First reported 8/31/2010 12:44 p.m.

Oak Park’s Village Hall and the two local school districts have been embroiled in a lawsuit since February, in a dispute over $3.3 million that the high school believes it is owed by the village government. Elected officials from the three sides have been loath to talk to each other directly about the lawsuit – which has tallied more than $100,000 in legal fees – but apparently, that’s changed.

Wednesday Journal has learned that elected officials from districts 200 and 97, along with village hall, met on Monday to talk about the lawsuit. But officials aren’t saying much about what was discussed, or what the next step might be.

Reached Monday afternoon, Village Manager Tom Barwin confirmed that such a meeting was set for later that day. The village was informed a couple of weeks ago that the District 200 board was willing to sit down with elected officials from the other two governing bodies, he said. 

Attendees at the meeting included administrators, attorneys and financial officers from all three entities, along with Village President David Pope, Trustee John Hedges, District 200 board members John Allen and Amy McCormack, District 97 board President Peter Traczyk and board member Bob Spatz.

Reach Tuesday morning, Hedges declined to say what was discussed at the meeting, or what the next step might be in the ongoing lawsuit. All sides have agreed to get through the discussions in private, though Hedges did say he thought the meeting was “absolutely” a step in the right direction.

“Normally I like to keep things as open as possible, but we want to try and get through this process among ourselves,” he said.

Allen also declined to discuss particulars on Tuesday morning, saying that the meeting was just a step along the way.

“We’re trying to have constructive dialogue,” he said. “Nothing is going to get resolved in one meeting; this is part of a process that we’re going through.”

Amy McCormack said, “Anything and everything in a settlement discussion needs to remain confidential to protect the integrity of the process,” declining to comment further.

Pope, Spatz and Traczyk could not be reached for comment late Tuesday morning.

Before the meeting Monday, Barwin said he thought just scheduling the session was a breakthrough. He hoped that Monday’s discussion would quickly get into the complicated formulas that are at the heart of the dispute.

“Up until now at least, the elected officials haven’t had an opportunity to communicate,” he said. “It’s been mostly lawyer driven.” 

In February, the high school sued the village, seeking some $3.3 million from the downtown Oak Park tax increment financing (TIF) district. District 200 alleges it is owed the money under the terms of a 2003 agreement to extend the TIF’s life to 2018. The village has said it owes the high school $1.79 million in TIF funds. OPRF amended its complaint in July to include District 97 as a defendant, since both school districts signed the 2003 agreement.

Staff reporter Terry Dean contributed to this report.

CONTACT: mstempniak@wjinc.com

Join the discussion on social media!