Monday night’s highly contentious River Forest village board meeting failed to resolve the question of whether a dispassionate outsider is needed to investigate the ongoing turmoil in the police department.

When the 2-hour-plus, closed-session meeting concluded, according to a source, local attorney Patrick Deady had reportedly been hired by a unanimous vote to provide employment law services to the village administration and board. The River Forest Police Committee’s recommendation to retain an outside counsel to investigate allegations contained in its Feb. 19 report, however, was not acted upon.

Village Administrator Steve Gutierrez confirmed the hiring of “outside employment counsel” Tuesday morning in a one-sentence press release, but did not identify the person hired.

“After productive deliberations the village has decided to retain outside employment counsel to assist in various personnel-related matters,” the statement read.

According to the source, Deady’s legal work for the village will be done under attorney-client privilege and will not be admissible in any court case. Nor will it be made public in any report.

Monday marked the first public board meeting in the wake of a series of developments, including a harassment complaint filed by a deputy chief against several subordinates, the apparent retention of outside legal counsel to investigate harassment complaints filed by numerous police officers against that deputy chief, and the resignation of longtime Village Attorney Jon Gilbert (see full story on page 3).

Would-be outside counsel, Deady sat in the audience and yet-to-be appointed interim village attorney Lance C. Malina sat at the board table, as blame flew back and forth between the two board factions about everything from who was responsible for the expensive resolution of recently settled lawsuits to the tone and conduct during board meetings. There was even disagreement over who was responsible for the scheduling of an early morning police committee.

In opening comments, Trustee Patrick O’Brien said he wanted to make it clear he had nothing to do with a 14-page report released by the police committee, noting he never read it or signed off on it. Additionally, he questioned why the meeting took place at 7 a.m. on Feb. 19.

That was too much for Trustee Steven Hoke, who demanded that Village Administrator Steve Gutierrez explain the reason he disallowed a request to schedule it Monday night. Gutierrez did not answer.

Tuesday morning, Hoke forwarded an e-mail, dated Friday, Feb. 15, in which Gutierrez replied to a scheduling request by Hoke: “Can we hold a meeting on Monday given it is a holiday? Unfortunately, the state statute prohibits any public meetings on Presidents Day. If you wish to hold the meeting on Tuesday morning it will need to be completed no later than 10 a.m.”

There was also disagreement over whether village officials had already begun working with both an interim village attorney and an outside or independent counsel.

According to an invoice filed with the village by Gilbert, he spent time Feb. 14 teleconferencing with Gutierrez and “outside counsel, re: pending complaints” and “reviewing and transmitting files to outside counsel.”


‘Mr. Burge’ comes to River Forest

Frank Paris had planned to celebrate his wife’s birthday on Monday at his second home in sunny seaside Stuart, Florida, not be in cold and snowy River Forest presiding over a nasty board meeting marked by drawn out procedural arguments and angry personal attacks. So as wet snow drifted down outside, Paris sat looking like a man not the least bit pleased to be a part of this number.

Paris himself lashed out first after becoming angry with resident and frequent critic Edward Hanrahan, who had inquired about bonds the village is paying at a rate of five percent. When Paris answered “that might be the case,” Hanrahan asked why the bonds hadn’t been “called,” that is, refinanced at a lower rate. Paris said he’d get back to Hanrahan within 60 to 90 days, but after Hanrahan repeatedly pressed Paris for a quicker response, Paris got snappish.

“90 days is inadequate, that’s typical delay…” Hanrahan began.

“Are you associated with Mr. Burge?” Paris interrupted. “I got some very interesting things in the mail from some citizen this last week.”

When Hanrahan, a former Cook County State’s Attorney, replied with a puzzled “No, I…” Paris shot back, “Have you ever been associated with Mr. Burge?”

Paris was reportedly flying back to Florida Tuesday morning and unavailable for comment, including clarification of Mr. Burge’s first name.

Just before the meeting adjourned into executive session shortly after 9 p.m., Paris locked horns for the third or fourth time with Hoke. When Paris stated Hoke and Dudek were “completely responsible” for recently settled lawsuits filed against the village by two police officers, Hoke bristled and fired back.

“I want the papers to print that,” he snapped, noting that he and Dudek weren’t on the village board at the time the suits were filed in 2003. “It shows you the intellectual bankruptcy of what’s going on here.”

Paris replied, “I think it shows the utter dishonesty of what some trustees, and I’m looking at two of the most dishonest people I’ve ever met in my life.”

Replied Hoke, “Frank, you’ve defamed me several times this week, and you’re going to be hearing about that in the next couple of days.”

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