ARDC Review Board Recommends Four Month Suspension for Lawyer Who Forged Documents

This is a hard fought disciplinary case in which a lawyer was found to have fabricated documents and sent them to clients. In re Robert Ronald Czarnik, 2016 PR 00131. The ARDC Review Board recommended that the respondent attorney be suspended for four months for that misconduct.

It is noteworthy that the ARDC initially charged more acts of misconduct than Czarnik was found to have engaged in. His defense pointed out credibility problems with some of the witness testimony against him.

The respondent was engaged to assist a client in obtaining building permits. The ARDC alleged, and the Hearing Board and Review Board found, that the respondent fabricated building permits for clients.

SBA also retained LCC to obtain E&T agreements for potential cell phone towers in Monmouth, Illinois and Morton, Illinois. LCC assigned to Respondent the responsibility for obtaining the E&T agreements, which would allow SBA to test whether the sites would be suitable for its purpose before executing leases for the property.

Respondent testified that he delegated the task of getting the E&T agreements to Laugesen, and that he routinely had his team get signatures on E&T agreements and that Laugesen had done so before. He testified that he followed up with Laugesen and thought the agreements had been signed.

Laugesen testified that he recalled working on the Monmouth site but thought the work was limited to zoning matters and did not include an E&T agreement, but he was not certain. He testified that he did not believe he had been given any tasks with respect to the Morton E&T agreement but acknowledged that he might have been involved with that agreement.

On October 9, 2014, Respondent sent an e-mail to an SBA employee with a document that purported to be an E&T agreement for the Monmouth site, and which SBA executed on October 10. The name “Ken Helms,” with the title “Director,” was signed and printed in the place for the signature of the property owner. Ken Helms is the City of Monmouth’s Director of Information and Technology. He did not sign the document or authorize anyone else to sign it.

Also on October 9, 2014, Respondent communicated with SBA employees via e-mail and indicated that, the day prior, he had mailed a document that purported to be an E&T

agreement for the Morton site, and which SBA executed on October 10. On that document, in the place for the property owner’s signature, the name “L. Hall” was signed with the name “Lindsey Hall” and the title “Principal” printed underneath. Lindsey Hall was a school district superintendent employed by the Morton school district on whose property the Morton site was located. Hall did not sign the document or authorize anyone else to sign it.

Diane Marsh, a forensic document examiner and handwriting expert, examined the signatures and printing on the purported E&T agreements, and compared that writing with known handwriting from Respondent. She testified at hearing that it was highly probable that Respondent had placed the signatures and printing on the purported Monmouth and Morton E&T agreements.

Respondent acknowledged sending the documents to SBA, but denied signing the documents or knowing that the signatures had been fabricated.

This quotation appears in the opinion of the ARDC Review Board. Of further note, the ARDC had a computer forensic examiner examine the respondent’s computer. The results of that examination were also admitted in evidence. In seminars, the ARDC will explain that if you lie to them about a document you created, they have the ability to locate and do a forensic examination of your computer.

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