The Brookfield-Lyons District 103 school board approved a proposal last week that could keep secret the results of an investigation into a controversial no-bid roof repair contract at Edison Elementary School in Stickney.
The board voted 5-2 at its Oct. 15 committee meeting to move forward with the investigation by Gould & Pakter Associates. The firm will review the no-bid contract that ballooned from $35,000 to at least $152,500 to repair the leaking roof in 2012. The firm also will investigate cost overruns of as much as $855,590 for the $7.1 million renovation of George Washington Middle School in Lyons.
District 103 serves Lyons, Stickney, Forest View, McCook and the southeast quarter of Brookfield.
Heidi Katz, of the Chicago law firm Robbins Schwartz, which serves as legal counsel to the school district, told the board that the investigation is being coordinated by her firm, rather than directly by the board, to give the board the authority to evoke attorney-client privilege once the report is complete.
"The reason for doing it as an investigation coordinated by legal counsel is to ensure that if you decide to — not knowing what the investigation will develop — that there are parts of it that you need to evoke [attorney-client] privileges," Katz told the board.
She said the legal counsel will work primarily to provide documents to Gould & Pakter and make sure the firm adheres to the school board's schedule.
"We don't dictate what they look at; we don't dictate any of their conclusions," Katz told the board.
The arrangement could potentially put the cost over the $60,000 limit the board placed last month on Gould & Pakter, due to the unknown cost the district will pay Robbins Schwartz to coordinate the investigation. It is still uncertain how much the review will cost once complete.
School board President Sharon Anderson said in a telephone interview that it is the board's intention to release the results of the investigation in its entirety.
"Our intention for this is to get it out in the open," she said. "I think this is just a matter of covering our bases."
Anderson said she was unsure whether it would be made public if some of the report's findings are held as privileged information.
"We would need to take guidance from our attorney," she said.
She said it is uncertain how much Robbins Schwartz's legal costs will run the school district once the investigation is complete, adding, "I don't think their costs will be so outrageous."
Anderson said the board does not have a firm timeline for when the investigation will be completed, but said she hopes it will be done in the next few weeks.
The board launched the investigation last month after learning earlier this year that Tom Sheehy, the district's maintenance director, awarded the Edison roof repair contract to A1 Building Maintenance & Plumbing, which is owned by Alan Lembke, who also owns Lembke & Sons True Value hardware store in Berwyn.
The project was not put out to a public bid because A1's original estimate of $35,000 came in under the $50,000 limit that would have triggered a public bidding process.