Cicero towing company, Tuff Car, is suing its former lawyer, Michael Del Galdo, in a conflict-of-interest complaint filed March 28 in Cook County Circuit Court, claiming Del Galdo acted improperly in representing them, while also serving as town attorney for Cicero.
Tuff Car Inc., which served as the contracted towing firm
for Cicero beginning in 2005, sued the lawyer representing it in that deal
— Michael Del Galdo and Del Galdo Law Group LLC — saying Del Galdo’s
position as town attorney for Cicero presented a conflict. Del Galdo, the
complaint said, “acted in a manner of self-preservation to the detriment of
Tuff Car,” including attempts “to hide from the public his personal
relationship with Tuff Car” that ultimately led to Tuff Car losing its deal as
exclusive towing company for the town.
Further complicating matters is that a former Tuff Car
co-owner, Eugene Potempa, is Del Galdo’s father-in-law.
The business between the town and Tuff Car begin in 2005 as
a three-year deal running through mid-2008. The terms called for three-year
renewals if neither party objected, which is what happened in 2008, 2011 and
2014. Also involved was a commercial lease for a tow lot on South 46th
Court in Cicero. Shortly before that lease was signed on June 21, 2005, the
complaint alleges, Del Galdo told Potempa to have someone outside the family
sign the deal for Tuff Car, after which Del Galdo would instruct Cicero
President Larry Dominick to endorse the deal for the town.
The complaint cites letters Del Galdo provided the town
disclosing potential conflicts, but notes Tuff Car has no record of the letters
or of providing its consent to the conflicts. It further says the fair market
value of the space Tuff Car leased “was far below the monthly rental payments
that Tuff Car was required to make to the town of Cicero” and also alleged Cicero
police “directed and ordered Tuff Car to release thousands of properly-towed
vehicles to their owners without payment,” leading to an estimated revenue loss
of $2 million.
When Tuff Car went to Del Galdo with concerns about being
forced to waive towing and impound fees, he told them to stop making rent
payments for the lot lease, but to keep obeying police orders. Things soured on
April 17, 2015, when Del Galdo told Tuff Car about Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) requests the town received that would lead Tuff Car to reveal it last
made a rent payment in September 2009.
Tuff Car said its principal, Pat Potempa, worked with Del
Galdo to prepare documents to comply with the FOIA request, saying the two
worked to “make everything look above board” and for Del Galdo to make it
appear he had no role in Tuff Car’s decision to stop paying rent. It further
accused Del Galdo of using the information the company provided to help Cicero
terminate the towing contract.
That termination was the subject of a September 2015 breach
of contract lawsuit Tuff Car brought against the town. The 2015 lawsuit remains
pending in Cook County Circuit Court.
These dealings, the complaint alleges, coincided with a
deteriorating relationship between Del Galdo and Pat Potempa’s sister.
The complaint accuses Del Galdo of breach of fiduciary duty,
legal malpractice and civil conspiracy, for which Tuff Car seeks judgment of at
least $50,000. It further says if Tuff Car sustained damages owing to Del
Galdo’s actions, then the Law Group should be responsible for such damages. It
says Del Galdo’s conduct “was willful and malicious,” arguing that opens the
door to punitive damages.
Representing Tuff Car in the matter is Angelini & Ori,
LLC, of Chicago. In its 2015 lawsuit against the town of Cicero, Tuff Car had
been represented initially by lawyer Arthur
Sternberg, of the firm of Thompson Coburn, of Chicago, though court records now
indicate the towing company is now represented by the Angelini firm in that
action, as well.