In an apparent quick response to the Oak Lawn Leaf’s exclusive story last week about a controversial piece of state legislation affecting municipalities, the Oak Lawn Village Board is poised to fire its longtime politically connected federal lobbyist in favor of a politically connected lobbyist that will lobby state officials.
Trustee Tom Phelan and Mayor Sandra Bury have submitted a board meeting agenda item that will be voted on tomorrow night that effectively terminates the contract of the federal lobbyist Alcalde and Fay and hires Government Consulting Services Of Illinois, LLC, owned and operated by Frank J. Cortese.
The Oak Lawn Leaf exclusively reported story was based on public comments by Village Manager Larry Deetjen, who lambasted local state legislators for passing a law that eliminates municipalities’ power to control the installation of wireless cable and internet based equipment on municipal streetlights.
Deetjen noted that the local representatives never asked the village’s opinion and public records indicate that the village did not oppose the legislation despite the fact that the Illinois Municipal League was opposed and published various warnings on its website and in electronic communications.
An agenda memo, acquired by the Oak Lawn Leaf, and submitted by Phelan and Bury states:
The Village of Oak Lawn presently has no formal strategy when it comes to State and County level legislation that impacts our residents, and the most effective implementation of a successful strategy requires the expertise of a professional consulting/lobbying firm.
The memo notes that the proposal is close to being revenue neutral since the Mayor and Phelan recommended paying the same $60,000 fee to Government Consulting Services Of Illinois that it currently pays to Alcalde and Fay for federal lobbying efforts. It isn’t quite revenue neutral since Cortese’s firm would start on May 16, 2018 and the contract with Alcalde and Fay would be terminated in thirty days.
Alcalde and Fay is a premier federal lobbyist company that includes former congressmen and represents various clients including municipalities such as Deerfield Beach in Florida. Oak Lawn Village Manager Larry Deetjen previously served in Deerfield Beach and Alcalde and Fay has been linked to Deetjen, who recommended the firm to Oak Lawn officials about a decade ago.
Cortese and Government Consulting Services of Illinois lobby in Illinois and not at the federal level. The firm’s clients include townships, villages, unions and private companies:
ACCESS COMMUNITY HEALTH NETWORK
ANIMAL WELFARE INSTITUTE
CHICAGO FILM STUDIOS, LLC
HEAT & FROST INSULATORS LOCAL #17
I.U.E.C., LOCAL 2
ILLINOIS PRODUCTION ALLIANCE
LYONS TOWNSHIP HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT
MGR SPRINGFIELD PARTNERS, LLC
OMEGA & ASSOCIATES, INC.
ORLAND TOWNSHIP OFFICE
PROFESSIONAL NATIONAL TITLE NETWORK
REPUBLIC SERVICES, INC.
TEAMSTERS JOINT COUNCIL #25
THEATRICAL STAGE EMPLOYEES UNION, LOCAL 2
UNITED UNION OF ROOFERS, WATERPROOFERS AND ALLIED WORKERS LOCAL NO. 11
VILLAGE OF BELLWOOD
VILLAGE OF BRIDGEVIEW
VILLAGE OF NORRIDGE
VILLAGE OF TINLEY PARK
WHEATON SANITARY DISTRICT
The lobbying firm’s clients include four municipalities, including Bridgeview, one of Oak Lawn’s neighboring towns. The firm also includes Republic Services, Inc. as a client. Oak Lawn has used Republic Services as its waste hauler for many years.
Despite the fact that the vote will come without any previous discussion or without requests for proposals from other lobbying firms, the action does not violate Illinois statutes on the procurement of contracts. Municipalities are allowed to hire whoever the board chooses to serve for contracts that involve professional services. Most municipalities, however, do use a request for proposal format for selecting a lobbyist out of many applicants after reviewing credentials and negotiating a price. It is rare for municipalities to choose a lobbyist without at least using some type of process other than picking a friend or ally.
While the maneuver by Bury and Phelan may not be illegal, it may however, violate the village’s own policy and ordinance regarding committees.
The former board had created a committee known as the Legislative Licenses and Ethics Committee, which is now chaired by Trustee Tim Desmond. The previous board had used the committee to often stifle any changes but had also reviewed all proposed contracts, ordinance changes and other matters in that committee.
The village ordinance that created that village board committee sets forth the duties and powers of the committee as follows:
C. Powers And Duties:
1. The power of the Legislative, License, and Ethics Committee shall be to review policies and recommend changes to the Board of Trustees. In addition, the committee shall have the power to require Village officers, department heads, and employees to appear before it and answer questions and assist the committee in its deliberations.
2. The Legislative, License, and Ethics Committee shall review and advise the Board of Trustees in relation to legal policies, ordinances amending this Code, licenses and license fees, and the Village of Oak Lawn ethics ordinance including the following:
a. Review and advise the Board of Trustees on Municipal Code violations and the prosecution and administrative adjudication thereof.
b. Perform detailed work and prepare the text of suggested ordinances.
c. Periodically review this Code and recommend amendments, additions, and repeals of Code provisions to the Board of Trustees.
d. Periodically review the procedure for issuance of business licenses in the Village and make recommendations to the Board of Trustees relative thereto.
e. Review the number and types of licenses issued in the Village and make recommendations thereon to the Board of Trustees.
f. Review ethics ordinances adopted by other municipalities and Ethics Code suggestions brought forward by the citizens of the Village and make recommendations to the Board of Trustees relative thereto. (Ord. 17-15-56)
According to the Oak Lawn Leaf’s sources, Deetjen had been reluctant to dismiss Alcalde and Fay in favor of a state lobbyist. The same sources indicate that Deetjen and other members of the village’s hierarchy believe that the issue must be reviewed in the committee before the board can approve a new contract tomorrow.