Friday, July 26, 2013

Marquardt Bros. -- We've Got Your Back

Lobbyist for DuPage County State's Attorney's Office is Attorney & Brother of Forest Preserve's IT Covert Forensic Investigator


Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart FivePart SixPart Seven

Scott Marquardt of the Wheaton-based law firm, Marquardt & Belmonte, P.C., represented JRM, Inc. in matters related with the company's secret "internal investigation" of the DuPage County Forest Preserve District's information technology (IT) department. JRM is an IT firm owned by Jerry Marquardt of Naperville, the attorney's brother. 

Scott is also a lobbyist at a firm named after the founder and the late father of the brothers, Roger C. Marquardt & Co. This firm is paid $4,000 per month by the DuPage County State's Attorney's office for lobbying services. Scott's wife, Barbara Skurka/Marquardt, has been paid $48,000 as a consultant for Citizens for Bob Berlin, the political campaign for the State's Attorney.

Findings from JRM were given to the State's Attorney's office in 2011. A year later, the District's former director of its IT department, Mark McDonald, and the department manager, David Tepper, were each charged with 140 felony counts, while a third man, Arif Mahmood, who worked for Alamach Technology, Inc., an IT vendor for the District, was charged with 37 counts, in an alleged scheme stealing $150,000 from the Forest Preserve.

Citizen watchdogs claim there are numerous political ties, conflicts of interest and a lack of legitimacy surrounding the internal investigation leading to the charges.

In a letter last month concerning Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests handled by the Forest Preserve's attorney, Jim Knippen of Wheaton, Marquardt stated that his firm represents JRM. After explaining that JRM has previously complied with FOIA requests, the letter reads: "JRM, Inc. is no longer in possession of any other emails." And, "Please be advised that JRM., Inc. will no longer be maintaining copies of these documents as it is not required by law or its contract with FPD to do so." (To enlarge, click the image.)

JRM was paid $66,000 by the Forest Preserve in 2011. Per the IT firm's contract, Resolution No. 11-313, all records and documents from the internal investigation are property of the Forest Preserve.

CountyLeaks reported last November that no injunction had been sought to preserve all records pertaining to this case in "Hark -- Is that the Buzz of Cicadas or a Shredder? Did the DuPage Forest Preserve Shred a Truckload of Records During a Criminal Investigation?"

Nine months later, it appears nothing has changed.

Alamach provided IT data storage, disaster recovery and e-mail backup for the Forest Preserve off-site in compliance with the Federal Regulations on Civil Procedures and the 2002 Homeland Security Act

Data stored on Alamach equipment was handed over to a JRM subcontractor late in 2011; no chain of custody for this evidence of work product was included in FOIA responses. A chain of custody refers to "the chronological documentation or paper trail, showing the seizure, custody, control, transfer, analysis, and disposition of physical or electronic evidence".

Because there had been such a long battle to obtain the Alamach records from the Forest Preserve via FOIA, even going so far as police intimidation, citizen watchdogs believe one of two things -- either it was all a muscle-flexing game or there must be something in the records worth hiding.

Early February 2011, a purchase order for $17,400 for e-mail migration got the attention of somebody at the Forest Preserve. A hand-written note on the p.o. reads, "Are all users on Archiving?" Watchdogs point out that a series of events that year at the Forest Preserve followed the penned question. (Click HERE for an in-depth timeline.)

Former Alamach owner, Arif Mahmood, had been represented by attorney Tim Martin of Wheaton-based Martin & Kent, LLC. Martin was a law partner of Scott Marquardt at the former Marquardt Martin Kallas & Belmonte, P.C. of Wheaton. 

Last month, Martin contributed $1,000 to Citizens for Bob Berlin. In 2002, he had loaned $100,000 to the campaign of former DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett who was running for Illinois Attorney General against Lisa Madigan. This is in addition to $17,700 Martin gave to Birkett's campaign.

