Local board troubles appear to be golden goose for Chicago law firm
A Chicago law firm appears to be the "go-to" when it comes to local boards suppressing public comment and skirting the Open Meetings Act (OMA), according to the Edgar County Watchdogs (ECW).
Klein, Thorpe and Jenkins (KTJ) has been hired as counsel by multiple public boards that the ECW says have violated the OMA and often continue to do so.
Chronicling various public conflict in municipal meetings and organizational board meetings, ECW writer Kevin Dujan compiled a list on the group's Illinois Leaks website, beginning with some meetings of the Orland Park Public Library (OOPL) Board in which attorney James Fessler is said to have bullied and attacked local residents who spoke up about concerns with improper activities in the library. The report cites video that is publicly available to show the nature of that meeting and notes that the library and the municipality eventually had to pay $67,000 for civil rights violations.
After Fessler’s removal from OPPL board meetings, the ECW contends another partner, identified as E-Kenneth Friker, also acted aggressively toward residents. The group also says KTJ lawyer Thomas Melody was counsel for Tinley Park during a legal contest over a developer’s project.
The ECW said a partiicularly egregious case involved KTJ attorney Dennis Walsh.
"This man aggressively asserted that the OPPL could hold an illegal special meeting and ban the public from speaking on Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday," Dujan wrote.
After listing numerous such cases, the ECW summed it up by saying that while the boards faced public scrutiny, the law firm came out with its pockets full.
"During all this, Klein Thorpe Jenkins racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees," Dujan wrote. "The more trouble a public body gets into, the more billable hours Klein Thorpe Jenkins appears to invoice that public body."