So, the Lyons Township School Treasurer’s Office got a judge to award them unpaid attorneys’ fees from Lyons Township High School District 204, wrapping up a lawsuit dating back eight years. The judge awarded them more than three quarters of a million dollars for fees they’re owed between 2013 and 2019.
That’s not an insignificant sum. But it pales in comparison to the estimated $4 million the obscure, obsolete office – which exists only in Cook County – paid in attorney’s fees to litigate the case.
Doesn’t seem like that’s serving taxpayers very well.
We suppose the TTO could decide to appeal the ruling and keep paying their attorneys to see what a higher court might think of the matter. Maybe they could drag this thing out another couple of years. Everybody OK with that?
Well, we’re not. The courts have spoken, the District 204 will pay the fees it owes and then, hopefully and quickly, divorce itself from the TTO, whose services it does not want, need or use.
And we’d like to take this opportunity to once again call for legislation to be drafted abolishing the TTO in Cook County. School districts in the 21st century are quite capable – based on what taxpayers pay their administrators they sure ought to be – of handling their own investments and payroll. The TTO was conceived in the horse-and-buggy era. It can remain there.
For the past 18 years, the Landmark’s editor, Bob Uphues, probably hasn’t gone a week without speaking directly with Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel.
When he started with the paper, Weitzel was a sergeant and assigned to deal with the press. Every Monday, Weitzel and Uphues met in person and went over police reports, discussed trends, got to understand one another.
That wasn’t happening in every village the Landmark covered. Other chiefs were not so willing to talk or make it easy for the press to obtain information. It took years for the Landmark to establish those same lines of communications it enjoyed from the start in Riverside.
The editor’s experience with Weitzel provided a blueprint for establishing those relationships, in large part because Weitzel viewed information about crime and police operations as very much in the public interest.
Since those early years, Weitzel advanced to become police chief, always maintaining that availability to the press. Just recently, he reflected on his evolution as a law enforcement leader.
As a young officer, Weitzel said he thought police could arrest their way out of high crime rates. But he grew to know that wasn’t true. So many factors contribute to crime – poverty, a lack of access to early childhood education, untreated mental health issues, addiction.
He came to advocate addressing underlying causes – lobbying the state legislature for early childhood education funding and calling for reform in the way police engage with the mentally ill in non-criminal situations which too often escalate tragically.
As he approached retirement, Weitzel’s perspective widened and he has led those conversations statewide while serving a very small community. In so many ways Weitzel has been a role model.