CHICAGO (WLS) -- The I-Team first reported Tuesday on what's been called a billion dollar problem for the city of Chicago; a problem defined by a consortium of legal professionals who spent years obtaining city stats and crunching the numbers. That staggering figure, funded by taxpayers, has been doled out after the city fought lawsuits brought by people who had already been found wrongfully convicted. Millions upon millions have been paid to private law firms hired to help the city fight battles they continue to lose.
"It's like a leaky faucet just keeps dripping every month. We would have settlement briefings, you know, 10 million here, 10 million here, 5 million here," said 36th Ward Ald. Gil Villegas.
Villegas says he wants the spigot shut off at City Hall; and wants accountability for the sizable fortune financed by Chicago taxpayers, and paid to private law firms.
This follows the I-Team report revealing a new database comprised by the Truth, Hope and Justice Initiative that paints the city into a financial and ethical corner.
Mayor Brandon Johnson is targeted in a biting campaign by the initiative that wants him to stop fighting wrongful conviction lawsuits filed by former inmates who have certificates of innocence from a judge.
A resolution was filed Tuesday with the Chicago City Council by Ald. Villegas.
It cites database figures reported by the I-Team: that since 2000, Chicago has doled out more than $675 million dollars to the wrongfully convicted in jury awards, settlements and fees to private law firms.
"We want to find out what we've paid to outside defense attorneys, even though the wrongfully convicted have certificates of innocence, what's their strategy to minimize the payouts or minimize the settlements?" said Villegas.
The alderman wants his wrongful conviction resolution taken up in January by the Finance Committee of which he is a member; and hopes for public testimony from database attorneys, the city law department and CPD lawyers.
"What I hope to get out of this whole thing is bring attention to this issue that there's a lot of money being spent here. But more importantly, how do we fix the lives that have been impacted by folks who've been wrongfully convicted?" said Villegas
The I-Team received an email statement Tuesday from Chicago's law department, the agency that defends the city in wrongful conviction cases. City law officials would not answer I-Team questions on camera, and did not answer them at all, concerning the database or criticism of how cases continue to be handled. The law department statement acknowledges the cases are complex but says they don't talk publicly about ongoing lawsuits or let contract private law firms talk either.