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THE BLADE: Oak Lawn Legal Investigation Through the Ages

Sensationalist commentary written by a real person who lives here.

I know this will come as a shock to many of you, but thehas denied my freedom of information act request for

You know which report I’m talking about: the reinvestigation of the investigation of the former village attorney now known as Tressler LLP,

The report that and were promised they’d get to read after the last “i” was dotted and “t” crossed.

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Tressler was fired as the village attorney in September 2009 after some Oak Lawn trustees expressed concern when the village’s legal fees tripled—even though they had approved paying those bills.

Unfortunately for residents was hammered out as part of the terms in accepting a $500,000 settlement from the former village attorney—which the Oak Lawn Village Board also unanimously approved.

With all the lately, Patch thought it would be helpful to bring everyone up to speed by revisiting some past stories:

Trustee Bob Streit (Dist. 3), sharing his thoughts after hearing the Odelson Report in executive session in April 2011: “In my 20 years on the board, I have never seen anything like it. It’s worse than I expected. Clearly evidence was presented in the report that indicated a misrepresentation by the law firm and gross mismanagement of the legal team that went to the highest level of village government.”

Mayor Dave Heilmann, responding to charges that he had dragged his feet in firing Tressler because “he had friends there”: “I do know a guy at Tressler. I’ve known him my whole life. He’s someone I talk to every five years.”

Trustee Streit on the “gross mismanagement” of the village legal team from 2005 to 2009: “I think they already know that the mayor brought in his friends to serve as lawyers for the village. Unfortunately, the taxpayers paid dearly for it.”

Mayor Heilmann, answering why he didn’t show up at the special board meeting to review the Odelson Report in April 2011: “I spoke to [Trustee] Carol Quinlan, and my understanding is that it was an all-out attack on me. All this is are trustees using Burt Odelson to attack the mayor, which is an illegal use of public funds.”

About all we know about the Godfrey and Kahn report is that it’s four inches thick. It contains who is described as the “gatekeeper” to the alleged Tressler money train. A person that the mayor said was exonerated of misconduct by Godfrey and Kahn, yet still appears in the final report in an unflattering light.

Trustee Tom Phelan (Dist. 6) offers a glimpse of the legal report in his July 10 constituents’ newsletter (put me back on your list, bro).

Phelan attributes “duplicate and erroneous” payments to Tressler that resulted in $2,359,083 in underreported legal fees over a period of years which were spread across residents’ property taxes.

“These are the same board members who have been fighting since the [April 2012] settlement to prevent the attorneys who did the investigation from completing a report of their findings for the Board," Phelan says in his newsletter, "… who out of spite and retribution, instead … that I have been intimately involved with since first being elected in 2005.”

The mayor says that he “personally has no apprehension” of anything that might be said about him in the report. Other village board members are free to call Godfrey and Kahn and “ask questions.”

“I never heard of a situation where after a case has settled spending thousands of dollars for someone to prepare a report that is of no benefit or seeking a claim against anyone,” Heilmann said, a practicing attorney. “For some mysterious reason [Godfrey and Kahn] is doing up another report up of up to $25,000.”

“You have a fraternity brother of a village board member preparing the report,” the mayor continued. “Anything prepared there’s going to be questions.”

DJ Sartorio, managing partner at Tressler LLP, would not answer questions on the advice of the firm’s counsel on whether Tressler was in control of FOIA requests, or if all this talk of “duplicate and erroneous payments” and “observations” violated the confidentiality agreement.

when the allegations of malpractice and overbillings in the Odelson Report “came out of left field for us.”

“As much as we’re caught in the middle, we actually feel that citizens of Oak Lawn are caught in the middle too,” Sartorio told Patch last year. “That’s particularly unfortunate because they are very good people.”

If that’s the case, than why can’t the Oak Lawn taxpayers read the report?

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Sandy Callahan July 20, 2012 at 11:54 AM
http://southtownstar.suntimes.com/13860109-522/oak-lawn-treasurer-rips-call-for-forensic-audit-of-fest.html and http://www.mcgoverngreene.com/specialists/mcgovern.html
Homegrown in OL July 22, 2012 at 04:59 AM
You should call Lisa Madigan... FOIA law states: Public records cannot be withheld from disclosure under subsection 7(1)(a) simply because the parties agree to a "gag order" and that order is entered by a court. Carbondale Convention Center v. City of Carbondale, 245 Ill. App. 3d 474, 477 (5th Dist.1993). (5 ILCS 140/8) (from Ch. 116, par. 208) Sec. 8. If any public record that is exempt from disclosure under Section 7 of this Act contains any material which is not exempt, the public body shall delete the information which is exempt and make the remaining information available for inspection and copying. Where the denial is from the head of a municipality or other public body, except as provided in subsection (b) of this Section, suit may be filed in the circuit court for the county where the public body is located.
Homegrown in OL July 22, 2012 at 05:07 AM
The Circuit Court will then review the report to see if any exceptions apply that should be redacted. One would hope that if anything inappropriate has occurred the Circuit Court would notice..
Sandra Bury July 22, 2012 at 10:36 AM
Thanks Homegrown in OL - I have no doubt this confidentiality agreement will not stand when challenged. The desires of elected officials to keep closed door deals quiet will not override the taxpayers right to know if their elected officials represent them or the interests of themselves or friends. The truth will be known.
OakLawnGuy July 22, 2012 at 02:38 PM
To a point I made in another comment section, this agreement will stand if someone with power wants it to stand. And while the Speaker Madigan influence is most likely not succintly evident in the agreement I'm sure, it casts a wide shadow. Please refer to http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-06-27/news/ct-met-oak-lawn-mjm-20100626_1_trustee-bob-streit-village-trustee-village-attorney.

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