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updated: 3/28/2011 12:33 PM

Aurora alderman questions challenger's qualifications

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Aurora Alderman Richard Irvin says one of his challengers in the April 5 election should not be seriously considered because he once had his law license suspended.

Irvin is in a four-way race for his at-large aldermanic seat with Judd Lofchie, Kevin Mathews and write-in Matt Harrington.

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Irvin says he plans to send a letter to about 10,000 Aurora voters alerting them that Lofchie had his law license suspended in 1994. He says the suspension proves Lofchie violated his oath and acted dishonestly.

But Lofchie says the suspension arose from a complicated contractual situation in which he did nothing wrong.

"As a lawyer, we take a very similar oath, almost the same exact oath we take when we swear in as an alderman," Irvin said. "If he violated that oath, I think people should know."

According to records from the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, the events leading to Lofchie's suspension began in 1988 when a real estate company Lofchie was representing got involved with a transaction that ran into problems.

A disciplinary panel decided to suspend Lofchie, saying he erred in not informing a buyer of where her down payment would be deposited, and in allowing her to make a deposit despite contractual problems.

During the hearing process, Lofchie said he informed the buyer about where her deposit money was being placed, according to records.

Lofchie was given a six-month suspension and ordered to pay $27,500 in restitution to the prospective buyer.

"Lawyer misconduct which causes a loss of money or property to another is properly a subject of restitution and that is fully the case here," the panel wrote in a summary of its decision.

Lofchie served the suspension starting in 1994 and ending in 1995.

Jim Grogan, deputy administrator for the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, said whenever the Illinois Supreme Court imposes a penalty on a lawyer's license -- from a reprimand to permanent loss of the ability to practice law -- it signals the court believes misconduct occurred. But many sanctions are imposed with the expectation the suspended person will practice law again, he said.

The type of suspension Lofchie received, which expired after six months and on condition of a restitution payment, is not the most or least severe punishment the Illinois Supreme Court can give, Grogan added.

Irvin said the suspension makes him question Lofchie's ability to handle the city's tax dollars fairly and ethically.

"As an alderman, we are charged with spending and budgets of over $400 million," Irvin wrote in the letter. "We cannot afford to have anyone in a position of such power who has been disciplined for being unethical and dishonest."

Lofchie said his fiscally conservative views and experience developing several successful shopping centers give him the expertise necessary to handle the city's budget.

"Being self-employed, I've written goals and budgets and business plans and monitored those things," Lofchie said. "So I'm used to handling them."

Lofchie said the suspension of his law license has been public record for 17 years and largely has remained in his past -- until now.

"I'm not surprised by Mr. Irvin bringing this up at the last minute in another attempt to distract voters from the issues," Lofchie said.

Irvin said he is just looking to differentiate himself from other candidates.

"There are clear differences in how we govern and how we look at things and our backgrounds," Irvin said.

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