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7 Ill. cops sue, allege city released personal info to felon, gang associate

The city is accused of releasing names, home addresses, Social Security numbers, phone numbers and details about family members


By Hannah Leone
The Daily Southtown, Tinley Park, Ill.

TINLEY PARK, Ill. — Seven Aurora police officers and their families are suing the city and a former records manager in federal court over the alleged release of personal information to an imprisoned felon and known gang associate who the officers helped send to prison.

Labeling city employees' conduct "extreme and outrageous," a lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court claims the City of Aurora wrongly released private, personal and protected information about the seven officers and investigators, including their names, home addresses, Social Security numbers, phone numbers and details about family members.

The city and former records manager Jo Ann Osberg should have known releasing that information would compromise the safety of the officers and their families, who are dealing with severe emotional distress as a result, according to the lawsuit.

"No reasonable person could be expected to endure the improper release of private and personal information to a convicted violent felon," the lawsuit states.

Chicago-based law firm Malkinson & Halpern filed the suit on behalf of John Munn, Darrell Moore, Marco Gomez, Armando Montemayor, Arturo Montemayor, Michael Nilles and Leonard Casamassimo, who are all officers or investigators with the Aurora Police Department, and their spouses and children. Lead attorney Seth R. Halpern has not returned a message left with his office Wednesday.

City officials responded to questions with an emailed statement Wednesday afternoon, saying no further comment was available.

"The City realizes the seriousness of this matter for all families involved," according to the statement. "While the City generally does not comment on pending litigation, it is important to note the release of information in this case was inadvertent, and the City took immediate corrective action by implementing extensive procedures and employee training to protect against inappropriate release of information in the future. The individual responsible is no longer employed with the City of Aurora."

Neither Osberg nor Aurora's police union leader could immediately be reached for comment. The city has not disclosed information surrounding Osberg's departure.

Through the lawsuit, the officers are seeking compensatory damages, including for emotional distress, stress and mental anguish; punitive damages "to the extent allowable under law;" attorney's fees and costs; and other relief.

The officers' investigation led to the incarceration of a violent felon associated with the upper levels of a street gang, who obtained their information from prison through a Freedom of Information Act request, according to the lawsuit.

"The City and the Police Department have acknowledged that this information should never have been published to a member of the public, let alone a dangerous, convicted felon whose conviction and incarceration can be traced, at least in part, to the exemplary work of the plaintiff officers," the lawsuit states.

In October 2015, the city mailed "largely unredacted" personnel files to the requester at the Menard Correctional Center, where he's serving an 88-year sentence partially due to the officers' work, according to the lawsuit.

"Due to acts and omissions" by the city and Osberg, the lawsuit claims, the officers weren't informed their information had been released until late 2016.

In the meantime, the man in prison continued to possess the information for more than a year, during which he could share and disseminate it with other people, including other gang members, the lawsuit states.

To protect themselves and their families, according to the lawsuit, the officers must contemplate home security systems, relocations, online identity protection, and changes to names, telephones, activities and daily lives, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims the city has taken no timely or effective action to remedy the harm caused to all the officers and their families, who remain in a state of compromised safety, according to the lawsuit.
hleone@tribpub.com
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(c)2017 The Daily Southtown (Tinley Park, Ill.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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