Winfield Village President Erik Spande led a successful push to switch law firms -- and in the process keep the town's attorney -- despite warnings the decision could hamper efforts to unite the two political factions on the village board.
Spande last week got help from his three political allies on the seven-member village board to secure the votes he needed to hire Robbins, Schwartz, Nicholas, Lifton & Taylor, Ltd. to provide legal services to the village.
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Spande said he decided to drop Tressler, LLP, which previously represented Winfield, because village attorney Kathleen Elliott left that law firm and is now working for Robbins, Schwartz, Nicholas, Lifton & Taylor.
"I wanted to make sure the village attorney we have is someone I feel comfortable with," Spande said.
The new law firm will be paid $158 an hour, which is $22 an hour less than what Tressler was charging the village.
Still, trustees Tim Allen and Tony Reyes voted against changing firms.
Allen and Reyes, who saw their pro-development faction lose control of the board during the April election, say they have been trying to work with Spande and his allies. But, Allen said, keeping Elliott is "taking a step backward" because of the disagreements the attorney has had with some board members.
"She's mixed it up with the trustees," Allen said. "She's had to apologize on more than one occasion for losing her temper at a meeting."
If trustees want to work together as a team, Allen said, the village should hire an attorney "who we can all get along with."
Elliott, who attended the meeting where Allen made his public comments, declined to respond when given the opportunity.
However, Spande and his supporters on the board defended Elliott.
"I think she's done a great job," Trustee Phillip Mustes said.
Spande said trustees only have themselves -- not Elliott -- to blame for the past disharmony on the board. "Each member of this board is responsible for their own behavior," he said.
Village Manager Curt Barrett said Elliott is an attorney who stands by her findings of fact about the law.
"That's something the administration does respect," Barrett said. "I think we can say this lady has been battle tested through all sorts of challenges."