Fairview Heights' legal bills requested under the Freedom of Information Act

Amelia Flood Jun. 8, 2009, 11:29am



The Madison County Record has requested copies of legal bills going back four years from the city of Fairview Heights in an attempt to determine what, if anything, was paid to the city's lawyers during a battle with 13 online travel companies. A previous request for the legal bills went unfulfilled.

A Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) was delivered to the city Treasurer's Office Monday afternoon. The city now has seven business days to respond to the request.

According to Fairview Heights Mayor Gail Mitchell, the suits did not cost the city any money. Calls to City Attorney Al Paulson's office last week about the matter were not returned.

Fairview Heights netted about $315,000 in its four year battle with the online travel companies, according to settlement documents released May 27. The Record had requested the settlement documents under the FOIA law May 7.

Of that, the city has received just over $56,000 from the Expedia group of defendants. City officials had mistakenly informed the Record that the roughly $56,700 had been paid by Orbitz and its subsidiaries. They informed the Record of the error Monday.

The checks from the Priceline defendant group, Orbitz and Travelocity defendants are still outstanding.

Fairview Heights sued online travel companies include Orbitz, Priceline, Expedia, Travelocity and nine others in 2005. At the time, the city claimed to represent 50 other Illinois municipalities in a quest for what it claimed were back hotel-motel room taxes as a class.

The class action case went to federal court where it failed to gain certification. Fairview Heights pursued the lawsuits on its own.
All of the defendants settled with Orbitz rounding out the settlements in March 2009.

Expedia – the defendant which has paid the city – agreed to pay out $105,000, according to settlement documents. Questions remain as to why the city only received just over $56,000 of the $105,000 called for in the agreement.

Orbitz agreed to pay the city $50,000 while Priceline and Travelocity agreed to pay $60,000 and $100,000 respectively.

City Attorney Al Paulson and partner Kevin Hoerner represented the city in the suits along with St. Louis-based attorney Richard Burke.

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