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Mayor Defers Receiving Legal Report Until Trustees Can Read It

Residents may never get to see Godfrey and Kahn's final investigative report into legal billings by former village attorneys even though they paid for it.

Editor's Note: The headline of this story was changed to more accurately reflect the mayor's response to receiving the final legal investigative report into the former village attorneys. The rest of the story remains the same.

Oak Lawn residents may never get the chance to see an investigative report into the legal billings by the former village attorneys

agreed to table penciling in a date to receive special counsel’s final report in alleged overbillings and malpractice by the law firm Tressler, Soderstrom, Maloney & Priess—now known as Tressler LLP—that served as the village attorney between October 2005 and September 2009.

, whose firm was hired to conduct a legal audit that targeted the mayor and his attorney friend, the village hired the Wisconsin-based law firm Godfrey and Kahn to conduct a second investigation.

in April after a multi-year legal battle. 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.

“I think we have a right as citizens to see the report,” Oak Lawn-resident Andy Skoundrianos said during public comments at Tuesday’s village board meeting. “It involved our community and our money. We should be able to see it.”

Told that the report would remain a confidential document under law, Skoundrianos said he would file a freedom of information act request.

Since the village launched its legal investigation in 2010, the village has run up a tab of $453,541 in legal billings.

Trustee Carol Quinlan (Dist. 5) asked that the item be pulled from the consent agenda. In addition to the settlement, the village board had previously agreed that Godfrey and Kahn would present a final report on its investigation not to exceed $25,000.

“I’m not sure why we have to have this special meeting,” Quinlan said. “[Godfrey and Kahn are] expensive. That’s been my biggest beef.”

Mayor Dave Heilmann after he was accused by some trustees in dragging his feet in firing Tressler amid complaints of mounting legal bills because he had friends at the firm.

“Why are we paying for that time even though it’s conclusive,” Heilmann said. “It’s all being done after this case was resolved.”

Quinlan suggested that board members read the report in advance, and then decide if a special meeting was necessary.

The mayor motioned tabling setting a date for a special executive session until board members could read the report and formulate questions.

“It doesn’t preclude us from setting a meeting date in the future,” Heilmann added.

The village board also discussed the format in which they would receive the report. Trustee Tom Phelan (Dist. 6) asked for hard and electronic copies.

Village Manager Larry Deetjen reminded board members of their responsibility

“I just want to make sure everyone knows that the agreement that was executed does have a penalty clause for distribution to the public without any prior authorization,” Deetjen said. “Just keep that in mind.”

The village board agreed to table setting a date for an executive session until members have seen the report.