Also writing recent checks to Citizens for Bob Berlin were Tepper's attorney, Terry Ekl of Lisle-based Ekl, Williams & Provenzale, LLC, and McDonald's attorney, Ernie DiBenedetto of Clarendon Hills-based DiBenedetto & Kendall, PC. Three days after the last hearing on this case, Ekl gave $1,500 for a total of $7,250; Dibenedetto gave $1,000 for a total of $5,500.

CountyLeaks ithe only outlet so far to report on Mahmood's new legal counsel -- former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins, now a partner in Perkins Coie, LLP in Chicago. Collins made headlines this past week for his invitation to conduct an internal investigation at Metra; Collins didn't accept due to a potential conflict of interest at his law firm.

The next hearing is scheduled Aug. 19th at the Henry J. Hyde Judicial Office Facility in Wheaton -- nearly two years after the defendants lost their Forest Preserve jobs and contract, 11 months after the arrests and nine months after the indictments of 317 felony counts. The DuPage County State's Attorney's office still has not produced bill of particulars -- the formal, detailed, written complaint of charges -- as required by law (725 ILCS 5/111-6)

Despite the involvement of the FBI in the later stages of the investigation, no federal charges were brought against the former Forest Preserve employees and vendor.

Additional Background

In July 2011, JRM Consulting, Inc. of Naperville was contracted to conduct 
an audit of the IT Department.  Unknown to the public and not mentioned in their contract was the true scope of work -- to conduct an "internal computer forensics investigation" at the Forest Preserve.  The results of the months-long investigation were presented to the State's Attorney's office in November 2011.

No information can be located on-line showing that JRM has expertise or licenses to conduct forensic investigations -- a specialized field usually involving advanced training and certification. 

JRM has been paid $38,000 since 1999 for political consulting in Illinois, including payment of over $14,000 for goods and services by Citizens to Elect Joe Birkett; former State's Attorney Birkett stepped down in November 2010 to accept an appointment to the Illinois Appellate Court, District 2.

Jerry's brother, Scott, and his sister-in-law,
 Barbara Skurka/Marquardt, team up at the law firm, Marquardt & Belmonte. Scott and Barbara are former assistant DuPage County State's Attorneys. In fact, all seven attorneys listed at the law firm cut their legal teeth at the same office that iprosecuting McDonald, Tepper and Mahmood.

On reports to the Illinois State Board of ElectionsBarbara uses one of two last names -- Skurka or Marquardt. There is no hyphenation.

Skurka/Marquardt is paid by the campaign of State's Attorney Bob Berlin. Since February 2011, Skurka/Marquardt has received $48,000 from Citizens for Bob Berlin for consulting, reportedly for fundraising. She currently receives a monthly payment of $1,000  from the campaign. Berlin has never faced opposition and the next election is over three years away.

Further, Skurka/Marquardt is listed as the board president and brunch chair of the Friends of the DuPage County Children's Center, a non-profit organization supporting the Children's Advocacy Center of the State's Attorney's office.

The Berlin campaign's paid treasurer is Finance Director of the Forest Preserve Jack Hogan. Citizens for Bob Berlin have paid Hogan over $6,000 since February 2011. Despite the on-going investigation at the Forest Preserve, which includes allegations of financial mismanagement by former staff, Hogan remains as the paid treasurer for the prosecutor's campaign.

Hogan was also the paid campaign treasurer of John "Chip" Humes who ran for state rep in the 46th district in the 2012 primary. Humes is a co-owner of his family's business, Humes Funeral Home of Addison, and a lobbyist at Roger C. Marquardt & Co.

Skurka/Marquardt, Hogan and the Forest Preserve's political strategists contracted specifically for crisis communications regarding the IT "internal investigation", Reverse Spin, were also paid for extensive political work for former DuPage State's Attorneys Joe Birkett and Jim Ryan. On various campaigns, Skurka/Marquardt has been paid a total of $384,000, Hogan $104,000 and Reverse Spin/Curry Public Strategies $260,000.

