Oak Park hires Georgia-based search firm to find village attorney

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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

The Georgia-based search firm, hired for about $20,000 to conduct the village manager search, has landed another contract with Oak Park.

Slavin Management Consultants was selected last May to launch a nationwide search for the next village manager, which led to the hiring of Village Manager Cara Pavlicek, who was serving as interim. Now Slavin is tasked with finding Oak Park's next village attorney. Simone Boutet has been the acting attorney since Ray Heise retired on June 30, 2011.

Slavin's contract, unanimously approved by the village board Monday, will pay the consulting group an amount up to $18,000. Although this amount is within the spending authorization of Pavlicek, Trustee Adam Salzman pulled the item from the consent agenda prior to the meeting to voice his concerns about hiring an out-of-state firm for this particular position.

Salzman, an attorney himself, said he's concerned about using a firm outside of Illinois may recruit attorneys who aren't familiar with the legal system in suburban Cook Country, which he noted has its share of quirks.

President David Pope called out the other attorneys on the board, trustees Bob Tucker and Glenn Brewer, for their perspectives. Tucker said Salzman's comments were had validity, but he didn't think it would cause issues in the recruiting process. Plus, he said, Slavin already knows the village well because of its work through the extensive village manager process.

Brewer didn't object to hiring the Georgia search firm; he's more concerned about identifying qualities for the next village attorney. He also said Slavin presents quality work for reasonable prices.

Despite Salzman's initial concerns, he ultimately joined his colleagues in supporting the contract.

Pavlicek explained to the board that because Slavin was initially chosen after a widespread search, she didn't feel it necessary to go through the same process again.

A request for proposals was issued Jan. 16, and three firms who had previously submitted "competitive proposals" to the village for other executive-level searches inquired. The RFP was for specific assistance with the development of a recruitment brochure, recruitment of prospective candidates and background screening assistance for the candidates.

The other firms that inquired were Chicago-based David Gomez & Associates, who gave a price of roughly $20,000 plus candidate travel, and Deerfield-based Voorhees Associates, who gave a price similar to Slavin.

In Pavlicek's memo to the board, she highlighted Slavin's knowledge of the village as another perk for being chosen. Slavin, which provided the lowest cost, will not take part in the interview portion of the process.

"[Slavin] was positively received and his current community knowledge and understanding of the village and board's professional expectations, in my opinion, uniquely qualifies him with the ability to assist the village manager with an efficient recruitment process for a new village attorney," wrote Pavlicek, who noted in a separate phone interview Monday that the village has used an in-house attorney for decades. Although some municipalities don't have a personal legal department, the volume of work in Oak Park makes an in-house team necessary, Pavlicek said. The attorney needs to be familiar with items that pertain strictly to Oak Park's code. The village hires other firms occasionally for additional legal work beyond the caseload of the in-house team.

Currently, the only attorney employed by the village is Boutet, and Pavlicek said code allows for a village attorney and two assistant village attorneys. No assistant spots have been filled since Boutet stepped into the acting role.

According to the RFP provided to candidates, the recruitment brochure is to be issued by March 1, and recommended candidates should be identified in April. A candidate is expected to be chosen by May.

Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

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Ray Johnson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 10th, 2013 12:32 PM

Mr. Heise had a short term contract which has been expired for some time. He helped out on some outstanding litigation which has since been resolved.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 10th, 2013 11:41 AM

Glad to read that trustee Ray Johnson recognizes the need to make the hiring process for this vital position transparent and objective with "absolutely no conflicts of interest". It is also important to check on a potential employee's financial ties, investment partnerships and local real estate holdings. We must have a person of outstanding character who will not abuse or misuse the power of their office. Oak Park has been burned in the past and it is time to turn the page.

Curiouser and Curiouser  

Posted: February 10th, 2013 10:52 AM

"Though retired, Heise still remains on Village payroll with a personal services/consulting contract." Overkill, always overkill. John Walsh is right, tax dollars should never be used for consulting." The V of OP approach to management has always been like that old joke about the person seeking happiness who is before two doors, one says "Heaven" and the other says "Lecture about Heaven" and the person chooses the "Lecture on Heaven". just like the Village of Oak Park.

john j walsh from wooddale  

Posted: February 10th, 2013 10:12 AM

tax dollars should never be used for consulting

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: February 9th, 2013 7:38 PM

Jim: I think we are saying the same thing differently. This is a tough job,and we need the best person for the job.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 9th, 2013 2:06 PM

