Island Lake's legal bills continue to mount

Already a matter of local controversy, Island Lake's legal bills are continuing to mount.

One of the two law firms representing village leaders recently presented the town with a bill for more than $49,923, covering services delivered in April. The bill came from Ancel, Glink, Diamond, Bush, DiCianni and Krafthefer, the firm that has represented the mayor, staff and village board for years.

Nearly half of that sum — about $24,418 — was for services concerning the lawsuit Mayor Debbie Herrmann filed against four trustees, two of whom have since left the board. Those current and former trustees hired their own legal counsel, David McArdle, and he has been billing the village for services, too.

Last week, the village board pulled the Ancel Glink bill from a list of debts and took no action on it. The move prevented the bill from being paid, at least temporarily.

It brings the total legal bills for the year to more than $221,244. That's nearly what the village paid for legal services for all of 2010 and more than what it paid in 2009.

The board has not yet voted on a bill from McArdle for the legal services he delivered in May. A bill has not been made public.

The village board has not paid either of the two law firms for services delivered in March or April. Those services are at the heart of Herrmann's lawsuit, which was filed after the board majority tried to pass a variety of ordinances and amendments that chipped away at her executive powers.

The lawsuit targets Trustees Laurie Rabattini and Donna O'Malley and now-former Trustees John Ponio and Don Saville. It has not been amended since Ponio and Saville left the board in May.

Trustee Conni Mascillino blamed the high bills on the controversies that have taken up the board's attention this year, particularly the power struggle between the board majority and Herrmann.

Village officials are investigating paying Ancel Glink for services the firm delivered before those controversies began, Mascillino said.

A recent Daily Herald analysis showed the village's bills are far greater than those in other Lake County communities.

Lincolnshire's legal bills average $150,000 annually, officials there said.

Fox Lake averages $204,000 a year in legal bills.

Hawthorn Woods' annual legal bills average about $86,004, officials said.

Island Lake Trustee Shannon Fox, who was elected in April and joined the board in May, criticized Herrmann and the board for incurring such high bills.

“I find it to be astounding and completely irresponsible for (the mayor and board) to have allowed these types of expenses to occur and not to keep them in check,” she said.

The money that will be used to pay the bills could instead be funding important community programs, Fox said.

“To risk loss of services for what I consider to be frivolous expenditures is not the job that we were elected to do,” Fox said.