Oak Lawn’s village attorneys from the law firm Peterson Johnson and Murray want a judge to sanction the attorney who represented a former village attorney in a discrimination lawsuit.
A jury delivered a verdict on Jan. 31 in favor of the village after deliberating less than two hours after a four-day trial. Hinsdale-attorney Dana Kurtz represented the former village employee in her age discrimination lawsuit against the village, whose position as a business regulation officer was eliminated in 2008 in a round of budget cuts.
The employee alleged she was fired due to her age after the village finance director told members of the village board in executive session that he “wanted to hire someone younger.”
The former employee was seeking $500,000 in damages form the village.
Mayor Dave Heilmann, along with village trustees Tom Phelan, Carol Quinlan and Alex Olejniczak, were each called as witnesses on behalf of the village.
“Our witnesses were so strong, consistent and credible, it simply wasn’t necessary for us to call any additional witnesses,” village attorney Paul O’Grady said. “Four days is a long time to sit on a jury and we were trying to keep our case short. The jury clearly believed what the trustees and the mayor had to say and decided the case quickly.”
Kurtz is the same attorney who won an $850,000 settlement on a sexual harassment lawsuit on behalf of Oak Lawn firefighter.
In their motion to sanction, attorneys for the village contend that Kurtz had inappropriate contact with former Trustee Steven Rosenbuam during the trial. The motion states that Kurtz made misrepresentations about that contact to the court.
O’Grady also took issue with Kurtz’s contention that Trustee Bob Streit and former Trustee Rosenbaum had failed to comply with subpoenas.
“Neither Bob Streit nor Steve Rosenbaum failed to comply with subpoenas,” O’Grady said, “Dana Kurtz scheduled – and canceled – both Trustee Streit’s and former Trustee Rosenbaum’s depositions nearly half a dozen times during the course of the litigation. Each of them was prepared to appear on each of those occasions. She canceled. How many times is it necessary that everyone clear their schedules for this meritless lawsuit?”
According to the motion for sanctions, Kurtz contacted Rosenbaum directly by telephone instead of requesting that village attorneys produce him. Under the rules of ethics, an attorney is not permitted to contact a witness who is represented by a different attorney without permission, O’Grady contended.
After losing the case for her client, Kurtz said the jury was “confused” by Cook County Circuit Court Judge Thomas R. Mulroy’s instructions. While deliberating, Kurtz said the jury passed a note to the judge asking him to define what he meant by the term “fired.”
The Hinsdale attorney said she was exploring her options with her client, now 64, about appealing the court’s decision.
The village attorney’s motion asks that the court award attorney’s fees to the village and that Kurtz and her firm be disqualified from further involvement in the case.