Mark McCombs is a partner at Greenberg Traurig no more. The firm cut ties with him last week when he was accused of bilking the village of Calumet Park of more than one million dollars.
A “seasoned government relations attorney focusing on state and local government issues” in the firm’s Chicago office, McCombs was Calumet Park’s economic development counsel, special village attorney (investigations), and administrative hearing officer. Not only did McCombs grow up in Calumet Park, the Village loved the guy. It even named a street after him. From the Awards & Recognitions section of his firm bio (now cached):
Honored by the Village of Calumet Park, Illinois, with the designation of “Mark McCombs Drive” in recognition of the leadership role played in the commercial redevelopment of Calumet Park’s Ashland Avenue-Vermont Street corridors.
But McCombs may have loved something more than Calumet Park: being a partner at Greenberg Traurig. He apparently wanted to impress the firm with his book of business, and so he took advantage of his devoted client, allegedly billing the tiny village more than $1 million for work he never performed. From the Chicago Tribune:
McCombs did not pocket the money, Assistant State’s Attorney John Mahoney alleged in court, but it enhanced his prestige, billable hours and opportunities for more pay at Greenberg Traurig, the downtown law firm where McCombs worked.
It didn’t take a village to unravel the scheme….
A school superintendent grew suspicious when McCombs was evasive about details of the tax increment finance funds he oversaw and when he scheduled a routine public meeting about the funds on New Year’s Eve:
“Most people are thinking about who’s babysitting for New Year’s Eve, not attending a TIF meeting,” Byrne said Friday in a telephone interview.
Knowing that McCombs had never provided reports on TIF activity, Byrne filed a request under state law in January for five years of data, prosecutors said. Later, in a telephone call, McCombs offered to pay money to the school district to make the inquiry “go away,” they said.
In the following weeks, McCombs alternately begged village officials to drop their investigation, saying he could lose his law license, or threatened them with expensive litigation if they persisted. He allegedly offered the village $100,000 of his own money.
A firm spokesperson told the Chicago Tribune that the firm will reimburse any fees not properly billed to the village. But, according to his firm bio, McCombs was the village bicycle of… village representations.
He has represented at least nine others, including Posen, Riverdale, and Phoenix, though some of the nine predate his 2002 arrival at Greenberg. We asked the firm whether it’s reviewing his work for other villages. A spokesperson tells Above the Law:
Consistent with our immediate response to this situation, we are reviewing all of Mr. McCombs’ billings and will make prompt reimbursements if we find that any overcharges occurred.
We imagine villagers might be storming the firm with pitchforks any minute now.
Lawyer charged with bilking impoverished suburb of $1 million [Chicago Breaking News Center]
Attorney bilked Calumet Park of more than $1 million, state alleges [Chicago Tribune]
Lawyer Cheated South Suburb Out of $1 Million [Fox Chicago News]