A dispute over the removal of Barrington Hills' longtime village attorney played out before a capacity crowd of residents at village hall Tuesday night.
Village President Martin McLaughlin asked the previous attorney of more than 30 years, the law offices of Burke, Warren, MacKay & Serritella, to resign last week, citing the Illinois Attorney General office's finding that the village violated the Open Meetings Act in April 2013.
"I requested your resignation to avoid the public discussion of what I believe are your specific failings to properly represent the village and its residents," McLaughlin said Tuesday, reading from a letter he sent the law firm.
He also cited the attorney's research fees, which he called unnecessarily high.
Several village trustees, however, have accused McLaughlin of acting recklessly by not involving the rest of the village board in the decision.
"You placed the village and the functionality of the village in jeopardy because we have no village attorney," Trustee Patty Meroni said. "In order to get a village attorney we need to do it properly and legally and do it by the book. We are not going to do it by the seat of your pants."
McLaughlin opened Tuesday's public meeting by attempting to seat a temporary village attorney, Patrick Bond of Bond Dickson and Associates, who has been serving as special counsel to the village for the last several months.
Trustee Joseph Messer objected, arguing that the municipal code states that the Burke firm is to continue representing the village until a replacement is appointed by a two-thirds vote of the village board.
"If the Bond firm wants to stay here and take the position that they're the village attorney as you've appointed them, that's a (beyond powers) act and doesn't have any meaning," Messer said. "Bond Dickson will not be paid for this work, and there's no reason for them to be in this room."
When McLaughlin asked Bond to weigh in on the legality of his appointment, Trustee Michael Harrington interjected.
"If he is going to opine in order to gain business for him and his firm, that is a conflict of interest," Harrington said.
Under village code, the village attorney is appointed by the president, by and with the approval of the board of trustees. There also is a clause that allows the village president to appoint special counsel without the board's approval to serve "for such purposes as the president may deem necessary or appropriate."
In the end, Bond sat in the village attorney's chair and acted in that capacity for the rest of the more than three-hour meeting.
The appointment drew criticism from some of the residents in attendance.
"I found it interesting that you asked the very gentleman who you're appointing to opine on whether the appointment was legal. I mean, that just defies the imagination," resident Barry LeCompte said. "I think it's an embarrassment the way this village is being run now."
Although no date was agreed upon, the board is planning a special meeting next week to begin the process of hiring a new permanent village attorney.
In June, the Attorney General ruled that the village violated the Open Meetings Act by not properly describing agenda items for a public meeting on April 22, 2013. At that meeting, former Village President Robert Abboud proposed 35 committee appointments, just 13 days after he lost his re-election bid.
In June, former Village Attorney George Lynch read to trustees the Attorney General's findings."To remedy the violation, the board is directed to reconsider and revote on the April 22, 2013, committee appointments at a properly noticed meeting," Lynch read.
The board has not voted to reconsider the appointments.