Sandra Bury May 23, 2012 at 11:41 AM
Our elected officials work for the voter and the taxpayer. If they work for special interests and friends, the public has right to know and a duty to find out. I have no doubt that the truth will come out. Why does Mayor Heilmann appear so fearful of this report being presented in a closed meeting? Could it be that he knows that if it ever came before a judge, the rights of the voters to know the truth about their elected officials might override the desire of elected officials to keep back room details private?
Oak Lawn Gal May 23, 2012 at 02:15 PM
I'd like to see the report too. The interesting thing to me is that based on Godfrey & Kahn's investigation the village recovered $500k+ but there weren't any indictments. My guess is Tressler insisted on the confidentiality clause so their business with current and future clients wouldn't be affected. I would definitely like to see the report though.
Garbage May 23, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Well, well -- it does appear that our board has finally come out of the closet and brought Chicago backroon politics into our village and exhibits no shame in ignoring the will of the people who elected them and pay for their mistakes. Now I didn't go to acting school or lawyer school but maybe those schools teach how to hide something that stinks and hide the truth!
andy skoundrianos May 23, 2012 at 03:25 PM
I am going to file a FOIA request to see the report when the village receives it.What is the Mayor afraid of?? Release the documents,public funds were used and we have a right to know what happened
James Peschel May 23, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Anytime items are tabled by the government officials no matter at what level of government it appears that information is being hidden by the citizens. It is the taxpayers' money that runs the village not just the political officials who represent the village. When the money is wasted as in this case, it forces other programs to be either eliminated or fundings cut. If there is nothing to hide, then all government documents should be allowed to be seen. I don't believe any of the legal documents have anything to do with village's safety' but more with how the monies were actually spent.
James Peschel May 23, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Anytime items are tabled by the government officials no matter at what level of government it appears that information is being hidden from the citizens. It is the taxpayers money that runs the village not just political officials who represent the village. When the money is wasted as in this case, it forces other programs to be either eliminated or fundings cut. If there is nothing to hide, then all government documents should be allowed to be seen by the citizens. I don't believe any of the legal documents in question have anything to with the village's safety, but more with how the monies were actually spent.
2nd May 23, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Good idea! Why would OUR elected officials even enter into an agreement with a confidentiality clause that restricts their constituents from getting the entire story of where our tax dollars are going? Unless, of course, they have something to hide.
2nd May 23, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Leave it to Deejtan to 'remind' everyone that they have to abide by the confidentially agreement. I'm thinking its about time to clean house at the Village Hall. This continuing drama and intrigue is getting to be a little too much. Village meeting are like playing a mystery game - lots of double speak, disinformation, spin, and avoidance. I want to see some honesty and transparency in OL government. Yup, time for a clean sweep in Village government.
OakLawnGuy May 23, 2012 at 10:25 PM
A certain set of documents from early in this set-to were leaked and Mr. Deetjen was very perturbed about it. You're right about these meetings, ever since the Kindergarten Klass kalmed down from about 16 months ago, everyone seems to be very careful about their words and actions. Then again, we are heading towards an election, and were involved in one for districts 1, 3 and 5 back then.
OakLawnGuy May 23, 2012 at 10:28 PM
I think most if not all of them have something to hide in this fiasco, or at the very least things they really want to answer for. That said, three law firms were involved in this page-turner, and the two who were at apparent loggerheads certainly will not want various items revealed. And confidentiality is always involved in any sort of settlement, along with being relieved of any requirement to admit guilt in anything.
OakLawnGuy May 23, 2012 at 10:28 PM
Oops, I mean "things they don't want to answer for".
Dave W. May 23, 2012 at 11:04 PM
This is exactly what I keep saying...people keep telling me that there are good reasons for keeping things from us, but I never believe it. Not until I actually see what they say they have to keep from us. (I know this is an ironic Catch 22, but too bad.) It is OUR money...there are a lot more of us 'regular' citizens than the 'elites' that seem to think they are beyond our reproach. It is ridiculous that they can't have people knowing what goes on with our town. If something is so unsafe, how can that not be of even greater concern? I don't know if you have proper grounds, Andy, but good luck.
emma thompson May 24, 2012 at 02:10 AM
that's what happens when a federal subpeona is served
emma thompson May 24, 2012 at 02:16 AM
looks like all of the board approved the tabling according to this column
emma thompson May 24, 2012 at 02:19 AM
re-read the article. where does it imply that mr heilmann is so fearful? they all are fearful in my opinion
andy skoundrianos May 24, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Ms. Thompson, the reason Heilmann is afraid is because the law firm in question during this whole investigation process is the law firm he recommened and has many friends working for that firm that's why.
J. J. Zurek May 24, 2012 at 03:04 AM
If it was paid for with Tax Payer Funds, the report should be available to the Tax Payer. If it was paid for with Private Funds, it could and should remain private. Here is the Rub, if our Elected Officials are acting in our best interest, they would be more then happy to display their handiwork. If they arwe acting in their own best interests, they would not want to remove the veil of secrecy. Besides if the Law Firm gave back or is in the process of giving money back to the Village, does that not mean they did something wrong ? and if they did something wrong shouldn't the ARDC be notified, there had to be some kind of lapse, individuals just don't give back half a million dollars because they are great civic minded people. I think the U.S. Attorney or the Attorney General should have a look see at whatever the investigation uncovered. Maybe term limits is the only answer.
OakLawnGuy May 24, 2012 at 12:18 PM
And certain trustees, both aligned and un-aligned, are worried that the Trib will pick up on the report and perhaps connect it with the piece on the new lawyers' connection to and recommendation from Mike Madigan. No one's clean in this mess, except maybe the third firm which is raking in a little extra cash sorting this out.
OakLawnGuy May 24, 2012 at 12:21 PM
Refunding or rebating money to the Village doesn't necessarily point to an admission of guilt, or of a mistake. It often is a decision based on economics: the old firm figures it's cheaper to pay X dollars than to spend X dollars or Y man hours on continuing the fight. But knowing that, you have to wonder why they settled when they were awfully gung ho to fight this to the death. (I guess death = X dollars, and they exceeded that?)
Grunty May 24, 2012 at 02:36 PM
I hope to god they put an embedded watermark into each electronic file so it can be traced back to the eventual leaker. It can be removed but it if you make the watermark obvious, then have a less obvious watermark elswhere, they will probably miss the second one.
Oak Lawn Gal May 24, 2012 at 02:40 PM
I think the paper copy has a better chance of being leaked.
Dave W. May 24, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Anything can be leaked. If NOTHING else, a person could just copy by typing verbatim onto an email or word document. I don't think it will matter much if it has some stamp saying 'Official Property of Oak Lawn'. People will know if what it there is official or not. Many parties will have a copy. If it gets out, all the rest of them will be able to refute it or not. There will be a leak, it is virtually a lock. Probably on here, on Patch.
RG May 25, 2012 at 06:48 PM
So the settlement gets Oak Lawn 500,000 back from Tressler. Since the village launched its legal investigation in 2010, the village has run up a tab of $453,541 in legal billings (I assume to Odelson and to Godfrey & Kahn). So in this whole mess about legal overcharges, Oak Lawn nets $46,459. Well its something I guess.
Never wrong May 26, 2012 at 04:13 PM
I thought that all the Trustees voted for the agreement that contained the confidentiality clause. If I am correct, it will be hard to explain why Dr. Bury is running with AO and TP in the next election.

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