Trials & Litigation

Law firm sues former name partner, says he took over $1M in unauthorized compensation

A suburban Chicago law firm has sued a former name partner, contending that he took over $1 million in unauthorized compensation and made personal use of Dommermuth, Cobine, West, Gensler, Philipchuck, Corrigan & Bernhard credit cards to pay gambling and vacation expenses.

Ex-partner Bill Brestal, 71, has been in practice over 30 years, specializes in zoning matters and is credited with playing a leading role in the development of the Chicago suburb of Naperville, where the Dommermuth firm is located. A DuPage County Circuit Court amended complaint filed Tuesday seeks to have Brestal, who left the firm two years ago, pay for the cost of a forensic audit, among other relief, according to the Daily Herald and the Naperville Sun.

Attorney Nickolas Pappas, who represents Brestal, could not be reached for comment by the Sun on Thursday. However, Brestal has previously denied any wrongdoing.

A previous Daily Herald article discusses the original complaint filed against Brestal, which asserted claims for fraud and breach of fiduciary duty. It was reportedly dismissed earlier this month on statute of limitations grounds, but the amended complaint says Brestal’s alleged conduct, which continued through 2007, was not initially discovered because he concealed it.

Attorney Craig Cobine, who once considered his partner of three decades to be a close friend, told the newspaper last year he was devastated by Brestal’s use of the firm as his “personal checkbook.”

The situation was discovered in 2008, Cobine said, when the collapse of the housing market put the firm under financial stress. The partners took a closer look at Brestal’s management, and found it was paying utility bills for Brestal’s vacation home in Florida and that he had maxed out a $100,000 credit line, Cobine told the newspaper.

Cobine said the other partners didn’t find out earlier about the expenses they are now challenging because they let Brestal manage its finances. No regular meetings were held and Brestal did not share financial information about the firm with its other partners, according to Cobine.

No client funds are at issue in the spending dispute.

Due to the firm’s financial issues, some attorneys and support staff were laid off, several others left voluntarily and those who remained took pay cuts, Cobine told the Daily Herald last year.

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