Republican state Senate candidate Larry Leafblad is accused in a complaint of abusing the court system by filing a lawsuit just to derail the re-election bid of former Avon Township assessor Rick Dishman in 2009.
Dishman lost his post to Leafblad's close friend Bryce Carus. Leafblad withdrew the lawsuit he filed against Dishman about a week after the April 2009 election.
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Now Dishman is pursuing a lawsuit of his own in Lake County circuit court against Leafblad. Also named are Carus and attorney Robert Long, who handled Leafblad's complaint against Dishman.
In the suit amended by Dishman's lawyer in September, Leafblad and the other two men are accused of malicious prosecution and abuse of process. Dishman, a Grayslake resident, says negative publicity from Leafblad's suit hurt his re-election chances.
Attorneys for the three defendants filed documents Nov. 2 seeking to have Dishman's lawsuit tossed. Documents state there is "a complete failure" by Dishman in providing facts to support the accusation the lawsuit process was abused.
Leafblad, of Grayslake, said Dishman's lawsuit won't be a disruption for his campaign ahead of the Republican state Senate primary in March. He was hit with the lawsuit before announcing his state Senate campaign in October.
"We've got too much momentum. We're rolling," said Leafblad, who declined to discuss Dishman's suit on the advice of his lawyer.
He's in the GOP derby with Linwood "Lennie" Jarratt of Round Lake Beach and Lindenhurst resident Michael White. Melinda Bush of Grayslake is the only known Democrat candidate running so far.
Leafblad, Jarratt, White and Bush are running in the 31st Senate District, which covers most of northern Lake County. Domestic problems led state Sen. Suzi Schmidt to announce last month she won't be in the district's GOP primary.
As for Dishman's complaint, it contends Leafblad's lawsuit against him -- filed on March 23, 2009 -- was crafted solely with the intent to harm his re-election chances by falsely claiming he had abused his power and misused taxpayers' money.
Sworn answers from Leafblad in a November 2010 deposition for a separate political firings lawsuit against Avon Township show he considers himself a close pal of Carus. Four employees who worked for Dishman recently settled the federal case for $450,000 and claimed political support for him cost them their jobs.
Carus resigned from the township assessor's job in June, citing health reasons.
Dishman attorney Keith Hunt said Leafblad engaged in "dirty politics" that had no business in the court system. He said it was telling that Leafblad dropped the suit against Dishman on April 15, 2009, just after Carus won.
"The judiciary is sacrosanct and must be preserved for the honest resolution of genuine litigation disputes, lest judges be made the pawns of ward bosses and political hacks," Hunt wrote in court papers.
Leafblad had claimed in his lawsuit Dishman wrongfully submitted mileage, per diem and expense vouchers seeking reimbursement for personal use of his own vehicle and travel expenses unrelated to his Avon Township job.
In particular, Leafblad had alleged Dishman was improperly reimbursed with township funds for trips he took to a St. Louis casino to collect playing cards to be distributed at the annual Lake County Seniors Day.
Leafblad, a former Lake County Board member who had a long association with the seniors event, said in his 2009 court filing he'd never seen the cards. Dishman, however, produced photographs of himself handing out the card decks at Seniors Day.
Under questioning by Hunt in the 2010 deposition, Leafblad said he sued Dishman because he wanted voters to know about the former assessor's activities. He stated he learned he erred in claiming Dishman never distributed the cards.
"I did not strategize with anyone politically," Leafblad said.
Dishman seeks more than $50,000 in damages in his lawsuit. In part, he cites lost wages, benefits, public employee pension and other perks associated with being Avon Township assessor.