Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A lawsuit you probably haven't heard much about in Orland Park

About one year after the heated Orland Park Fire Protection District (OPFPD) trustee election battle on April 17, 2007 between Arthur Granat Jr. and Cynthia Nelson Katsenes on one side, and Marty McGill and Glenn Michalak on the other side, Granat filed a defamation lawsuit.

The lawsuit deals indirectly with that embarrassing event in January 2007 involving Lt. Lawrence Masa, who claimed he needed paid leave from the OPFPD because he was serving his country in Iraq and Afghanistan, between 2003 and 2006. Masa was charged in January 2007 by the Cook County State's Attorney with ripping off taxpayers of $200,000 in salary during that period because, well, he wasn't serving in Iraq or Afghanistan at all, apparently. The Masa case is pending.

Granat alleges in his lawsuit, filed by attorney John Partelow, that his opponents for the trustee seat in collusion with the other board members -- the OPFPD attorneys, a computer company that has close ties to Mayor Dan McLaughlin, and the Orland Park Prairie -- used the Masa controversy to make it look like he was responsible. They defamed him, Granat alleges in his lawsuit, in order to make him lose the election.

Granat apparently had nothing to do with the Masa scandal, but the OPFPD quietly hired a contractor in February 2007, for about $10,000 according to Granat's attorney, to investigate Granat's "role" in the Masa affair, a role which apparently did not exist. Oops! It all centers around a computer that Granat was given permission by then acting Chief Donald Bettenhausen to take home. Granat's opponents on the board quietly hired a "computer forensic expert" to determine if Granat was hiding any files protecting Masa and that information was fed to the media to discredit Granat just before the April 2007 election.

Two of the 13 defendants in Granat's suit are McGill, Michalak, now OPFDP trustees. Of course, with the mud flying, they defeated Granat and Katsenes for the two trustee seats. Katsenes had been an outspoken champion to force the OPFPD to improve its sloppy and wasteful ways, which made her disliked on the board, and Granat, who was a 38 year OPFPD employee and deputy fire chief, had an impeccable record until the election mudslinging took place.

But, there are 11 other defendants in the lawsuit, and chances are you, the Orland Park taxpayer are most likely going to get socked with the tab if, as it should, Granat's suit is affirmed by a jury.

The remaining defendants round out what Granat's attorney spells out was a conspiracy to defame Granat and destroy his reputation in a mudslinging effort just before the election. They are:

Patrick Maher, the son of the Orland Park Village Clerk and the president and a trustee on the OPFPD who allegedly authorized the spending of $10,000 in OPFPD and taxpayer money to investigate his political rival.

OPFPD trustees Patricia Corcoran and Salvatore Cacciato who also supported the decision.

The OPFPD district itself, as the abusive government entity.

The OPFPD district's law firm Klein, Thorpe & Jenkins, (KTJ) which has very close ties to the Village of Orland Park, too.

Michael J. Duggan and Dennis G. Walsh, lawyers with KTJ.
The Orland Park Prairie Newspaper, which published the stories apparently fed to it by a certain Orland Park employee.

Marjorie Owens-Klotz, daughter of the late Mayor Fred Owens and a "big shot" in the Village of Orland Park who handles media relations with the local newspapers and publicity and also handled media for the OPFPD, according to the lawsuit. She's married to a top ranking firefighter at the OPFPD, too. A sister was appointed to the OPFPD Commission.

Computer Bits, Inc., the firm hired by Maher and the anti-Granat/Katsenes board members to investigate the issue. Computer Bits Inc. has very close ties to the Village of Orland Park and is a major contributor to Mayor McLaughlin.

James T. Harmening, the owner of Computer Bits Inc., and a self-professed "forensic computer expert," according tot he lawsuit.

Apparently, the Daily Southtown ran the harmful and misleading story but later acknowledged, according to Granat's attorney, that Granat was unfairly slammed. The Orland Park Prairie (my favorite newspaper, or MFN), has not said anything.

Here's the lawsuit. Read it for yourself:

I've reached out to the attorneys, KJT, for a response to the lawsuit and will post it as soon as it comes in.

1 comment:

AbovethePolitics said...

Is the Orland Prairie owned and written by the village of OP? It seems to be written by a village spin doctor.