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Former Altoona mayor faces attorney disciplinary complaint

The former mayor of Altoona, who now works as a corporate and commercial attorney in Eau Claire, settled a case without consulting his client and then created false court filings to cover it up, according to a complaint filed by the Office of Lawyer Regulation.

Thomas Spangler, of Spangler Flory LLP, represented Frank Marinelli, who sued a former business associate, Val Moser-Jevne, in order to dissolve their real estate partnership, according to a complaint filed by the OLR on Nov. 13. Both had agreed to split, but the suit was filed so a judge could determine who received property rights.

In April 2010, Spangler sent a letter to the Eau Claire County Clerk of Court that stated both sides had settled and the lawsuit was dismissed. A judge signed a dismissal order and the case was over.

The problem, though, is that Spangler never consulted Marinelli about the settlement, according to the complaint.

“Instead, Spangler made a series of misrepresentations and created false documents to mislead his client to the status of the lawsuit and the outcome,” according to the complaint.

In November 2010, according to the complaint, Spangler told Marinelli that he had obtained a judgment in Marinelli’s favor, but that the judgment would be difficult to collect because of the state of the real estate industry and Moser-Jevne’s poor finances. He then created fake filings with judge’s name on it that said Marinelli would be paid $102,000. While he did not forge the judge’s signature, he put an “/S/” above the judge’s name, according to the complaint.

When Marinelli asked Spangler to pursue the defendant’s insurance company to collect the money, Spangler drafted a fake demand letter to Pearl Insurance asking for $200,000, according to the complaint. While the letter purportedly was also sent to other parties, Marinelli was the only one who received it, according to the complaint.

He then drafted a fake complaint to sue Pearl Insurance and fabricated the authentication to show it was filed in Eau Claire County Circuit Court, according to the complaint. He also drafted an order that said Moser-Jevne’s Realtor license was suspended by the “Wisconsin Realty Board,” even though such a board does not exist, according to the complaint.

During that time, Spangler paid Marinelli at least $45,000 of his own money to go toward the fake judgment, but Marinelli terminated Spangler in December 2011 and hired new counsel.

Once Marinelli hired new attorneys, Spangler confessed to the scheme, according to the complaint. In December 2012, Spangler and Marinelli settled for $125,000, according to the complaint.

Spangler was the mayor of Altoona from 2010 to 2012.

He faces four counts of misconduct. The OLR is asking the Supreme Court to suspend Spangler’s law license for 60 days.

Spangler graduated from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, Minn., in 2003. He has no prior public discipline.

He did not immediately return a phone call Friday afternoon, but responded in an email attributed to him.

The email states that, “at this point, I am only comfortable stating that I believe that the complaint mischaracterizes and takes a number of my actions out of context.”

“I have cooperated in every way possible [in] the investigation of this matter and have voluntarily sought to rectify a number of issues associated with it,” the email continues. “I plan to continue to cooperate and look forward to fully and finally resolving this matter.”

About Eric Heisig

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