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Racine bar owner lawsuit started small

By: Eric Heisig//February 27, 2014//

Racine bar owner lawsuit started small

By: Eric Heisig//February 27, 2014//

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One of the attorneys representing a group of Racine bar owners who are suing city officials for alleged racial discrimination said the suit started with one person and grew from there.

Marty Kohler, the founder of Kohler & Hart LLP, said he knew one of the plaintiffs fairly well and the client – who he declined to name – “kept bringing people who had problems.”

“One client became eight,” Kohler said.

The 50-page lawsuit, filed Tuesday, is bringing a RICO claim against 20 of Racine’s most powerful. It goes into detail about city officials that prevented minority bar owners from acquiring or renewing their liquor licenses.

It also accuses Racine Mayor John Dickert of accepting illegal financial contributions from the local tavern league and rewarding the league’s white members with the newly surrendered liquor licenses or high-level city positions.

The complaint, Kohler said, is the result of nearly a year of investigation. Earlier versions of the complaint were originally even longer, he said.

“We laid out what we thought was necessary,” Kohler said. “If you had seen the length of the first draft, this is what we deem necessary.”

In addition to Kohler & Hart, Chicago attorney Steven Hart of Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney Ltd. is representing the bar owners.

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