
“The other four elected officials not showing up at meeting, they’re not really interested in transparent government or review of an audit on Fall on the Green,” Oleniczak said. “When you have a half-million-dollar settlement and they’re not concerned with what is wrong or what we as a village need to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again, it concerns me.”
Phelan accused the mayor of a cover-up. "The citizens of Oak Lawn have been victims of a massive fraud spearheaded by Dave Heilmann," he said. "This is yet another example of how far he will go to cover it up."
The mayor, village clerk and trustees from even-numbered districts are up for reelection in April, as well as a special election for the first district village trustee.
Bury, long rumored to be a mayoral candidate, declined to answer if she was going to challenge Heilmann.
“People are asking me to run and I will decide very soon,” Bury said. “This type of thing makes me convinced more than ever that a change is needed in village hall from the top on down.”