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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.

Legal billings for Godfrey and Kahn – the Wisconsin-based firm hired to conduct a second audit of former village attorneys Tressler, Soderstrom, Maloney and Preiss – is now $183,671.

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.

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.”

Ron Williams October 03, 2011 at 01:58 PM
$200,000 is the total amount of cash expended thus far, but the economic costs that can be associated with this situation are far greater. If you include a bungled law suit settlement, the loss of business's coming in to or those leaving the community because of a tarnished reputation, the actual recessive legal fee's that may never be recovered and the additional costs of the investigation going forward, Mr.Odelson's estimate of Millions of dollars in damages may not be too far off "village attorneys may have cost the village up to $10 million in economic damages". If true than our leadership must be held accountable for their sailing a community down the river for personal gain, whether it was political or monetary, it makes no difference, their lack of putting the people of Oak Lawn first needs to be rectified, show your disdain for poor leadership at the polls in the next election.
OakLawnGuy October 03, 2011 at 03:42 PM
I'd be satisfied if some people just showed up at the polls and placed a vote.
P Roberts October 03, 2011 at 04:18 PM
Its fun playing with other peoples money. especially if you are low on the totem pole.
QC October 05, 2011 at 11:15 PM
Let's see. $183,671 for 4 mos. work on an audit that has been audited 3-4 times already. Phelan's Frat bro. is handling this latest shell game of theirs, and Oafelson is expanding his office on 95th st., while collecting money from the oak lawn taxpayers just like Phelan's and Madigan's friend, Mike Stillman from Q&H. Sounds about right. Connect the Dots. lol .

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