Why Island Lake officials might search for a new attorney

At least some Island Lake trustees have soured on the village's attorney and the cost of his services.

The attitude shift could mean lawyer David McArdle will lose the village as a client after six years.

"I feel like the village needs a fresh outlook," said Trustee Chris Carlsen, who was elected in April.

Trustee Will Ziegler said he has concerns about McArdle's service and the legal advice he's shared. He said he's "not opposed" to searching for new counsel.

The village board is scheduled to have a special closed-door meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday to discuss employee issues and pending litigation. Officials declined to get more specific.

McArdle said he hasn't been told the subject of the meeting.

"We will know more on Thursday," he said.

McArdle has represented Island Lake in legal matters and advised the board since May 2013. He also represented four trustees during a 2011 political battle against other village officials, including then-Mayor Debbie Herrmann.

A partner with the Zukowski, Rogers, Flood & McArdle firm in Crystal Lake, McArdle represented Amrich when his candidacy was challenged on legal grounds during the 2013 campaign. His firm donated $8,500 in legal services to Amrich's slate at the time, state campaign disclosure records indicate.

McArdle was hired as the village's attorney the same night Amrich was sworn in as mayor.

The monthly bills Island Lake has received from McArdle's firm in 2019 so far have averaged $5,596, according to data provided to the Daily Herald. That's less than half what McArdle charged each month, on average, during his first year of service.

Despite that reduction, Ziegler said the legal bills "are definitely a concern" for Island Lake, which experienced an estimated $2 million shortfall during the recently concluded 2019 fiscal year. To balance the budget, officials announced spending cuts that affected planned public works and infrastructure projects.

Carlsen questioned if a lawyer needs to attend every board and committee meeting. Many suburban village boards - including those in Mundelein, Wauconda and Lincolnshire - pay attorneys to attend every board meeting.

Officials are reaching out to other law firms to see if they can find one with better rates, Carlsen said.

"Let's see what other counsel would charge," he said. "I think we owe it to our residents."

Trustee Richard McLaughlin Jr., who also was elected in April, said he wants to learn some facts before sounding off about McArdle's future in town.

"If there is a new counsel coming in, so be it," McLaughlin said. "If not, then so be it."

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