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March 8, 2010 11:26 AM

Greenberg Traurig Terminates Chicago Partner Facing Theft of Services Charges

Posted by Brian Baxter

UPDATE: 3/9/10, 9, 2:14 p.m. A Greenberg Traurig spokeswoman told the Chicago Tribune that the firm fired McCombs after conducting a quick internal investigation into his alleged conduct.

Mark McCombs, a government affairs partner in the Chicago office of Greenberg Traurig, was charged by state prosecutors in Illinois on Friday with bilking more than $1 million from a Chicago suburb through inflated legal bills, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune. McCombs, 50, was arrested at his condo on Chicago’s Near West Side, the paper reported.

In a statement released late Friday, Greenberg Traurig said "upon learning of these charges, the law firm severed connections" with McCombs. The firm is fully cooperating with the investigation into the charges.

Cook County prosecutors claim in a press release sent to local Chicago papers that since 2003 McCombs capitalized on his personal and professional contacts with officials in Calumet Park to steal more than $1 million in tax increment finance funds. Most of the bills, the paper said, were for work that was never performed.

The Tribune reports that law enforcement officials were contacted by administrators from a local community school board after they grew suspicious of McCombs when he glossed over the use of certain public funds during a presentation before the board. According to the Tribune, McCombs then tried to squash the ensuing investigation by alternately offering to repay Calumet Park $100,000 of his own money and threatening the village with expensive litigation.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that McCombs has been charged with theft of government services in excess of $100,000 and noted that prosecutors do not believe he pocketed the excess fees. Instead, the paper reports that prosecutors claim McCombs wired the cash to Greenberg Traurig, and the increased billables and collections enhanced his reputation as a moneymaker at the firm. A Calumet Park official told the Sun-Times that McCombs could have defrauded the village out of as much as $3 million.

McCombs joined Greenberg Traurig in September 2002. According to a cached version of his CV on Greenberg Traurig's Web site, McCombs served as economic development counsel, special village attorney for investigations, and administrative hearing officer for Calumet Park. His bio indicates he also represented several other municipalities in suburban Chicago. The page identifies him as a "seasoned government relations attorney focusing on state and local government issues."

The statement released by Greenberg Traurig states:

“Mark J. McCombs served in the position of special counsel to the Village of Calumet Park for over nine years. He was charged today with theft of governmental property. This afternoon, upon learning of these charges, the law firm severed connections to Mr. McCombs, who had been an attorney with the firm. The firm is fully cooperating with the investigation and has reported these charges to the appropriate disciplinary agency. The firm has spoken with Calumet Park town officials and assured them that any fees not properly billed to the Village will be promptly reimbursed.”

McCombs has retained Michael Gillespie, the son of noted Chicago criminal defense lawyer Terence Gillespie, to represent him, according to Chicago Breaking News.  (The younger Gillespie also is a member of the legal team defending former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.)

Prosecutors asked Cook County Circuit judge Ramon Ocasio III to set bail for McCombs at $1 million, which Gillespie told Chicago Breaking News was unreasonable and "purely punitive" against his client. Ocasio eventually ordered McCombs to post $25,000 cash bail in order to be released.

If convicted of the theft of government services charge, McCombs faces between six and 30 years in prison.

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