Oak Brook trustee seeks reimbursement from village attorney

Village of Oak Brook board member Michael Manzo sent a letter to the village’s former attorney, Stewart Diamond, asking for reimbursement of just over $100,000 paid by the village for work billed between November 2016 and July 2017 as part of the village’s 2017 lawsuit to have the red-light cameras removed from Route 83 and 22nd Street in Oakbrook Terrace.

Dated July 19 and sent to Diamond at his Chicago law firm Ancel Glink, PC, the letter accuses Diamond of failing to represent Oak Brook’s best interests in the red-light camera lawsuit.

“Early on, it appeared that you were focused on the purpose of the village, which was to prevent (red light cameras) at the corner of Route 83 and 22nd Street,” Manzo wrote.

“It is totally unacceptable to me that individuals representing the village, such as the village attorney, Diamond, are working internally against the best interests of the village,” Manzo said Thursday, July 28.

Manzo said it was Diamond’s recommendation to drop the red-light camera trial, which the village council voted on behind closed doors and for which no real explanation was given.

Diamond said on Tuesday (July 26) that he had not yet seen Manzo’s letter, but denied his request for restitution of money paid by the village to work on the lawsuit.

“The job has been done,” Diamond said. “The decision to grant the permit was made by the Illinois Department of Transportation, and it didn’t seem like there was a way to override that decision because it was up to them. “

Diamond said it was on this basis that he recommended that Oak Brook drop the lawsuit.

“It probably would have been a very expensive lawsuit that wouldn’t benefit the community,” he said. “We didn’t think there was a way to change that through discovery, and it was our recommendation that was accepted by Oak Brook.

“My law firm and I are proud of the advice we provided to Oak Brook. We believe the village council made the right decision to allow the lawsuit to be dismissed at this time.

Diamond disputed Manzo’s claim that the attorney told counsel it was appropriate to vote in camera on dropping the lawsuit, saying a vote should be taken in public.

“I said at the time that we voted in public to go ahead with the lawsuit, so why shouldn’t we also vote in public to drop it,” Manzo said. “I was totally against voting behind closed doors, and why would we have done that, without Stewart saying it was appropriate?”

Diamond said Manzo was right about the corruption involved in the permit issued to operate the red light cameras.

“But at that time, there was no way of knowing,” Diamond said. “It took years for this information to come to light.”

Manzo said July 26 that he thought sending the letter to Diamond was important, even though the Illinois Department of Transportation ordered Oakbrook Terrace in May to disable and then remove cameras on Route 83. southbound and 22nd Street eastbound.

Prior to that, former state senator Martin Sandoval, who served as chairman of the state’s transportation committee, pleaded guilty in January 2020 to bribery and tax charges. Sandoval died in December 2020.

He admitted in federal court to having received more than a quarter of a million dollars in bribes in return for his political influence or official action, including at least $70,000 from a representative of SafeSpeed ​​​​who worked with the authorities. SafeSpeed ​​is the red light camera company that Oakbrook Terrace has contracted with.

“Even if the lights are taken out, which is what we wanted from the start, I want people to know the full story before the book is closed on it,” Manzo said.

He said that during the preparation and initiation of litigation, Diamond continually refused to focus on corrupting the process itself and instead told board members in a March 2017 memorandum that he was “convinced that this was not a matter Oak Brook should pursue”. and that it poses dramatic dangers “due to the potential loss of Oakbrook Center.”

Diamond’s comments at the time about the potential loss of Oakbrook Center were related to his research into the possibility that the mall was actually within the boundaries of Oakbrook Terrace and not Oak Brook.

“Although you know this prosecution was contrary to the direction of the village council, your efforts to study past annexations have continued for a long period of months,” Manzo said in his letter to Diamond.

Manzo and former village board member Don Adler voted in February 2017 (www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/oak-brook/ct-dob-legal-bills-tl-0309-20170301-story,amp .html) against payment of a $22,870 legal bill to Diamond’s law firm after Adler said the lawyer failed to perform a legal analysis on which the municipality controlled the intersection of Highway 83/22nd Street.

“The problem is what we don’t have in our hands is a full legal analysis, which is what I asked for,” Adler said at the time. “We have received emails, but I don’t think the job is done until we receive a full legal analysis. Mr. Diamond has a habit of giving notes from the hip memos. I have expectations of what legal work looks like, and it should be organized, not ping-pong.

Another claim Manzo made in his letter is that Diamond declined to call witnesses when counsel informed him that they still wanted him to pursue litigation.

“In fact, you were so opposed to such depositions that you later stated that you were resigning and would no longer represent the Village in this matter,” Manzo wrote in his letter to Diamond.

Manzo said Diamond then showed up at the next board meeting, despite his “resignation”, denied resigning and redoubled his efforts to withdraw the matter.

Manzo claimed that Diamond had a conflict of interest while representing Oak Brook in the red light camera trial because the attorney was fully aware of Sandoval’s involvement in the placement of the red light cameras, a information which Diamond never disclosed to the Village Council and which materially affected Diamond’s judgment as to the best interests of Oak Brook.

Village chairman Gopal Lalmalani and board member Ed Tiesenga each said they had no comment on Manzo’s letter. Tiesenga said he had not yet seen the letter.

Board member Asif Yusuf spoke out strongly against the letter, having initially said it would be difficult for him to comment given the possibility the matter could lead to litigation.

After being asked again whether or not he agreed with Manzo’s claims in the letter and by whom the litigation would be filed, Yusuf commented.

“What I can tell you is that we were kept regularly informed of the measures taken, but asking for a refund after the fact is the typical Manzo theatrics, it is well known,” he said. declared. “All show and no substance.”

Board member Jim Nagle, elected in 2021, said he strongly supports Manzo in sending the letter to Diamond.

“Not only does he have a right to question the attorney’s $100,000 bill, he has an obligation,” Nagle said. “If we find something that needs to be questioned now, that’s the right thing to do, even if it’s from old attorney bills.”

Larry Herman, who was also elected to the board in 2021, said he had no comment, specifically, on Manzo’s letter, but had no problem sending it.

“I understand that Mike Manzo was the administrator most committed to defending the village on the red light camera case, and his instincts about the political and criminal shenanigans surrounding the installation of the red light camera on the road 83 and 22nd Street turned out to be spot on,” Herman said. “Mike has been tireless in his pursuit of the truth about this matter, and I respect his judgment in getting to the bottom of it all.”

Village manager Greg Summers, who also wasn’t around when the red-light camera lawsuit was dropped when he started work in Oak Brook in January, had a similar but even stronger view. .

“Trustee Manzo has always been at the epicenter of the leadership of the village’s opposition to red light cameras, making him the elected official best equipped to voice the village’s concerns with our former legal counsel,” said Summers. “With everything we know today about the issue of the City of Oakbrook Terrace red light camera, including the corruption involved in its initial approval and the resulting decrease in intersection safety, it is clear that the village’s previous lawyer relied on flawed legal strategy and potentially had conflicts of interest in the matter.

Council member Suresh Reddy, elected in 2021, did not respond to a request for comment.

Chuck Fieldman is a freelance journalist for Pioneer Press.

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