Date set for mediation on Oak Park TIF lawsuit

Former Cook County judge will charge $500 an hour to help resolve dispute


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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

Three local government bodies will attempt to resolve their differences out of court and in front of a former Cook County judge who will oversee the "mediation" process and charge $500 an hour, starting June 22.

Village hall was sued by Oak Park and River Forest High School last year in a dispute over how much money village hall owes local taxing bodies from the controversial downtown tax increment financing district. The suit, until now slowly wending its way through the courts, has racked up well over $100,000 in legal bills.

In February, the three sides agreed to try and resolve the dispute out of court in front of an independent, third-party mediator. Just recently, they set a date to start that process — June 22, according to Ray Heise, the Oak Park village attorney.

Former Cook County Circuit Court judge Julia Nowicki will serve as the mediator. Her costs will be split evenly among the three bodies of government, which picked her from a list of possible candidates.

Heise was uncertain how long the process would take, but said it would take at least "one full day." The discussions will be closed to the public and likely occur at the offices of one of the three governing bodies' law firms.

Village Manager Tom Barwin hopes mediation might finally bring the dispute to an end, calling the high school's case "marginal at best."

"I want to be optimistic, but I'm coming from the perspective that this whole effort has been unnecessary and incomprehensible," he said. "I'm hopeful, but at this point, I wouldn't be surprised to be disappointed again."

Dee Millard, president of the District 200 Board of Education, confirmed that a date for mediation has been set, and said the high school hopes the effort is successful. She declined to comment further because the judge has urged the parties not to speak to the media.

Peter Traczyk, president of the District 97 board, could not not be reached for comment on Friday.

Once they're finished with the nonbinding mediation, Heise said, the results would be presented to county Judge Peter Flynn, who will decide the next steps in the process.

Reader Comments

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Posted: April 25th, 2011 1:00 AM

Whats john murtagh going to do with the info anyways???? You would ask what time it was even if you had 7 clocks on your body or in sight. It seems you just like to hear yourself rant about how wrong everything is. We get it john. Move along. Your example is so fitting because you are more concerned with the answer than really wanting to know anything. Dont worry about how to build a clock or not if you dont need to know what time it is!

OP Resident  

Posted: April 24th, 2011 8:50 PM

John, I'll bet your comment even got a laugh from Ray Johnson. Very funny!

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: April 24th, 2011 8:31 PM

Thanks for the location of the TIF Annual Report. Remind me never to ask you the time. You would probably hand me a box of clock parts without assembly instructions. Residents ask for transparency and you give them obfuscation!

OP Resident  

Posted: April 24th, 2011 8:11 PM

Trustee Johnson and President Pope continue to dodge a simple question, "Will you support an independent forensic accounting of the TIF books?" Johnson just gives the same answer about TIF facts being available on the website. Pope will launch an angry attack in response. Taxpayers do not know enough about the revenues & expenditures. We see too many hirings of "experts" & "no-bid" contracts. The process demands real oversight & true transparency. Both are currently lacking. Trust but verify.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 24th, 2011 11:39 AM

The TIF annual reports are posted to the Village website and can be viewed at any time. Annual Reports/TIF 2009.pdf If there is additional information citizens would like to see, or in different formats, I would be interested in learning what else we could add to these reports to provide people information. There is definitely no desire to keep information from the public.

OP Resident  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 7:50 PM

Patricia, you are aces in my book. There are a number of folks who post on this site offering intelligent and thought provoking questions and observations. John Murtagh is the reigning champion. Occasionally, we encounter a small band of bullies and jesters. Each deserves to be ignored. They add nothing to the discussion and employ nastiness and empty arguments in an attempt to get their point across. I suspect they have too much Fox News in their diet. No sense and nonsense. I tune them out.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 7:48 PM

I am with OP Resident on this. President Pope and the village board have no claim to openness, transparency, or credibility until the village opens the TIF books for examination.

Patricia Murtagh O'Shea  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 7:32 PM

The thing that is the most scary about your demeanor is you push this "everyone be nice" in the meanest, nastiest way. Some one disagrees with you and watch out. Kind of like Mr. Pope on this thread actually. Why is it ok for you, Mr. Pope's staunchest supporter, to stay under wraps? Or is it ok because you call his cell phone for friendly chats?

