Oak Brook works to reduce legal bills
Summary of Oak Brook legal expenses
Updated: August 27, 2012 10:56AM
OAK BROOK — Village President Gopal Lalmalani has not forgotten one of the major issues on which he campaigned in 2011.
Lalmalani said earlier in July he wants to form a committee to look into ways to reduce Oak Brook’s legal bills. A meeting for that purpose is likely to be scheduled within the next two weeks, Village Manager David Niemeyer said Tuesday.
“We still have a long way to go with this,” Lalmalani said after Village Trustee Stelios Aktipis expressed concern about the village’s legal costs at a July 10 Village Board meeting. “I’d like to form a committee so we can look at ways to bring these costs down significantly.”
On Tuesday, Lalmalani named the committee that would study the matter: himself, as well as Trustees Michael Manzo, Mark Moy and Asif Yusuf.
Oak Brook’s total annual legal expenses since 2005 have ranged from $394,299 in 2006 to $699,296 in 2007.
Niemeyer said some measures already have been taken to reduce Oak Brook’s legal bills.
“We have been able this year to reduce our prosecutor’s bill,” Niemeyer said. “With our previous attorney, there was a blended rate, which resulted in considerably higher fees. We have a new prosecutor (Rathje & Woodward) and have been able to reduce those fees quite a bit.”
Village prosecutor fees for 2012, through July 23, were $25,287; the village paid $126,358 in prosecutor bills in 2011.
“We have a lot of services under a retainer now, and we’ll look to get more services under retainer,” Niemeyer said. “That allows us to know up front what we can expect in legal expenses.”
Oak Brook also has reduced legal expenses since hiring Peter Friedman as village attorney in 2011. Friedman is paid a flat rate of $7,500 a month and can be paid more for litigation cases, Niemeyer said.
One example of how that flat rate can help the village save money is that, in 2010, Oak Brook spent about $122,000 on general and FOIA legal bills, but at $7,500 a month, that amount would be $90,000 on the same matters.
“Our legal bills have been a function of the amount of litigation we have,” Niemeyer said. “There are ebbs and flows to this, so you really never know what it’s going to cost. But we will continue to look for ways to keep those expenses down.”
Moy believes the village’s large legal bills are partially indicative of the times.
“We live in a very litigious society,” he said. “It’s a very difficult area to get a hold of. Projects for this year of under $400,000 are less than in the past, but we can continue to try to save money.”
“We have reduced our legal bills from the normal amount of about $600,000 a year, but we still have to do more,” he said.