Des Plaines hires investigator to find out who leaked documents

 
 
Updated 11/23/2016 6:58 PM

Des Plaines will pay a private investigator up to $30,000 to try to find out who leaked confidential documents to the Daily Herald.

The city council this week unanimously approved the hiring of Chicago-based investigative firm Hillard Heintze, which will retrieve and review documents from city servers and conduct up to 10 interviews as part of an internal investigation.

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In June, the Daily Herald obtained from a Des Plaines elected official and a staff member all or portions of an 11-page report detailing all active litigation involving the city. The documents, prepared by the city's lawyers, were marked "confidential -- attorney/client privilege."

Releasing confidential information is against Des Plaines' code of ethics. Employees can be disciplined, up to dismissal, and elected officials can be censured by the council.

The council this summer asked the Cook County state's attorney's office to conduct an investigation, but the office declined, and a similar request to the Illinois attorney general has so far gone unanswered.

That's led aldermen to pursue an internal investigation, though City Manager Mike Bartholomew has said it would have little authority because it cannot compel witnesses to speak or obtain testimony under oath.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Other municipalities have used Hillard Heintze, including Schaumburg, which paid the firm $147,000 in 2013 to perform an assessment of the village police department after three former police officers were arrested on multiple drug conspiracy charges.

"How can you put a price tag on the integrity of Des Plaines? I'm sorry, you can't," said Alderman Patti Haugeberg, chairman of the council's legal and licensing committee who proposed the investigation. "This definitely affects the integrity of Des Plaines."

Alderman Denise Rodd, though she voted to hire the firm, questioned the amount of money being spent and whether the probe would result in any findings.

"It's not going to go anywhere. You can go through a formal investigation. You can make the formal report, but the bottom line is people are going to be people. We're not going to get any answers beyond what we know already," Rodd said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

She said she also wants Hillard Heintze to investigate previous leaks of information from closed-session city council meetings -- accounts of which have been in published reports.

Haugeberg and Alderman Dick Sayad argued there's a difference.

"Yeah, we had some leaks out, but this is the enchilada. This is serious," Sayad said. "It was wrong. I feel we can't push this under the rug."

The documents included information about a workers' compensation claim filed against the city by Alderman Jim Brookman, a former fire department captain.

In June, Mayor Matt Bogusz proposed changes to the ethics ordinance that would have required elected officials to disclose whether they or their spouses have any active lawsuits against the city.

Bogusz never mentioned Brookman by name during debate at two council meetings, saying only that he "learned something that surprised" him after reading the 11-page report.

The council eventually voted 5-3 against changes to the ethics ordinance.

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