The village of North Riverside has asked a federal judge to force one of its police officers to agree to settle a lawsuit he filed three years ago alleging he was defamed publicly and that he was passed over for promotion because he supported an opposition candidate for mayor.

According to documents filed by the village’s attorney, Lucy Bednarik, in U.S. District Court on April 28, Detective Sgt. Frank Schmalz explicitly accepted the terms of a settlement offer through his one of his attorneys, Amanda Clark, on March 7. 

On that same date, according to an email filed as an exhibit with the court filing, Clark notified a magistrate judge overseeing the settlement talks that Schmalz had agreed to the settlement amount, which is redacted in the filing.

But Schmalz apparently had second thoughts about the terms of the settlement after the agreement was reached and has not signed the agreement. Schmalz’s stance apparently has not set well with his attorneys, who have filed a motion to withdraw as Schmalz’s counsel.

On April 27, Clark along with attorneys Margaret Angelucci and Joel A. D’Alba requested Judge John W. Darrah to allow them to withdraw as Schmalz’s counsel, stating that due to the American Bar Association’s rules of professional conduct “we have an ethical obligation not to represent [Schmalz].”

Both matters — the village’s motion to enforce the settlement agreement and the withdrawal of Schmalz’s attorneys — will be before Judge Darrah on May 10, after the Landmark’s press time.

Schmalz sought unspecified monetary damages in a lawsuit he first filed in November 2013, about seven months after the North Riverside mayoral election, which saw Hubert Hermanek Jr. elected mayor, defeating former police officer and then-village Trustee Rocco DeSantis, whom Schmalz supported.

The contentious election boiled over on Election Day outside the North Riverside Village Commons polling place, where then-Mayor Kenneth Krochmal and Schmalz exchanged words. Schmalz alleged that Krochmal defamed him publicly during that exchange.

Days later Lane Niemann was promoted to police chief. Schmalz alleged in his lawsuit that Niemann refused to elevate him to the rank of lieutenant, despite him being the only candidate on the promotion list for that rank, because of Schmalz’s efforts on behalf of DeSantis during the campaign.

Hermanek, Krochmal and Niemann were named as defendants in the lawsuit, along with nine former and present village trustees. The lawsuit was largely dismissed in August 2014, but Schmalz filed an amended complaint the following month.

In April 2015, Darrah dismissed all of the former and present village trustees as defendants. In February 2016, the matter was referred to a magistrate judge and the two sides met for a settlement conference on March 1.

On March 7, Magistrate Judge Mary M. Rowland noted in the court record that she had met with Schmalz and his counsel and that “this case has settled.” 

Rowland also noted that dismissal papers were due from both sides in 30 days. A day before that deadline, Schmalz’s attorneys filed a motion for a time extension until April 20.

Seven days later Schmalz’s attorneys filed their motion to withdraw as his counsel.