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 7:22 PM

OP. You're fooling no one.


Posted: April 22nd, 2011 7:20 PM

OP Res, You SOUND silly. HA HA HA HA HA. A Good Laugh on Good Friday. Peace.

OP Resident  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 7:13 PM

I don't expect David Pope to resurface on this forum. He made his position clear. Direct questions will not be answered publicly. He claims facts I stated were wrong but offers no proof. There would not be suspicions re: the TIF finances & operations if Village Hall were completely forthcoming. Pope continues to refuse to accept a simple way to silence his critics. Open the TIF books to an independent forensic accountant and show that there is nothing to hide. I'll sit down when he stands up.


Posted: April 22nd, 2011 7:00 PM

There STILL is a censor issue at the WJ. Some of my post have been poo pooed. Not sure why. One was about how anyone could vote for Sharon Patrick Layman. It was in the article about D200 and John Phealan winning on election night??? Mrs Murtagh O'Shea, you shouldn't feel threatened. There was NO threat. Confused. epic lulz, If you are so concerned about who the David Pope is...CALL HIM. He wont bite

Patricia Murtagh O'Shea  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 5:12 PM

That makes sense. I work in IT. The techie in me was curious. Thanks for taking the time to explain.

Mike Risher  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 5:08 PM

Patricia, since we wanted to keep everything as close to live as possible, the cache time is actually directly tied to server load. The higher the load on the server, the longer everything gets cached. This way when there is less load on the server, the site stays very close to live. We decided to implement this change in order to serve more content more reliably during large traffic spikes like we saw on election night.

epic lulz  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 5:05 PM

Incidentally, all elected officials could take a lesson from the customer management skills of Mr. Risher, who below responded to a complaint with transparency, accessibility, and, above all, courtesy.

Patricia Murtagh O'Shea  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 4:58 PM

Oak Park has a history of intimidating and attacking those who don't go with the leadership line. I hope you're proud of propogating that legacy.

epic lulz  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 4:56 PM

(cont) Ironically, this plausible deniability provides Pope with just as much anonymity as anyone posting on here, something which the person posting under his name decries, and around which he spins conspiracy theories and manufactures enemies lists, all which he employs to justify NOT answering any of the questions posed to him.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 4:55 PM

Are you threatening me OP? Because I feel threatened. That said, I am in NO WAY ASHAMED of having the maiden name Murtagh. I hope you are happy with yourself threatening a young woman on Easter weekend. Male or female (I don't know because you hide behind the mask of anonymity), you are plain awful. Know this. I believe in what I am advocating for and you will NOT intimidate me from speaking my mind.

epic lulz  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 4:51 PM

I take a slightly different tack from Mr. Murtagh. Until the identity of David Pope is confirmed (preferably using a verifiable account, eg, Facebook) I see little use in engaging with the person posting under that name. If it isn't Pope, it's a complete waste of time. If it is Pope, the lack of verifiability provides him plausible deniability and he can always disavow his comments, in which case it's also a complete waste of time.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 4:47 PM

Mr. Risher...mine posted right away. Is it something you're testing?


Posted: April 22nd, 2011 4:45 PM

Mrs Murtagh O'Shea, I'm assuming its NOT you b/c it NOT FB verified. Oh Dear. I believe it is David Pope and HE IS HUMAN. When is he allowed to be fed up with all the junk out here. I wish Joanne Trapani was still around. This would be tame!!!Go President Pope. Injustice against you is injustice against ALL us of us Villagers!

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 4:40 PM

People have the right to do and say alot of things. That doesn't make it conduct becoming of an elected offical. I'll be with the rest hoping it's not truly Mr. Pope. Maybe it was you? Wouldn't be a new trick...


Posted: April 22nd, 2011 4:39 PM

Patricia Murtagh?


