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Article updated: 3/5/2013 12:04 AM

Des Plaines aldermen question lobbyist contracts

By Madhu Krishnamurthy

Des Plaines aldermen Monday night requested more information from the staff on contracts with lobbyists hired to represent the city's interests in Springfield.

The city council postponed a decision on continuing a contract with McGuireWoods Consulting LLC to provide lobbyist services for 2013 for not more than $19,200. The firm, whose clientele includes Metra and several other municipalities, was hired for the same amount last year.

The city has $110,000 budgeted for professional lobbying services in 2013. The staff anticipates spending $91,200 to retain three lobbying firms, including Alfred G. Ronan Ltd. at a cost of $60,000 and Government Consulting Services of Illinois LLC for $11,500.

The city used the three firms in 2012 to strengthen its voice and influence in Springfield on new gambling expansion legislation.

The $100,000 budgeted last year did not cover additional costs such as travel, long-distance telephone calls and express mail and other delivery services that were to be paid for by the city.

Several aldermen requested the contracts for the other firms to compare with McGuireWoods'.

None of them remembered approving these contracts last year.

"I would like to see the other contracts since we never saw them," Ward 1 Alderwoman Patti Haugeberg said.

City Manager Michael Bartholomew said after reviewing city records he could find only one resolution approved by the city council to hire one of the three firms. He said the manager's office wasn't responsible for the hiring of lobbyists, which for years has been handled through the mayor's office.

All three lobbyist contracts for 2012 had been signed by former Mayor Marty Moylan, who stepped down Dec. 31 and has since been replaced by aldermen rotating as acting mayors.

Ward 6 Alderman Mark Walsten and Ward 5 Alderman Jim Brookman said the council didn't have a chance to vet the contracts in the past and asked Bartholomew to give a report on their history and how the firms were retained.

"There's huge amounts of money that went to people without this council's approval," Walsten said. "We've been in the dark on this stuff. We weren't told enough information."

The decision on the McGuireWoods contract was deferred to the March 18 council meeting.

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