CHICAGO (CN) – An Illinois Liquor Control Commission employee claims in court that his bosses falsely accused him of battery after he blew the whistle on the Commission’s failure to investigate a night club secretly owned by Christopher Kelly, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s chief fund raiser.
George Gottlieb sued Lainie Krozel, chief of staff of the Illinois Department of Revenue; Richard Haymaker, chief counsel of the Illinois Liquor Control Commission; both state agencies, and 9 other agency employees, in Federal Court.
After retiring from the Marine Corps and the Chicago Police, Gottlieb says, he began working for the Illinois Liquor Commission as a special agent in 1999. He was active in the Republican Party and was the Republican nominee for Mayor of Chicago in 1995.
Gottlieb claims that “Krozel and Haymaker formed an animus against plaintiff on account of plaintiff’s political history and prior political associations.”
He says: “Defendants Krozel and Haymaker are partisan political appointees to their respective offices, having been appointed to them by and under former Governor Rod Blagojevich as patronage employees on the recommendations of, among others, Richard Mell, Tony Rezko, and Christopher Kelly.”
Kelly was the chief fund raiser for Blagojevich. He committed suicide in 2009, days before he was to report to serve 8 years in prison.
Rezko is serving a 10-year sentence for public corruption.
Mell is a longtime member of the Chicago City Council.
Gottlieb’s complaint states: “During the course of his employment by the Liquor Commission, plaintiff observed or otherwise learned of various acts of misconduct by other employees of the Liquor Commission, and reported same to his superiors, including to Defendant Krozel in her capacity as the Acting Director of the Revenue Department’s Internal Affairs Unit.”
But rather than investigate, Gottlieb says, “Defendant Krozel ignored and/or suppressed plaintiff’s reports.”
Gottlieb claims that during an investigation of V-Live Nite Club in Chicago, “Plaintiff came to believe that the V-Live Nite Club was being operated in violation of the liquor laws and regulations of Illinois. In the course of that investigation plaintiff learned further that, in addition to and apart from the owners of the V-Live Nite Club who were identified on the license applications and other public regulatory submissions made by V-Live Nite Club to the Liquor Commission, there was another secret, or ‘silent,’ owner of V-Live Nite Club. … In the course of the investigation, plaintiff also learned that the secret or ‘silent’ owner of the V-Live Nite Club, whose name was withheld from the Liquor Commission and from the public, was Kelly.” When Gottlieb submitted his findings about V-Live and Kelly, he says, “Defendant Krozel, notwithstanding her relationship with Kelly, sought to use her office and authority to oversee, superintend, and control the investigation. …
“Plaintiff informed others among his superiors of the conduct and conflict of interest of defendant Krozel and that he believed that it was the intention of defendant Krozel to quash and suppress the investigation of V-Live Nite Club and Kelly.
“The Liquor Commission took no action, however, to separate defendant Krozel from the investigation.”
When corruption in the Blagojevich administration became public, Gottlieb says, he “submitted to interviews by journalists … publicly disclosing that results of an investigation into the V-Live Nite Club and Kelly had been reported to defendant Krozel, the Liquor Commission, and the Revenue Department, but that defendant Krozel, defendant Haymaker, and other leaders of the Liquor Commission and the Revenue Department had failed and refused properly to discharge their official duties with respect to the V-Live Nite Club and Kelly and sought to suppress the evidence of wrongdoing by the V-Live Nite Club and Kelly.”
Because of his whistleblowing, Gottlieb says, “Defendants Krozel and Haymaker established a scheme to claim falsely that, during the visit, plaintiff has committed one or more batteries against defendant Krozel, purportedly witnessed by defendant Haymaker, and thereby subject plaintiff to civil service discipline, including the termination of his employment; criminal prosecution; and damage to plaintiff’s reputation as an upright, ethical, truthful, and trustworthy law enforcement officer.”
Gottlieb says he was fired and convicted of battery based on Krozel’s and Haymaker’s false testimony.
“But for the false claims and false testimony of defendants Krozel and Haymaker, plaintiff’s employment would not have been terminated and he would not have been convicted of a crime that he did not commit,” the complaint states.
Gottlieb seeks damages for the constitutional violations and violation of the Illinois State Officials and Employees Ethics Act. He asks to be reinstated to his former position, and triple the amount of back pay he lost as a result of his allegedly wrongful termination.
He is represented by Joseph Morris with Morris & De La Rosa.