By Anna Lothson
In early February, Oak Park entrusted Slavin Management Consultants, a Georgia-based firm that was also used for the village manager search, to help find the next village attorney.
Slavin will be paid up to $18,000 for the search, which got underway in March with the release of the candidate recruitment brochure. The document, much like the materials released for the nationwide village manager process, outlines the community character of Oak Park, an outline of the organizational chart of village management, and experience required.
Currently, the only attorney employed by the village is Simone Boutet, who has served as acting village attorney since Ray Heise retired in June 2011.Oak Park Village Code allows for a village attorney and two assistant village attorneys. No assistant spots have been filled since Boutet stepped into the acting role.
Listed among the experience and training guidelines outlined in the recruitment document are: "Seven years of increasingly responsible experience in municipal or related government law, including trial experience; Juris Doctorate from an accredited law school; and membership in the State Bar of Illinois."
That last qualification addresses the concern brought up by Trustee Adam Salzman, who previously expressed concerns about the ability of an out-of-state firm to recruit an attorney familiar with the state and county's legal systems.
Attributes identified by Village Manager Cara Pavlicek include someone who "will see the job as 'corporate counsel,' will provide leadership to staff; organize, delegate, supervise and evaluate work; negotiate for and oversee the work of outside counsel; … will understand and appreciate that the village attorney works for the village manager and that the attorney's primary function is to assist the manager in enabling the operating departments to achieve their missions; … [and] is politically neutral, but astutely aware of the political process."
The village attorney also coordinates work with outside agencies and outside legal counsel due to the vast amount of workload that comes into the village's legal department. It hasn't been decided how the legal department's structure might change once a permanent village attorney role has been filled.
The first review of applications is set to begin April 8, and if plans move forward as expected, a new candidate will be chosen in May.