A conflict of interest for lawyer?

January 13, 2019

KANKAKEE — Kankakee attorney Chris Bohlen represented the city government for years, but he now is representing a client who is in a dispute with the city.

Bohlen, of Barmann, Bohlen & Scott, has been representing Richard Simms, the longtime superintendent of the city’s utilities and the executive director of the Kankakee River Metropolitan Agency, which runs the local sewage treatment plant.

In October, KRMA’s attorney, Neal Smith, objected to Bohlen’s involvement as Simms’ attorney dealing with the agency because of his firm’s previous representation of KRMA, saying it was a conflict of interest.

In response to Smith, Bohlen bowed out as Simms’ lawyer on KRMA issues, but stayed as his client’s representative dealing with the city, where he served as an attorney from 1993 to 2017.

Bohlen said no one has objected to his continued representation of Simms on city matters. Other than union negotiations, Bohlen said, he had no role with the city’s environmental services department, which manages utilities. He said another attorney, L. Patrick Power, handled the department’s legal services.

Powers, Bohlen said, was paid through the environmental services account, and Bohlen was not.

Bohlen’s firm apparently has maintained a relationship with Simms for years. Paula Jacobi, a former lawyer with the firm, was listed in state records as the agent for Plum Flower International, a company managed by Simms’ firm, Simms Engineering, and his daughter, Anna Simms.

Plum Flower is the company that apparently spent money on a software application that has become the source of Simms’ dispute with KRMA.

As a member of the law firm, Jacobi was KRMA’s attorney for years.

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