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As Ebony Lucas runs in the special election for 4th Ward alderman, she's billing herself as a real estate lawyer "fighting for distressed homeowners and condominium associations."Public documents detailing that work, as well as her foray into real...

4th Ward candidate under scrutiny of lawyer licensing agency

As Ebony Lucas runs in the special election for 4th Ward alderman, she's billing herself as a real estate lawyer "fighting for distressed homeowners and condominium associations."Public documents detailing that work, as well as her foray into real...

4th Ward candidate under scrutiny of lawyer licensing agency

As Ebony Lucas runs in the special election for 4th Ward alderman, she's billing herself as a real estate lawyer "fighting for distressed homeowners and condominium associations."

Public documents detailing that work, as well as her foray into real estate investing, show that authorities have questioned the first-time candidate's honesty and conduct.

The state agency that investigates allegations of lawyer misconduct has accused Lucas of "conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation" — assertions she flatly denies. The charge is related to her efforts to exert control over a Kenwood condominium building where she owns about a third of the units. Her nemesis in that condo association drama is a Florida businessman with a past drug dealing conviction whose name pops up in criminal court papers that federal prosecutors said involved international terrorism.

In one of many civil lawsuits she's been involved with, a judge ordered Lucas out of the courtroom for behavior a city attorney later described as "disruptive and combative." Lucas also has been arrested twice and faced misdemeanor charges of battery, theft, criminal trespass and resisting a peace officer. In both cases, the charges eventually were dropped.

Lucas offered a defense of each incident in interviews and court documents. She said she would be vindicated in the complaint filed by the state's lawyer disciplinary agency. She chalked up the allegations of courtroom disruption as coming from a racially motivated judge. And she disputed the accuracy of the arrest records.

The legal questions haven't been a major issue ahead of Tuesday's special election for 4th Ward alderman. Lucas has raised the second-most cash in the contest, in which four people are challenging Sophia King. She's a friend of former President Barack Obama whom Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed last April to replace Will Burns, another Obama ally who left to take a job with Airbnb. Also running are two other attorneys, Gerald Scott McCarthy and Marcellus Moore Jr., and activist Gregory Seal Livingston.

Obama makes endorsement in race for Chicago alderman Hal Dardick

Former President Barack Obama on Monday got involved in Chicago ward politics by endorsing Ald. Sophia King, 4th, in next month's special election — a move a couple of her opponents tried to portray as a sign of weakness and meddling by the powers that be.

The endorsement from the former leader...

Former President Barack Obama on Monday got involved in Chicago ward politics by endorsing Ald. Sophia King, 4th, in next month's special election — a move a couple of her opponents tried to portray as a sign of weakness and meddling by the powers that be.

The endorsement from the former leader...

(Hal Dardick)

King has raised nearly three times as much as all the other candidates combined. Getting more than half the vote Tuesday wins the race, but if no candidate reaches that threshold, the two top vote-getters will face off in an April runoff election.

Condo minutes dispute

In late August, the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission filed a complaint accusing Lucas of getting a friend to draft phony meeting minutes for the condominium association of the 35-unit Drexel Commons that identified Lucas as the board's president even though she held the title of "assistant." That, in turn, allowed her to "falsely obtain access to the association's bank account" and move $75,000 to another account that she controlled, the complaint states.

Lucas denied the allegations, both in her response to the complaint and during interviews with the Chicago Tribune. "I'm confident, at the end of the day, it will be dismissed," she said.

Sophia King Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune 4th Ward Ald. Sophia King has raised nearly three times as much as her opponents combined for the upcoming special election. 4th Ward Ald. Sophia King has raised nearly three times as much as her opponents combined for the upcoming special election. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

Resolution is unlikely to come before Election Day. There's a meeting between the agency and Lucas scheduled for next month to see if they can resolve the case short of a formal hearing to determine what, if any, discipline is warranted.

Lucas said she never falsely represented herself as the condo association's board president, and as a duly elected "assistant" to the board, she moved the money so it could be used for previously planned building repairs.

Much of the case hinges on meeting minutes the state agency contends were altered and given by Lucas and her friend to a bank employee to get signature privileges on the association bank account. Lucas told the Tribune the minutes were drawn up but "never used, which is why we disagree with the state attorney discipline agency's findings."

Lucas, who owns 12 units in the building, laid blame for the attorney disciplinary complaint at the feet of Tony Osias, who has owned roughly a dozen units in the building, contending that he is trying to gain control of Drexel Commons and avoid paying assessments to maintain and improve the building.

