According to North Riverside Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr., the village of North Riverside won’t be paying a dime for an appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court of a lower-court ruling concerning the village’s firefighting privatization efforts.

Earlier this month, the village’s law firm, Odelson and Sterk, filed a petition for leave to appeal, asking the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling by the state appellate court, which affirmed the proper venue to resolve the village’s dispute with its union firefighters is before an Illinois Labor Relations Board arbitrator.

Hermanek told the Landmark that he didn’t ask the law firm to file the petition, but that the law firm insisted on the filing as a matter of the firm’s policy.

When the appellate court ruling came down a couple of months ago, Hermanek said he was through litigating the matter. And for good reason – the village had its arguments dismissed at every step since the court battle started in September 2014.

Attorneys for the village argued – they continue to argue – that universally accepted labor law regarding no-strike, no-lockout protections in contracts for essential emergency personnel somehow have been misinterpreted for the last three-plus decades.

That the law firm felt its policy should trump the mayor’s wishes to stop litigating the matter is remarkable. The firm has been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars since the beginning of the 2014 legal action, not only to pursue the lawsuit itself, but to respond and defend fallout from that action, including unfair labor practice complaints.

And, at every turn, the village attorney’s theories for why the village ought to be able to unilaterally terminate the union contract and substitute union firefighters with non-union personnel has been rejected.

We would have preferred the mayor telling the law firm the village employs to take a hike on the leave to appeal. And the village better not pay another dime on a lawsuit that was a pipedream to begin with.

Both the union and village administration is better served by concentrating on the labor arbitration process that has already started and work with the arbitrator to finally get this deal done.

The goal here should be first-rate public safety services, provided by the public body, for a cost that can be acceptably borne by the public.

It’s the public that matters here. Public servants ought to keep that in mind. 

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