Elmhurst D205 Legal Costs Far Lower Than Nearby District

HINSDALE, IL – Hinsdale High School District 86’s legal bills are far more than those of nearby districts, including Elmhurst School District 205.
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Over the last year, District 86 board members have approved sharply increased lawyer bills without comment. That includes members who balked about legal bills when they were lower two years ago.

According to district records, District 86’s bills amounted to $588,398 for the budget year that ended Sunday, a 43 percent increase over the previous year’s $412,226.

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Through public records requests, Patch has obtained the total legal bills for Elmhurst School District 205, Lyons Township High School and Hinsdale School District 181.

Perhaps District 86’s most dramatic comparison is to Elmhurst, where legal bills totaled $174,471 last budget year and $159,518 the previous year. District 86’s costs in the last year more than tripled Elmhurst’s. District 205’s enrollment is over 8,000 students, more than twice District 86’s.

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Legal bills at Lyons Township High School, where enrollment is similar to District 86’s, amounted to $286,744 last school year and $231,077 the year before that.

Hinsdale School District 181 uses the same law firm that District 86 hired in January – Chicago-based Robbins Schwartz. Yet District 181’s bills are far lower – $188,418 last budget year and $201,285 the year before that. Its enrollment is slightly smaller than District 86’s.

Board members Jeff Waters and Peggy James, who ran as a team three years ago, repeatedly voted against the legal bills in 2022, saying they were too high. Then-member Debbie Levinthal often joined them.

Recently asked about his silence on the higher bills, Waters told Patch in an email, “Legal costs, currently, are serving students and taxpayers in a fashion to provide both optimal and maximized opportunities for all cohorts of students.”

Board President Catherine Greenspon has not returned messages for comment about the issue. She, along with the superintendent, has the authority to call the attorney for advice.

Superintendent Michael Lach took the helm Monday.

Over the last year, lawyers likely have been asked to help with basketball team controversies at both South and Central.

In May 2023, Robbins Schwartz was hired for the specific task of aiding the ouster of then-Superintendent Tammy Prentiss. The legal bills were lower under Prentiss than they are now. Waters and James were critics of her administration.

Even at the levels under Prentiss, the bills were far higher than the other districts.

District 86 is budgeting $600,000 for legal costs this fiscal year.

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