The position of Village Attorney is one of the most sensitive in Village Hall. They oversee compliance, governance, ethics and more. To provide a transparent and objective process with absolutely no conflicts off interest....especially in light of a possible internal candidate......we hired the same firm which completed the recent manager search. There is no learning curve with this firm and they were less expensive than local firms. They will insure we have a fair and objective process.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 8th, 2013 12:07 PM

Brian, you may remember that Jack Tibbetts served for a number of years as assistant village attorney. After he left, most of the legal work was farmed out to a few favored law firms. I recall the trustees once quizzed Heise about the lack of any competitive bidding process involving outside legal counsel. They were satisifed with his explanation of how he selected the firms and the matter was quickly dropped. The board should make sure that new hire is agreeable to opening up the current contracts for review. Though retired, Heise still remains on Village payroll with a personal services/consulting contract.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: February 8th, 2013 11:42 AM

Sorry, meant to say did instead of die and ware instead or war

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: February 8th, 2013 11:39 AM

If we hire Boutet, then she will need one or two assistants to help her w/the work load. The question is how much more of a work load is there now then compared to the work load for Heise?How many assistants die Heise have? This is not a question of progress or gender.This is solely a question of is the work load getting completed cost effectively. An outsider might be needed, a new broom sweeps clean.Remenber the six payments for $24,999 that went un noticed for computer soft war.

Suzanne Vestuto from Oak Park  

Posted: February 8th, 2013 10:59 AM

VOP procedure & protocol has always been to conduct a search for key employment positions. We ALL detest the expense. Yet we want the best & brightest! It is a healthy process to review a dept., the position, as well as the acting employee. In this situation, I support Ms. Boutet as VOP Village Attorney per her credentials prior to & in her present employment. Promotion from within and the first woman in the full position! It is progress! Don' t think that is inappropriate!

john j walsh from wooddale  

Posted: February 8th, 2013 10:13 AM

i remember when i worked at oak park two different village attorneys were hired who lived in oak park why go anywhere else


Posted: February 8th, 2013 8:37 AM

If Ms. Boutet had shown good judgment a search firm would not be necessary. She has not shown good judgment or the competence to take on the position permanently. It's about time we open the books on the legal department and see precisely what she has been up to since Heise's departure and examine the relationships she has developed and the work she actually does.

Suzanne Vestuto from Oak Park  

Posted: February 8th, 2013 7:50 AM

Part of me understands the need to conduct a search for the critical position of Village Attorney. But most importantly is that Simone Boutet, our acting Village Atty. has already been vetted and is most capable of conducting village business! What is necessary is to hire one or two assistant attorneys to aid her with the VOP's voluminous workload. Suzanne Vestuto

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 7th, 2013 12:30 PM

Has the interim village attorney expressed interest in the position and, if so, will she be considered as a potential candidate by the search firm? Village Attorney is one of the most important hires for Oak Park government. A misinterpretation of the law or a judgemental error can and has resulted in cases being decided against Oak Park with significant costs incurred by taxpayers. I would suggest that the trustees make a determined effort to hire someone who is prepared and able to being more of the legal process in house and reduce the need for expensive outside legal counsel. We spend millions for these services and, in most instances, the contracts are awarded without any competitive bidding process.

Don from Oak Park  

Posted: February 6th, 2013 10:32 AM

Seriously, save our $20K and just hire Simone Boutet. She's been doing the job quite well for over 20 months now, with no assistant attorneys to help her out. One person in what is supposed to be a three person office.

June from Oak Park  

Posted: February 6th, 2013 10:06 AM

Why are WE (it's my tax$$ as well) hiring an out-of-state company to search for a local attorney? I can find several for you that are familiar with local municipal ordinances and I won't charge a penney. It's a total waste of money!

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: February 6th, 2013 9:17 AM

I can see the headline now - "Search firm hires attorney already on staff". Let me save you morons $20K - hire Simone. It just gets better everyday.

Matt on Madison  

Posted: February 6th, 2013 8:55 AM

Couldn't you just call 5 compatible towns and see who they use and if they are happy and then contact them to bid on the job. Seems like a waste of money.

Here we go again from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 6th, 2013 8:41 AM

Maybe the next paid search can involve the trustees, flashlights and some self discovery. Please, keep pissing our money away.

Typical Oak Park  

Posted: February 6th, 2013 7:37 AM

A candidate is expected to be chosen in May of what year? Why does the Village need a search firm to find an attorney in the Chicago area?


Posted: February 5th, 2013 10:20 PM

Zzzzzzzzzzzz! Here we go again.

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