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Kane state's attorney to look at clinic's review process
By Amy Boerema
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Published: 9/19/2007 5:53 PM | Updated: 9/19/2007 5:53 PM

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Aurora's review of how Planned Parenthood got a permit to build a clinic on the far east side of town has been anything but smooth - or predictable.

The first and second attorneys chosen by city officials to conduct an independent investigation both have been called into question for potential conflict of interest issues.

In the latest twist, Kane County State's Attorney John Barsanti has been asked to review the reports of both attorneys involved in the fray.

Meanwhile, the city and Planned Parenthood will meet in federal court at 10 a.m. Thursday to determine if the controversial facility can open while the city continues its probe.

The clinic, at Oakhurst Drive and New York Street, was scheduled to open Tuesday. But the city has refused to allow the opening until it completes its review - for which there is still no definitive timetable.

In late August, Mayor Tom Weisner recommended attorney Richard Martens conduct the probe, after abortion opponents claimed Planned Parenthood defrauded the city by not fully identifying itself in permit applications.

But four aldermen objected to his selection of the Chicago firm because it had ties to Aurora's outside legal counsel.

Weisner then appointed aldermen Richard Irvin and Bob O'Connor, both attorneys, to find a new lawyer with no past city involvement.

Their pick, Phillip Luetkehans, was announced on Sept. 11. But the Daily Herald later revealed his firm donated to Irvin's 2005 mayoral campaign.

In executive session Tuesday night, aldermen agreed to call on Barsanti to review both reports.

Both O'Connor and Weisner said they were hesitant to start anew with a third attorney, particularly with pressure mounting from U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle to pick an end date for the review.

The mayor's office reached out to Barsanti, who agreed to review both reports for free, city spokeswoman Carie Anne Ergo said today.

Martens apparently had nearly completed his own review when the city decided to switch attorneys, Ergo said, so it made sense for Barsanti to consider both.

The situation was "just unraveling," O'Connor said, and this seemed like a workable solution.

"If the state's attorney is willing to do this, we give him credit," he said. "It's not an easy situation."

Martens' report is basically complete, Ergo said, and Luetkehans' should be done by week's end. Barsanti's office today said it would need about a week to evaluate them.

"(Barsanti) is aware of the need for timeliness on this and we'll try to move it along as quickly as possible," O'Connor said.

Two reports written by two attorneys, he said, are sure to produce differing viewpoints.

If residents are at all confused by the latest development, they're not the only ones.

Alderman Rick Lawrence said today he's unsure why Martens is still involved at all, since he was let go.

He also said he believes the council needs to vote on the issue once results are released. There currently are no plans for it to do so.

Pro-Life Action League spokesman Eric Scheidler agreed with Lawrence.

"This is far too important to allow the mayor or a staff member to make some kind of determination," he said. "This has to go before the elected representatives of Aurora."