Village Attorneys charged the Village of Oak Lawn $3,757 for reviewing and redacting documents in a duplicative freedom of information request filed by one of Mayor Sandra Bury’s controversial political appointees.
On November 24, 2015, Andy Skoundrianos filed a freedom of information request asking the village for any documents regarding the development proposed for the Beatty Property in the center of town by Advocate Christ Hospital, which would have housed medical offices, a senior center, physical therapy and similar amenities. It was a proposal championed by former Mayor Dave Heilmann and abandoned by incoming Mayor Sandra Bury in 2013.
Skoundrianos made his FOIA request after the issue arose during discussions at the November 18, 2015 meeting. The village employs multiple freedom of information officers to handle requests. Beginning on December 2, 2015 and continuing through to December 18, 2015, village attorneys at the law firm Peterson, Johnson, Murray Chicago LLC, charged the village on 16 instances identified by the Oak Lawn Leaf for a total of 22.6 hours and $3,757.
Most of the charges refer to “Review of emails for FOIA #2015-212…” with a reference to page numbers. The final entry for one hour states, “Work on redaction for FOIA $2015-212”. Two other entries refer to “Conference call with Deetjen and staff…”.
The Beatty Lumber site was proposed as a senior citizen center location after Village Manager Larry Deetjen recommended that the old senior center at 5330 W. 95th Street be sold to a bank. Heilmann, former Trustees Carol Quinlan and Cindy Traustch, along with current Trustee Robert Streit, agreed to the plan with the understanding that a new senior center would replace the old building. Heilmann proposed a plan in which Advocate Hospital would make a substantial investment by renting space in the development. The Village would also have rented space to provide a senior center and other amenities for residents. All construction costs were to be paid by a private developer who had successfully completed other medical buildings for Advocate and other providers.
Some of the amenities planned in the drawings included a lap pool, a nutrition center, a large meeting room, smaller multipurpose rooms, a health and wellness area, and on site medical staff. Bury had denied any plans existed. However, the unusual amount of billing by the attorneys indicates that records were reviewed and released to Skoundrianos. Ironically, Bury had made the same request for said records prior to her election in 2013.
Streit acknowledged he did provide his own records to the village staff upon Skoundrianos’ request for records. “I believe that Larry (Deetjen) already had the records but I wanted to comply with the request when it came to me”, said Streit.
Streit said he doesn’t know why the attorney would be reviewing the documents. “I believe that we should make more records available on our website and requests like Andy’s (Skoundrianos) wouldn’t cost us anything”, said Streit. “I made a proposal to the Board of Trustees to put all FOIA responses on the Village website. Unfortunately, the Mayor and Manager decided to keep wasting money by having their attorneys review public documents.”