One former assistant state's attorney who worked at the Marquardt & Belmonte law firm and Roger C. Marquardt & Co. lobbying firm  -- Rick Veenstra of Addison -- has returned to the law enforcer's office as the Deputy Chief of the Civil Bureau and manager of its Governmental Affairs and Special Litigation Division. Among Veenstra's duties is to advise the DuPage County Ethics Commission.

Last February, Marquardt & Belmonte associate Daniel Hanlon was appointed as Ethics Advisor of the DuPage County Ethics Commission; Hanlon is also a former DuPage County assistant state's attorney.

Click HERE for a photo of Marquardt with his lobbying clientele -- DuPage County State's Attorney Bob Berlin and Pat Bond, attorney for the DuPage County Election Commission. These two government entities have paid Marquardt a total of $7,000 monthly for lobbying efforts for several years. 

According to the Illinois Office of the Secretary of State website, Roger C. Marquardt & Co. are lobbyists for a variety of clients including College of DuPage, Naperville, West Chicago, Wood Dale, Lombard, Hanover Park, Loyola University, Illinois High School Association, Waste Management of Illinois, Illinois Funeral Directors Association and the Better Government Association.

CountyLeaks Asks:

How many more ties between the Forest Preserve and the State's Attorney's office must be reported before someone other than CountyLeaks finally remarks, "Houston, we have a problem"?

Is this justice, DuPage style?

Would it be quicker just to list who isn't a friend of the State's Attorney's office?

Who in the Marquardt family owns and receives money from the Roger C. Marquardt & Co. lobbying firm?

Why does JRM require an attorney to respond to Forest Preserve FOIA requests? Why does the Forest Preserve require an attorney to respond to FOIA requests? Why is everyone lawyered up?

In reviewing and investigating this case, did it influence the State's Attorney's office for the owner of JRM to be the brother of their lobbyist and the brother-in-law of the state's attorney's paid campaign fundraiser? Or is it like everything else CountyLeaks reports, pure happenstance?

Legal scholars, in his letter to Forest Preserve attorney Jim Knippen, why did Scott Marquardt make a point to write, "Please be advised that JRM., Inc. will no longer be maintaining copies of these documents as it is not required by law or its contract with FPD to do so"? Were the copies simply taking up too much space on a flash drive?

Is it any wonder that attorneys and state's attorneys try so hard to be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act?

Is it legal for an unlicensed firm to conduct a secret "internal investigation" without first providing notice to the employees?

Why would the Alamach equipment and its back-up data -- evidence of work product in a potential criminal case -- be turned over to a guy freelancing for JRM? Why not an authority? 

Is there a back-up of the back-up?

Will the State seek yet another continuance on the bill of particulars on Aug. 19th? If yes, will a defense attorney object? Or will he just sign another check to Citizens for Bob Berlin?

When a defense attorney loans $100,000 to a state's attorney and contributes yet another $17,700 to him, does he expect anything in return? Or is this hypothetical too preposterous?

Did Barbara Skurka/Marquardt assist with the fundraiser held two weeks ago for Citizens for Bob Berlin where the campaign received checks from Ekl and DiBenedetto on the same day?

Ethics scholars, when you find yourselves indicted with 140 felony counts, would you prefer a defense attorney who had generously contributed to the state's attorney or one who...hadn't?

Regardless of the legality, should a state's attorney accept campaign contributions from defense attorneys particularly when both are parties in ongoing cases? Why does Berlin's campaign need so much cash when he's never faced opposition and the next election is over three years from now? Are the DuPage Democrats that spooky?

Is this really about McDonald, Tepper and Mahmood? Or is this all about someone else?

When did it become fashionable to refer to lobbyists as "legislative consultants"? Did Reverse Spin come up with that one?

Is Reverse Spin still working for the Forest Preserve, perhaps as a subcontractor?

Do the appointees for the Forest Preserve's newly formed Ethics Commission realize they signed up for a full-time gig?

CountyLeaks Recommends:

Medill Watchdog's "No Sunshine in the Forest"