Hinsdale D86 Lawyer 'Charade' Leads To Complaint

HINSDALE, IL – For months, Hinsdale High School District 86 board members talked about issuing a request for proposals for its legal business.

But in January, the board – without explanation – chose a Chicago law firm that appeared to have the inside track.

The process prompted a complaint from resident Yvonne Mayer, a critic of the board. The attorney general’s office said last week it would investigate.

Find out what's happening in Hinsdale-Clarendon Hillswith free, real-time updates from Patch.

Under state law, the board has no obligation to go through a competitive process to seek bids for professional services such as attorneys. Yet the board indicated for months it would do just that.

Last fall, board President Catherine Greenspon appointed herself, member Kay Gallo and interim Superintendent Linda Yonke to a committee that was supposed to draft the request for proposals. By December’s end, Gallo and Yonke had resigned, so Greenspon was the sole member.

Find out what's happening in Hinsdale-Clarendon Hillswith free, real-time updates from Patch.

At a board meeting in early January, interim Superintendent Raymond Lechner updated the board on the request for proposals for legal services. Two members asked about the process.

Two weeks later, Lechner gave another update, but no member asked any questions. Later in the meeting, without any discussion, the board unanimously voted for Chicago-based Robbins Schwartz as its law firm, with member Terri Walker pausing before voting.

Under state law, Mayer said the board must discuss the process of selecting a law firm in public. The board jumped from wanting a request for proposals to choosing a firm without competition.

The attorney general’s office confirmed that such a discussion must be in public under the Open Meetings Act.

When the vote was called, no member asked why the board was suddenly changing its process or why the district wouldn’t seek other firms’ proposals.

“(T)his was, in retrospect, all a charade,” Mayer wrote in her complaint. “The board pulled the wool over the eyes of the community by intentionally leaving the impression that nothing had changed from this plan…”

Mayer questioned why the board was not open with residents.

“Taxpayers might have viewed a decision to not proceed with an RFP in order to review multiple firms’ legal service and pricing proposals as fiscally irresponsible, but at least the D86 (school board) would have been honest and transparent,” Mayer said.

Before the new board majority took control last May, some current and incoming board members held a private, off-site meeting with a member of Robbins Schwartz. A week and a half after taking office, the board hired Robbins to help with the ouster of then-Superintendent Tammy Prentiss, although the board hid the purpose by saying the firm would look into a “current employee.”

At the same meeting, the board decided behind closed doors to suspend Prentiss and name an interim superintendent. This was while a Robbins Schwartz lawyer was present. Later, Patch filed a complaint with the attorney general because public bodies are barred from making closed-door decisions. The complaint has not been resolved.

In September, the board hired Robbins to investigate a 6-day-old “message with parent concerns.”

Click Here: Lionel Messi Jersey Sale

With the decision to select Robbins Schwartz permanently in January, the board ousted Itasca-based Hodges Loizzi as its general counsel.

Board President Greenspon did not return a message for comment Monday.

Get more local news delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for free Patch newsletters and alerts.

0 thoughts on “Hinsdale D86 Lawyer 'Charade' Leads To Complaint”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *