A few months after the Illinois Attorney General’s office ruled that Lyons Township High School District 204 Board of Education violated the Open Meetings Act by impermissibly discussed matters other than price related to a possible land sale, the school board has dumped the law firm that has represented LTHS for approximately 30 years.
At its Aug. 21 meeting, the school board voted unanimously to hire two new law firms to replace Chicago based Franczek, the largest education focused law firm in the Chicago area.
LTHS is replacing Franczek with Itasca-based Hodges, Loizzi, a 29-lawyer, education-focused law firm, and Kriha Boucek, a 10-lawyer, Oak Brook-based boutique education law firm.
In April, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office ruled that the LTHS school board violated the Open Meetings Act by discussing in a Jan. 23 closed session aspects of the school’s attempt to sell the approximately 70-acre piece of undeveloped land LTHS owns in Willow Springs.
Franczek partner Ares Dalianis, who was advising LTHS on the possible land sale, participated in the meeting.
The attorney general’s public access counselor is also investigating whether the LTHS school board violated the Open Meetings Act a number of other times in 2022 by discussing aspects of the possible land sale in closed session.
School officials refused to say whether Franczek’s advice about the possible land sale or the open meetings violation influenced the decision to not retain the firm, choosing instead to speak only in generalities.
“I’m certainly not going to comment on that,” said LTHS Superintendent Brian Waterman when asked if he was disappointed in any of the advice he received from Franczek. “I think that it just goes back to having the opportunity this summer to review, and our board took that chance and is looking forward to engaging with Hodges and with Kriha.”
Over the summer, the LTHS school board interviewed seven firms.
“Both firms are highly respected with extensive K through 12 school experiences,” said LTHS school board President Dawn Aubert in a statement she read before the vote to hire the two firms. “Their work will be divided among the two. They will not be duplicated in their efforts.”
LTHS will pay Hodges Loizzi a monthly retainer fee of $300. The retainer allows LTHS to make an unlimited number of routine telephone and email inquiries without incurring an hourly bill.
When more in-depth legal services are needed, Hodges Loizzi will bill LTHS at rates that range from $215 to $325 an hour. Both firms bill, as do most law firms, in six-minute increments.
The agreement with Hodges Loizzi states that the firm will also add a 6% administrative fee to its bills to cover some costs such as proprietary computerized legal research, postage, overnight delivery services and telephone expenses rather than billing out those expenses separately. Partner Anthony Loizzi will be responsible for managing the LTHS account.
Kriha Boucek does not charge a retainer fee. Its hourly rates are $285 for partners, $260 an hour for associates and $150 an hour for paralegals. Partners Darcy Kriha and Kevin Gordan will be the lead lawyers for the LTHS account.