* Despite the quite troubling fact that a recent Tribune story was ginned up by a mayor who made some apparently horrible decisions, the piece is a good example of how things are done in Illinois.
The backstory from the Southtown Star…
A report on Oak Lawn’s legal billing issues is hanging heavily over the village’s head as officials debate their next move - and the report’s value.
Prepared by special counsel Burt Odelson and released earlier this month, the report accuses the village’s former attorneys of chronic overbilling and legal strategy blunders that potentially cost the village hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Trustee Bob Streit (3rd) said that the village’s continued payment of too-high legal bills “constitutes misappropriation” and hinted that some laws may have even been broken. […]
The report recounts a pattern of sloppy billing, including multiple attorneys working on the same issue, bills with missing information and questionable expenses.
Mayor Dave Heilmann, who hired the old firm, completely disagrees. And he’s the only person in the Tribune piece who questions how House Speaker Michael Madigan stepped in and helped Oak Lawn clean up their act.
Anyway, some Oak Lawn leaders, including the above-mentioned village trustee Bob Streit, met with Madigan to pitch a big water project that the village couldn’t seem to get moving. Things did, indeed, start moving in the right direction soon afterwards. Then, something else started happening as well…
As Madigan put his political force behind the project, firms and lawyers associated with him saw new business flow their way from the Oak Lawn Village Hall. All told, Madigan’s allies now stand to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
The speaker recommended the new village attorney, and he helped raise campaign money for the village trustee who recommended another connected law firm to work on the water project.
Trustee Streit, a conservative who was eventually the beneficiary of a Madigan fundraiser, flatly denies anything untoward happened. Past problems are now being fixed. But the new attorneys have close ties to Madigan and have contributed quite a lot to his campaign funds. One of those firms hired Democratic state Rep. Lou Lang not long after winning the contract, although Lang claims there was zero connection. Another firm is represented by the son of US Sen. Dick Durbin.
So, things get cleaned up, the taxpayers save money, but the Speaker’s friends and allies benefit. That’s pretty much how things go here.
* Meanwhile, the Speaker penned an op-ed for the Southtown Star over the weekend…
In discussing the causes of our fiscal difficulties in Illinois, it is critical to note that we are not alone - that in fact, a staggering 46 of 50 states have been forced into deficit budgets for the upcoming fiscal year. Is the state government in Illinois to blame for the national economic downturn? Of course not.
One of his more compelling arguments…
Worse yet, after hearing the GOP again trot out its claim that they could solve our fiscal problems solely through spending cuts, I called their bluff - and they blinked. I introduced legislation that would cut $4.5 billion from the budget, a figure chosen because it encompassed all the money needed to make the state pension payment. Not one Republican voted for cutting, just as they all voted against the means to meet our pension obligations. Then, I invited them to introduce amendments to my bill to cut whatever particular programs they wished - and not a single Republican identified a single cut!
Madigan’s staff has also posted a companion background briefing on the state party’s website. Click here to read it.