(SPRINGFIELD) State Rep. Lou Lang cited a “perceived conflict of interest” Tuesday behind his abrupt and surprising decision to end his sponsorship and potential future involvement in gambling-expansion legislation.
The Skokie Democrat informed House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) of the decision on Monday, a move that could threaten any efforts to get Senate-passed gambling-expansion legislation out of the House this spring.
Lang’s departure came as the Rockford Register Star reported in its Tuesday editions that the northern Illinois city, which the lawmaker specified in his legislation as a site for a new casino, last summer hired the law firm that employs Lang to handle workers compensation matters and to assist in flooding-related litigation against Rockford.
“It was recently brought to my attention that there may be a perceived conflict of interest between the law firm of which I am of counsel and my sponsorship of the gaming bill because a client of the firm has an interest that could be impacted by the passage of the proposed legislation,” Lang wrote in a letter to Madigan.
“To be clear, the law firm’s work for the client has no relation whatsoever to any gaming legislation. Additionally, I do no legal work for this client, and I receive no compensation from their relationship with the firm,” he said.
Earlier this month, the Senate passed gambling-expansion legislation that would authorize five new locations, including a site in Chicago, Rockford, the south suburbs, Lake County and Downstate Danville.
Patrick Hayes, director of Rockford’s law department, told the Rockford newspaper that there was not any link between its hiring of Evergreen Park-based Odelson and Sterk and the city’s inclusion in the gambling bill Lang has twice passed through the House only to see Gov. Pat Quinn veto it.
Under Lang’s sponsorship, the House passed a gambling-expansion plan that named Rockford as a site for a new casino in May 2012. A similar measure, also sponsored by Lang, passed the House in May 2011.
Hayes indicated that Lang, who is of counsel to the law firm, did not personally handle any of Rockford’s city workers compensation work, leaving that to two other lawyers with the firm.
The newspaper reported that eight law firms had sought the city’s legal work last year, but that Odelson and Sterk was not the lowest bidder. Hayes, in a later interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, said the firm was paid about $60,000 by the city last year.
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