Osias told the Tribune he complained about Lucas to the attorney disciplinary agency and other authorities. Lucas said: "What I do know is that he sent them repeated emails every single day and was really, really pressing the issue. ... He doesn't want us to take legal action against him for not paying his assessments. So what he's trying to do is bully and threaten us to not take legal action."

Like Lucas, Osias is in the business of buying condos in Chicago, although he often ends up selling them. Osias or his companies now own about three dozen condo units around the city, mostly in Bronzeville.

Osias spent about a decade in federal prison after being convicted in 1994 for running a crack cocaine operation in North Carolina.

In 2012, his name surfaced in a federal investigation of an alleged terrorist recruiting cell in Orlando, Fla., that led to the convictions of two men on charges of conspiring to defraud the government. In that case, federal prosecutors alleged in court papers that Osias prepared a false tax return for a young man who intended to use the tax refund to wage jihad in West Africa. Osias was not charged in that case. He told the Tribune that the prosecution was "fabricated" by an "overenthusiastic prosecutor," but added that he cooperated with authorities.

Osias acknowledged his 1990s drug conviction and his role in the terrorism case but said his past has no bearing on the condo association complaint.

"She wants a smokescreen so that she can cause enough confusion going into the election, because she can't defend what she did," Osias said.

"I made a mistake when I was 20 years old," Osias said of his criminal conviction. "Other than besmirching my good name, there is no relevance to the current situation. ... I did not create those meeting minutes."

In addition, Osias and Lucas are embroiled in a civil suit over control of Drexel Commons, which also faces a separate court case over alleged city building code violations. Osias said he wants a court-appointed receiver to oversee the building, and claims Lucas is behind on assessment payments and she wants to take control of the building. Lucas said she is current on her assessments. The records are not public.

Osias provided a letter from an attorney indicating that he has been depositing his condo assessments in a separate account for the benefit of the association until a lawsuit contesting who controls the association is sorted out. He also provided documentation indicating he paid $15,500 in association water bills from that account.

Lucas says she's trying to get the association to resolve the code violation issues without court intervention. She contends that her efforts to get the building in sound shape is much like what she's done for other condo associations she has represented as an attorney.

Disputes with authorities

In one of those cases, the city took the now-defunct Shoreline Condominium Association to court and had the building placed in a court-supervised receivership because of city building code violations. Lucas for a time represented Shoreline but later sued the association over legal fees.

During a January 2016 hearing to determine if Lucas' firm, the Property Law Group, should be disqualified from representing former unit owners, Circuit Court Judge Pamela Gillespie called in a deputy during a testy exchange with Lucas and then asked Lucas to leave the courtroom, according to an affidavit in the case.

An attorney representing the city filed a motion describing Lucas' behavior as "disruptive and combative."

Lucas, who is African-American, later sought to have Gillespie removed from the case, contending that the judge "directed derogatory comments and behavior towards me," actions that Lucas called "racially motivated." Another judge denied that motion.

Lucas also has been arrested twice on misdemeanor charges following altercations, according to police reports and court records.

In March 2013, Lucas was arrested at a state office building across from the Thompson Center after refusing an Illinois State Police officer's request to leave, according to court documents. After being told she was under arrest, she resisted being handcuffed, according to the documents.

Lucas was charged with criminal trespass to state-supported land and resisting a peace officer, according to a police report that lists her last name as Wilkerson, her legal name before she divorced and remarried. The case was dropped about a month later, court documents state.

Asked about the incident, Lucas said she went to the building to pick up a nephew from day care and used the ID of her cousin, the boy's mother. Lucas said police confiscated the ID and took a report, but she said she was not arrested. Lucas said she was pregnant at the time and gave birth to a son the next day.

In January 2009, Lucas was arrested at an Uptown bank after "a verbal altercation about money" with another person in the lobby, according to a police arrest report. Lucas allegedly "grabbed at the victim and snatched the victim's wallet, ID, and credit card," then got in her own car and drove off, the report states. Lucas returned and "began yelling at the victim again," according to a police report.

Responding officers recovered the items from Lucas and arrested her, the police report states. Lucas was charged with battery and assault. Charges were dropped later that year after the woman identified as the victim wrote a letter to the prosecutor stating her "desire to withdraw the charges."

Contacted by the Tribune recently, the woman said she needed to check her file on the case to see if she was allowed to talk about it. She did not call back.

Lucas denied the altercation took place. Court documents show she initially represented herself in court on that case.

Chicago Tribune's Steve Schmadeke contributed.

hdardick@chicagotribune.com

dyjackson@chicagotribune.com

Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.

Publish Date : 23 Şubat 2017 Perşembe 17:27

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