Lawyers keep busy in District 74 probe
Updated: July 26, 2012 11:24AM
A pending criminal investigation at Lincolnwood District 74 appears to have no immediate end in sight as lawyers are still scouring through “thousands of documents,” according to an attorney hired by the school district.
School officials announced an investigation by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in early May after retaining the legal services of Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP and school law partners Anthony Ficarelli and Fergio Acosta.
Ficarelli, who has advised and represented Illinois school districts for more than two decades, said Monday the case has yet to move beyond the document review phase.
“It’s going to take awhile,” he said. “We are complying with their request.”
Ficarelli said government attorneys may decide later to conduct individual interviews based on the information received, though he could not confirm the state attorney’s next move.
A spokesman for the State’s Attorney’s Office said Tuesday he couldn’t “confirm or deny” information about the investigation while it is still ongoing.
District 74 has been snarled in controversy since late last year, when a proposal to demolish and build a new school produced a sizable resident backlash. Residents’ criticism over the administration’s conduct on the Lincoln Hall matter and probes into administrator and board member expenses resulted in explosive verbal confrontations at meetings.
The past spring the district suffered a turnover in leadership with the resignation of two board members and two of the district’s three administrators.
Temporarily at the helm is Kenneth Cull, hired by officials in mid-March to serve through the end of June following the abrupt departure of former Superintendent Mark Klaisner and former Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Susan Brandt.
At Thursday’s board meeting, officials are expected to approve a contract for an interim administrator through the 2012-2013 school year.
The board also will vote to replace the law firm of Franczek Radelet P.C. with Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP as the school district’s legal counsel.
Franczek Radelet P.C. and attorney Paul Millichap were for a brief moment in the hot seat themselves after an expense report showed the firm had researched the ownership of certain website domain names of a citizens’ watch group at the request of Klaisner.
The former superintendent also asked what legal counsel could do “to protect district administrators from attacks which were appearing in anonymous posts and websites, which Dr. Klaisner viewed as defamatory,” according to a letter issued to the district by Millichap on April 19.
Now-President Scott Anderson’s brief questioning at the April 5 board meeting of legal work performed by the firm related to libel or slander, as later reported by the Lincolnwood Review, mischaracterized the requested services, Millichap said.
“Despite how our requested services have been characterized by some, researching website domain registration information has become a common practice among school lawyers and educational professionals… Performing this research at a client’s direction to assist public school administrators in defending their professional reputations, in our opinion, is an appropriate employer requested activity,” the letter states.
Franczek Radelet P.C. subsequently removed the 1-1/2 hours spent doing the work from the bill, “not because our services were inappropriate, but because of the manner in which these requested services were mischaracterized,” according to the letter.
Though he typically attends the district’s monthly meetings, Millichap was not present at its May session.