Hinsdale D86 Legal Costs Still Surging

HINSDALE, IL – Hinsdale High School District 86 board members are set to be asked Thursday to approve another $63,327 in monthly legal bills.

As the costs have skyrocketed in recent months, all seven board members have kept silent during board meetings, approving the attorney bills without comment.

After the board switched law firms in January, legal costs surged. Chicago-based Robbins Schwartz replaced Itasca-based Hodges Loizzi.

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

From February to May, the legal bills totaled $275,543, or an average of $68,885 a month, according to district records.

That’s well over the $174,471 that Elmhurst School District 205 spent the entire budget year. And District 205 has more than twice District 86’s enrollment.

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

The district said its actual spending for legal bills would total $588,000 for the budget year that ended June 30, a 43 percent increase from the previous year. The board budgeted $600,000 for this year.

In 2022, board members Jeff Waters and Peggy James and then-member Debbie Levinthal frequently voted against the legal bills, saying the costs were too high.

At one meeting, Waters said the bills were increasing by “many magnitudes year over year.” These days, though, Waters has not objected to the magnitude of the new hikes.

In an email to Patch last month, Waters told Patch that the legal costs are serving students and taxpayers “in a fashion to provide both optimal and maximized opportunities for all cohorts of students.”

Waters, James and Levinthal, who resigned last fall, often voted in the minority before the April 2023 school board election.

The legal costs back then were part of the minority’s overall critique of then-Superintendent Tammy Prentiss, whom the new majority ousted with a severance agreement that gave her another year of pay. (Waters and Levinthal voted against the pact without explanation.)

Even before the new board majority formed last year, several of its members met secretly with a representative of Robbins Schwartz before new members joined the board.

For years, Itasca-based Hodges Loizzi had the district’s legal business. But the new majority likely saw the firm as too close to Prentiss.

In January, the board selected Robbins Schwartz as the new attorney without seeking other firms’ proposals. But for months before that, district officials said they would have a competitive process, which is not legally required.

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