Posted: April 22nd, 2011 4:17 PM

David Pope is to be applauded. I think Patricia Murtagh has it all wrong. People put blatantly false accusations out here as if they are fact and he has ALL the right to defend himself.(in any tone) There are OP residents(all but 3) who put this C*#P out here. David does more for the Village than any of you even know. He even puts his PERSONAL phone number on here AND NO ONE CALLS? Hmmm.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 4:11 PM

Thanks, Mike. I appreciate your quick reply. John

Mike Risher - WJ Web Developer  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 3:50 PM

John, due to the increased traffic on lately, we have implemented a server side cache for all content in order to increase server response time. It can now take up to 10 minutes for any new content to appear everywhere on the site. I apologize for the inconvenience, and we will make sure to add this disclaimer to the comment submission form soon. Thanks again for your participation on our site and sorry about the confusion.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 3:34 PM

OK WJ -- what is going on? While I posted the letter below, my first message magically reappeared. Does that mean that my post was taken down for review (censor) and then put back up when it was found to be acceptable? Exactly what are the WJ's policies and rules on posting?

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 3:30 PM

I just posted a comment stating that no one has the right to use David Pope and suggesting that since he is a public offical, he has a right and obligation to demand the posting records from the WJ. Until then we have little choice but to believe that the writer is really David Pope, President of the Village Board. HERE'S THE REAL ISSUE. I SAW THE POST ON LINE ABOUT EPIC LUTZ'S POST, AND WENT TO ANOTHER SCREEN. WHEN I CAME BACK, JUST NOW - IT WAS GONE. HAS IT BEEN CENSORED OR A TECH BLOP?

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 3:09 PM

David Pope is a village official and has the right, and obligation to the residents to take legal action, if someone else is addressing public policy issues in his name. Unfortunately, until the WJ and David take action, we are forced to believe that the writer is the President of the Board. If WJ will not release the URL addresses of the users to the proper government agencies, then they should be subpoenaed.

epic lulz  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 2:49 PM

"Dan Haley has assured us that we are indeed hearing from our Village President." Has he really? The most I ever saw is that Haley confirmed that the phone# posted by "David Pope" was indeed the phone# of the real David Pope, which means nothing. In any case, if he did confirm a particular comment, that hardly means that all comments from "David Pope" are legit.

epic lulz  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 2:43 PM

Whoever keeps posting here in the WJ comment section as "David Pope" is fairly consistently arrogant and dismissive toward his constituents and all around asinine in his approach to the debate. I, too, certainly hope it is not the real Village President. Once again I would like to request that the WJ take some journalistic responsibility and ensure that public figures who post on here are indeed who they claim to be.

OP Fan from oak park  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 11:53 AM

I am relieved! Thought I was the only one who found Mr. Pope's comportment inappropriate. He seems out to be the worst behaved person on the comment board. Mr. Pope you are the top executive of Oak Park! Frankly your school-yard bullying behavior gives the whole government a bad odor.We are supposed to be urbane, sophisticated people here.BTW in America public officials get knocked. What they don't do is chase down everyone who makes a comment and try to shove them around in print.Dignity sir!

OP Resident  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 11:25 AM

The ball's in your court, Sally. Can you provide a lick of evidence that the District 200 wants to "end every TIF in Oak Park"? I think the reason this issue is such a silly, stupid and expensive mess is because Village Hall refused to let school board members look at the books. Why would they take such a strident position? What don't they want to be revealed? Do you think they would be able to fully account for the funds they've received spent? I don't! That's what they are hiding from us.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 11:22 AM

I also speculated that someone else was posing as Mr. Pope. If not, I am very surprised. It is beneath the office of Village President to make a personal attack on a village resident.

OP Resident  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 11:09 AM

I agree with Patricia O'Shea regarding Mr. Pope's tone when he responds to comments posted on this board. At one time, I was concerned that someone was using his name as a means to attack those who disagree with Village policies and procedures. Dan Haley has assured us that we are indeed hearing from our Village President. I've met Pope on a couple of occasions and he was friendly and engaging. We once spoke while his daughter & my granddaughter played together in front of his home on Lombard.

OP Resident  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 10:59 AM

Our Village President should know that I voted for him. Twice! That said, I think it is important tnat he be candid about the finances of the TIF districts. It's been noted in The Reader that a week does not go by without someone asking their reporter to look into the Oak Park TIFs. Politicians love the pot of money the TIF provide and the fact that there is little oversight. Such a system is ripe for waste & corruption. There's the rub, Mr. Pope. Agree to a forensic exam and prove your case.

Sop Box Sally from Oak Park  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 10:30 AM

The clear objective of the District 200 School board is to simply end every TIF in Oak Park & thereby gain additional revenue. The High School and the Village are fighting while Oak Park's businesses and residents are caught in the middle. Taxpayers will end up paying a very high price in ever increasing property taxes.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 10:30 AM

Mr. Pope, I spend a pretty good bit of effort trying to keep my nose clean & be civil in debate - even when I think the person I'm debating is full of it. The way you interact with your consituents on this board is not only unprofessional, it feeds the "VMA vs. anyone who doesn't agree with the VMA" culture in Oak Park - a culture which has the potential to do serious long term damage to this community if it doesn't stop. I want to hear & value your viewpoint, but could you tone it down a bit?

OP Resident  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 10:22 AM

Same old song from David Pope. Why did he tell District 200, "NO", when they asked to see the TIF books? What didn't he want board members & the community to see? It's been suggested that a independent forensic accountant examine the revenues and expenditures of the TIF districts. Pope wants nothing to do with that idea. Not a big surprise. He rants about people using their names when posting comments but can offer no assurances that Village Hall won't retaliate. They did it to Eli Spencer.

Pat Healey from Oak Park  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 8:20 AM

I still can't believe that District 200 is wasting out money this way.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 12:54 AM

David Pope quote re opening TIF Books for discussion with other taxing bodies in OP "The Village would welcome the chance for an open public discussion regarding all aspects of this issue." With the taxing bodies having come together seeking ways to increase intergovernmental communications and cooperation, I think it is the perfect subject for that group to address.

David Pope from Oak Park  

Posted: April 21st, 2011 11:24 PM

@ OP Resident - Not surprisingly, your facts and your conspiracy theories are wrong yet again. The Village would welcome the chance for an open public discussion regarding all aspects of this issue. We clearly are not the ones standing in the way of that. Btw, your transparency reference is ridiculous, and laughable given your own unwillingness to identify yourself and allow readers to judge the real motivation for your blatantly political attacks. The election's over. Why not give it a rest?

OP Resident  

Posted: April 21st, 2011 9:14 PM

Let's not lose sight of the fact that when the OP-RF HS board members asked to examine the TIF books, Village President David Pope told them, "NO!". He has never explained his position. The truth is the TIF books are filled with examples of wasteful spending & mismanagement. Pope got us into this mess because of his arrogance. Those promises to voters of real transparency & accountabilty were simply slogans for his election campaign. David Pope is the problem. Who's got a recall petition?


Posted: April 21st, 2011 9:00 PM

Way to go D200. I guess a lawsuit is one way to spend down 80million in surplus. OH, but D97 is doesn't have it. Hope you are paying for their legal bills.

epic lulz  

Posted: April 21st, 2011 8:33 PM

I'll mediate for only $400/hr.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: April 21st, 2011 8:30 PM

There really is no such thing as "binding" mediation. A mediator attempts to guide the parties into reaching a compromise and settling the matter outside of court. A mediator cannot possibly know how long it will take or even that an agreement will be reached. But a good mediator can facilitate a settlement if the parties will negotiate in good faith. Even if the mediation consumes two days, the cost will be $8,000. Litigating the case could easily run up fees in the six figures. Worth a try.

valerie from oak park  

Posted: April 21st, 2011 6:03 PM

what a total waste of taxpayer money!

Frustrated in OP  

Posted: April 21st, 2011 5:46 PM

Not to mention, it isn't even binding mediation. So back to Court they go. $$$$$.

OK Tax Payer from Oak Park  

Posted: April 21st, 2011 5:32 PM

$500 and hour, and the mediator is 'uncertain how long the process will take'? Of course... $100000 already spent? What great use of my hard earned money.

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