Updated: October 12, 2012 6:13AM
Oak Lawn officials need to quit stalling and agree at tonight’s village board meeting to share the latest report on the village’s legal spending in recent years.
Without having seen the report, issued in July by a Wisconsin law firm, we’ll predict it shows that Oak Lawn spent hundreds of thousands of dollars more on legal costs from 2006-09 when a new law firm, Tressler LLP, was retained at Mayor David Heilmann’s request.
That’s because we already know that, thanks to a previous report by an Evergreen Park law firm the village hired to look into Oak Lawn’s legal costs and that found them Byzantine and flawed. And the Tressler firm has agreed to reimburse the village $500,000 to settle a village lawsuit against it.
So what else does this new report contain? We’re mighty curious, mostly because it’s part of that settlement, which included a “confidentiality clause” to keep the report from the public. Heilmann says Tressler insisted on that, not the village.
After the Illinois attorney general’s office said the report is public information, the Tressler firm, and Heilmann, now say they won’t oppose making it public. Good for them, secrecy related to government is a bad idea.
Oak Lawn’s legal business has been totally in the hands of outside lawyers for years, and some of that business smells of mendacity. For years, reports persisted about lax record-keeping, unapproved expenses and overcharging. The issue is not only whether lawyers played loose with taxpayers’ money, it’s also the lack of oversight by village officials.
It got so out of hand that the village hired legal help to monitor legal help that was monitoring other legal help.
Our heads are spinning, and we bet we’re not the only ones. Oak Lawn has spent so much on legal bills that citizens should wonder how much legal help is necessary in the first place.
The report this week should reveal how bad it was and how to avoid a repeat. Fixing what’s wrong will take much more work.