Back in May, a federal jury found former North Riverside Mayor Kenneth Krochmal liable for defaming former police officer Frank Schmalz outside the Village Common polling place on election day in 2013 and cleared former Police Chief Lane Niemann of retaliating against Schmalz, who was taken off a plum task force, passed over for promotion and eventually sent home for good following that election.
The jury awarded Schmalz $600,000 in damages for statements made in public by Krochmal on that day in 2013.
But that wasn’t the end of the case.
Schmalz had a second retaliation case, filed in 2021, pending against the village of North Riverside and Administrator Sue Scarpiniti related to $60,000 in court-ordered benefit payments that the village was withholding.
Now, however, Schmalz, the village, Krochmal and Niemann have apparently come to a settlement that will resolve both cases once and for all, according to documents filed recently in U.S. District Court.
On July 12, the village of North Riverside filed a motion to dismiss the 2021 case and on July 19, Krochmal filed a motion for a new trial, claiming the court improperly prejudiced the jury against him and that the damages awarded to Schmalz were excessive.
Two days later, on July 21, Schmalz and the various defendants filed motions to stay hearing the new trial and dismissal requests.
According to both motions to stay, all sides have “reached an agreement in principle to resolve the disputes between them.” That agreement, as of July 21, was being drafted in preparation for approval by the North Riverside Board of Trustees.
“Barring something unexpected,” the motion states, that agreement is expected to be approved no later than Sept. 30.
The unexpected has been part and parcel of Schmalz’s pursuit of his 2013 case against the village. In 2014, Schmalz amended his complaint to zero in on his theory that local officials conspired to retaliate against him for backing Rocco DeSantis, another former police officer, for mayor against Hubert Hermanek Jr.
The outgoing mayor, Krochmal, who did not run for a second term, backed Hermanek and engaged in a heated verbal exchange outside the North Riverside Village Commons on election day 2013 with Schmalz, publicly accusing him of committing crimes.
In 2016, court documents showed that Schmalz appeared to have accepted a $60,000 settlement, but a judge ruled that Schmalz never gave his explicit consent to accept the settlement.
The case would drag on another seven years, with multiple attempts at reaching a settlement coming to nought.
It finally went to trial on May 5 and lasted 11 days before the jury returned a split decision, awarding damages on the defamation claim but exonerating Niemann of retaliation.