Cook County Record

Friday, December 6, 2019

SEIU official sued for defamation says plaintiffs, Local 73 colluded on 'secret' deal to let union slide

By Jonathan Bilyk | Nov 18, 2016

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An official with Chicago-based Service Employees International Union Local 73 has asked a Cook County judge to take another look at the decision to allow the union to escape a defamation lawsuit and to potentially sanction attorneys representing plaintiffs in that case, after he alleged the union and the plaintiffs and their attorneys cut a deal to let Local 73 off the hook, but never disclosed it to union members or the court.

On Nov. 17, Wayne Lindwall, assistant to the chief of staff for Local 73, filed a motion in Cook County Circuit Court asking the court to open proceedings to determine whether attorneys for those suing him had colluded with Local 73 leadership to dismiss the action against the union in exchange for attorney fees and promises of future work.

Lindwall also asked the court to punish the plaintiffs in the case by imposing sanctions, which could potentially include dismissing the lawsuit outright.

In February, Lindwall and Local 73 were named as defendants in a defamation lawsuit brought by other SEIU officers, who accused Lindwall of authoring emails maligning them, and sending the emails shortly after Lindwall was removed by then-Local 73 president Christine Boardman in the summer of 2015.

Lindwall was later reinstated to his position.

However, his removal came amid a power struggle within the union local organization, which represents more than 26,000 workers in northern Illinois and Indiana, including janitors, security guards, maintenance technicians, bus drivers and child care providers, among many others. SEIU is one of the largest unions in the U.S. with 1.9 million members.

In the summer of 2015, Lindwall and Boardman publicly clashed at a Local 73 board meeting, purportedly when Lindwall opposed some actions supported by Boardman. Shortly after that meeting, Lindwall was fired. And soon thereafter, an email was received by Tonka Bradley, secretary to the SEIU president, in which various Local 73 officers were accused of racism, poor leadership, favoritism, nepotism, incompetence, drunkenness and engaging in illicit sex.

The email also alleged Local 73 officers had conspired to fire Lindwall.

According to court documents, Boardman then forwarded the email to the entire Local 73 staff.

While the allegedly defamed Local 73 officers – identified in their lawsuit as Remzi Jaos, Terry Barnett, Brenda Woodall and Chesca Smotherman - asserted Lindwall authored the email, Lindwall said someone else wrote it, giving Boardman a pretext to improperly search his computers and electronic devices in August 2015, and sharing what she allegedly found with others at Local 73.

Lindwall has also sued Boardman in connection with those actions, also asserting defamation. That case is pending.

However, in the case against Lindwall, this summer, a Cook County judge granted a motion by the plaintiffs to voluntarily withdraw their action against Local 73, even after the judge rejected a proposed settlement agreement between the plaintiffs and the union to end the lawsuit. Lindwall had objected to the proposed settlement.

In the weeks following that dismissal, attorneys for Lindwall subpoenaed documents from Local 73.

The documents allegedly revealed a “secret agreement” including a pledge from Boardman and other Local 73 officers, including Jaos, to pay plaintiffs’ attorney fees of $18,000 “in exchange for dismissing SEIU from the cause.”

Lindwall’s motion accused the union and the plaintiffs of attempting to use that alleged agreement to “circumvent” an Illinois law which could have allowed Lindwall to offset some of his responsibility to pay, should the case settle.

Lindwall is represented in the case by attorneys with the firm of Turcy Chute LLC, of Chicago.

Jaos and the other plaintiffs suing Lindwall are represented by attorney Melissa Casey, of Northbrook, according to Cook County court records.

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Organizations in this Story

Turcy Chute LLCService Employees Union Local 73