Why does Bloomington have a legal staff?

by:  Diane Benjamin

The City of Bloomington uses the legal services of a law firm in Rosemont Il.  Evidently the legal staff being paid by taxpayers isn’t capable of handling the job.  These 2 invoices were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.  I have filed another FOIA of details of services performed, notice 1 invoice says page 15. 

Included in these totals is billing for a response to the Attorney General for the Open Meetings Act violation filed by Alderwoman Judy Stearns.  Mayor Renner tried to make it sound like it was no big deal, but then this law firm prepared a 6 1/2 page response from the City.  If it was no BIG deal, why did the City hire this firm to write the response?

If you don’t remember, an Executive Session (secret meeting, not open to the public) was held in November for the City Council.  Stearns believed the topics being discussed fell outside what is permitted by law.  She left the meeting, and then when her concerns were ignored by Mayor Renner and City Manager David Hales, she asked the Attorney General to review the tape.  We are still waiting for them to make a final decision.


10 thoughts on “Why does Bloomington have a legal staff?

  1. Just out of curiosity, didn’t the Legal Dept. use to prepare all written responses to the AG for FOIA violations? If so, does’ anyone know why this one was farmed out?

  2. Was the aggregate of both invoices just for the FOIA response and are you waiting for a detailed breakdown by billable hour? Can we obtain that information under FOIA? I would think that there is more than one license lawyer on the city staff besides the City Attorney who was ousted, and if not, their are plenty of law firms down state that don’t charge the billable rate lawyers in Rosemont do. Shame on me for not originally catching both invoices, but steam is coming out both ears now. Without a doubt, a some point, we need a referendum rid Bloomington of Tari’s dictatorship and he can his clown from Utah with him.

  3. Great and I hope you publish ALL THE DETAILS !! Thanks for digging this up!! There’s some explaining they need to do on this matter!

  4. BLN-
    Exactly what point are you trying to establish?
    You make accusations and allegations that seem to be speculation and conjecture founded on no presentable evidence.
    You claim these attorney services are for OMA issues but you provide no documentation to substantiate that claim. You allege you have information indicating the services were related to the OMA issue but, while you post the invoices above, you fail to offer the additional proof you claim to have.
    Furthermore, that legal services were contracted to outside legal firms fails to rise to the level of any malfeasance or wrongdoing. The conclusions your speculation alleges is somewhat unclear. Municipalities often outsource legal issues simply due to staff’s current schedule and, among other things, may not permit the time necessary to address the issue adequately.
    Granted, significant funds were expended. Your complaint, however, fails to address that issue. In fact, your complaint literally fails to adequately clarify exactly what your point is.
    For argument’s sake, let’s presume the City of Bloomington was of the position this OMA complaint was serious enough – wrong or right – that outside legal assistance was the best way to handle it objectively. All you allege is that it was a serious matter. Obviously, that’s a given.
    OK. You win.
    Now what?
    What’s your point?

    1. Mayor Renner made it clear to the media the OMA complaint filed was frivolous and ridiculous. I have the letter written by the law firm, but the Attorney General redacted a lot of it. Want to see pages of black? I can post it! Obviously the City legal staff wasn’t capable of responding, or maybe the complaint wasn’t so ridiculous! What is ridiculous is the Attorney General not yet ruling. Apparently they are waiting for the City to approve the minutes of the Executive Session so they can say it’s all okay now. Meanwhile the Mayor is not held accountable for publicly stating he violated the confidentiality of the Executive Session. His defense is everything was talked about publicly afterwards. Not true, but that’s his story. Now the entire council can say what happened in secret – the Mayor legalized it.

  5. Barrister Smith, we also would like to know why the City is hiring a Rosemont law firm that charges significantly more per billable hour than a local law firm. There are plenty of competent law firms in the Central Illinois area, Hiring a firm from the land of the land of Donald Stephens ( RIP) makes my eyebrows raise!

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