A Cook County judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a Cicero tow truck operator against Cicero's politically-connected town lawyer, which accused the lawyer of sabotaging the tow operator's contract with the town of Cicero, when the tow company owner's daughter filed for divorce from the lawyer.
The judge said the lawsuit was filed too late, finding the tow operator should have been aware his son-in-law was engaged in a conflict of interest when he allegedly provided legal services at both ends of the Cicero tow contract 14 years ago.
Circuit Judge Diane Shelley dismissed a suit brought by Eugene Potempa and his sons, Tim and Pat Potempa, who run Tuff Car Inc., against lawyer Michael Del Galdo, of Del Galdo Law Group in Berwyn. The suit alleged Del Galdo committed legal malpractice and engaged in conspiracy. Del Galdo denied the accusations.
Del Galdo, who describes his firm as “one of the most prominent political firms in the state," has represented a slew of local governments in the Chicago area, including Cicero. Former State Rep. Lou Lang, who has been a deputy of Illinois House Speaker and Illinois Democratic Party Chairman Michael Madigan, joined Del Galdo's firm in 2018. Del Galdo carries enough weight in political circles that he hosted a meeting in 2017 at his office between then-Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, Cicero Town President Larry Dominick and other political figures, the purported purpose of which was for Pritzker to procure Dominick’s support. Pritzker went on to become governor in 2018.
Del Galdo has been married to Bethany Del Galdo, who is Eugene Potempa's daughter and sister of Tim and Pat. However, Del Galdo and Bethany have been locked in contentious divorce proceedings since 2016. Much of the acrimony has centered on Bethany's effort to fully examine Del Galdo’s finances and political ties, including his purported links to Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan and other influential Democrats.
The Cook County Record published a story Feb. 4 about the divorce case, focusing on Del Galdo's apparent efforts to keep those Democratic Party dealings out of public view. Three days later, at Del Galdo's request, Cook County Associate Judge Mark Lopez sealed the divorce case from public view.
Tuff Car inked an exclusive contract with Cicero in 2005, one month after Del Galdo and Bethany wed. According to Tuff Car's suit, Del Galdo had a conflict of interest because he acted as attorney for both Tuff Car and Cicero in arranging the contract. The suit further alleged Del Galdo oversaw an agreement by which Tuff Car did not pay rent to Cicero for a lot the business used, while Tuff Car agreed to release towed vehicles to owners without charge when asked to do so by Cicero officials.
The suit also alleged Del Galdo tried to hide his family relationship to the Potempas from any Freedom of Information Act requests by having another party sign the towing contract on the Potempas’ behalf. In addition, the suit alleged that as the Del Galdo divorce proceedings began, Del Galdo schemed to have Cicero drop Tuff Car, in retaliation for the divorce and to conceal his alleged questionable dealings between Cicero and Tuff Car.
Del Galdo countered the Potempa family was using the lawsuit to gain advantage over him in the divorce. Cicero ended its relationship with Tuff Car in 2015.
Shelley tossed the allegation of legal malpractice, finding Tuff Car's contract with Cicero began in 2005, but the suit was not lodged until 2017, long after the two-year statute of limitations and the six-year statute of repose expired.
Shelley reasoned the clock began ticking in 2005, rather than 2015 when Tuff Car lost the contract, because: "It is uncontroverted that plaintiff was aware of a conflict of interest when defendants began advising it in regards to the towing contract, but chose to proceed anyway."
Shelley further found Tuff Car was short on specifics to back up the contention Del Galdo was Tuff Car's attorney. Details were lacking, such as what Del Galdo was paid or was to be paid; information whether the two had a written or oral agreement; and the scope of any attorney-client relationship.
As far as the claim Del Galdo and Cicero conspired against Tuff Car, Shelley said: "Because the acts of Del Galdo are considered in law to be the acts of Cicero, there can be no conspiracy between Cicero and Del Galdo."
Tuff Carr has been represented by attorney Donald Angelini Jr., of Angelini, Mills, Woods & Ori, of Chicago.
Del Galdo is defended by Tobin & Munoz, of Chicago.