Just weeks after suffering an appellate court defeat in its legal fight with the village's police union, Barrington Hills officials have changed their special counsel in charge of labor relations with officers.
Village President Martin McLaughlin hopes the change of attorney could potentially repair the adversarial relationship the village and police union have known during the past few years. Both sides will have to sit down in a year to negotiate a new contract, he said.
"I'm hoping the change of counsel will help us find some common ground," McLaughlin said.
Rick Tracy, a member of the police union's executive board, said he couldn't comment on any potential impact of the change of counsel.
Barrington Hills resident Theodore Clarke, an attorney specializing in labor issues, was appointed by the village board to replace former counsel Thomas McGuire. Though McLaughlin said he could have made change on his own, he wanted the village board to have more awareness and input than it had in the past.
Last month, an appellate court upheld the Illinois Labor Relations Board's earlier order that the village reinstitute 2 percent raises retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010, plus interest, and provide a tuition reimbursement that had been revoked for the union chapter president.
Both agencies ruled the village had rescinded the promised raises and funding after learning police officers were unionizing.
Former Village President Robert Abboud's arguments that the raises were rescinded as a result of other unexpected costs and financial uncertainties were rejected by both the labor board and appellate court.
The village won't decide whether to further appeal the rulings until June 23.
Barrington Hills Village Administrator Robert Kosin said that for 2010 alone, the additional cost of the raises would be $24,000 plus another $3,800 in interest. The impact on 2011, 2012 and 2013 finances is still being calculated.
The village's legal fees over the dispute from Jan. 1, 2010 through March 2013 were $120,238, Kosin said.
Tracy said the village also must pay the union's legal expenses for the dispute -- something in the area of $100,000, he estimated. Kosin said that's a matter subject to evaluation, as with all legal issues.
McLaughlin, who defeated Abboud in the April 9 election, ran on a platform of reducing the village's legal expenses. He said last week that the time has come to make the public aware of this issue and begin repairing it.
"We've kicked this can down the road and I'm the beneficiary of that," McLaughlin said. "From my standpoint, this is part of why I ran. This stuff should have been put front and center in '10, '11 and '12."
McLaughlin believes the police officers already have excellent pay and benefits, but the dispute has created the potential for the department to be far out of sync with those of nearby villages. He hopes both sides will understand that by the time of next year's contract negotiations.
"A year from now, I'd like us to look a lot more like our surrounding communities," McLaughlin said.