Elk Grove Village brings in legal heavyweights in annexation dispute

  • Michael Kasper, the prominent election attorney and longtime lawyer for House Speaker Michael Madigan, is now representing Elk Grove Village in its defense against a local developer's lawsuit.

    Michael Kasper, the prominent election attorney and longtime lawyer for House Speaker Michael Madigan, is now representing Elk Grove Village in its defense against a local developer's lawsuit. Associated Press, 2009

 
 
Updated 6/30/2020 4:41 AM

Elk Grove Village officials are bringing in heavyweight attorneys with political clout in their bid to defeat a local developer's long-running annexation suit.

The village has retained Michael Kasper -- a prominent lobbyist, election attorney and longtime lawyer for House Speaker Michael Madigan -- and the Berwyn-based Del Galdo Law Group, which serves as attorney for the Town of Cicero, Melrose Park and other municipalities.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Kasper and Cynthia Grandfield of the Del Galdo firm are said to have come at the recommendation of Storino, Ramello & Durkin, the Rosemont-based law office that's been defending Elk Grove since developer Mario Gullo filed suit in February 2019 to stop the forcible annexation of properties he owns.

The village initially sought to add Kasper and the Del Galdo group as additional counsel until changing late last week to a full substitution, just days before a Monday deadline to file a formal response to Gullo's suit.

The change prompted Cook County Judge Celia Gamrath to recuse herself from the case, saying she wanted to avoid any appearance of impropriety. Gamrath and Kasper's late wife, Judge Laura Liu, both worked in the court's chancery division.

Elk Grove officials on Monday declined to say what led them to replace the Storino firm, which has handled some of the village's legal work and run its adjudication hearings for decades.

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"The Del Galdo law firm, with the assistance of Kasper's legal work, has a long history of working in litigation issues," Mayor Craig Johnson said. "At this time, we thought it was in the best interest of the community to use them as our main legal team in this case."

Elk Grove previously hired Kasper last January to represent Village Clerk Lorrie Murphy after she refused to certify a term limits referendum. The referendum later was tossed from the ballot by the Illinois Supreme Court.

Johnson said the village will continue its "strong relationship" with Storino on other matters, which in the past has included real estate closings and tax increment financing issues.

Gullo attorney Kim Walberg speculated the village may have changed attorneys to try to salvage the case or force the judge's recusal, after some of her prior rulings allowed the suit to move forward. She also suggested the substitution could have been a stall tactic -- Elk Grove attorneys now have until Aug. 10 to answer charges in Gullo's complaint -- or "maybe the village believes it must resort to political clout because the law is not on its side," she said.

"Whatever the reason, we just want the village to answer the complaint and proceed to discovery without further delay and gamesmanship," Walberg added.

Gullo's suit argues the village's attempt to forcibly annex his 58 acres was improper because it was preceded by a voluntary "sham" annexation of a separate 41-acre parcel owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.

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