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Judge tosses claims against chef

A lawsuit filed by developer and restaurateur Robert Marani was dismissed by a circuit court judge exactly four months after Marani claimed a business partner owed him several thousand dollars.

In November, Marani sued Gaetano DiBenedetto to recover a $10,000 security deposit. DiBenedetto was the head chef and partner with Marani at La Piazza restaurant, which opened in 2003 at 410 Circle Ave. Marani is the owner of the property. The pair never signed a lease agreement for the space, according to court records, and the business closed its doors earlier this year.

Neither Marani nor DiBenedetto returned a phone call seeking comment on the disposition of the case, which was settled March 13. An attorney for Marani also did not return phone calls.

Attempts to reach DiBenedetto’s attorney were unsuccessful.

In breaking with Marani, DiBenedetto is moving forward with plans to open a new restaurant on Madison Street just west of Desplaines Avenue. Renovation work is underway at the former La Piazza space, however, it was not clear at press time whether a new tenant has been secured.

Police task force marks first year

A cooperative task force staffed by police officers from several departments, including Forest Park, has announced its year-end statistics for 2007. The West Suburban Directed Gang Enforcement Task Force made 45 felony arrests last year following its inception in early April.

According to a statement released by the group, 176 misdemeanor arrests were made, 68 drug investigations were conducted and 25 suspects wanted on outstanding warrants were taken into custody. WEDGE officers also confiscated eight guns in 2007.

During the course of the year, participating officers made 238 traffic stops and were in contact with various gang members on more than 800 occasions.

Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel called the statistics “very impressive,” considering that WEDGE is a part-time assignment for member departments.

Theater wins grant from local arts group

Circle Theatre was one of 32 area organizations to receive grant funding this year from the Oak Park Area Arts Council, a non-profit group that supports the arts in Forest Park, Oak Park and River Forest.

According a statement released by the council, Circle Theatre was one of five theater groups to be awarded a grant this year, and is the only Forest Park organization to win a financial award. The local performance group is housed in the Hain Building on Madison Street.

Circle Theatre is in the midst of its largest fundraising campaign ever with the goal of using that money to refurbish an Oak Park location and relocate there. The theater has been in Forest Park since its inception in 1985.

In total, the arts council distributed close to $50,000 in grants between the various recipients.

No girls allowed at boys only outing

Games, raffles and food and will fuel an evening for the boys next month at the Howard Mohr Community Center. For two hours beginning at 6:30 p.m. on April 4, a boys-only event attempts to entertain the young masses with basketball, video games, music and other activities. Registration for this event is required and the cost is $10 per child. Contact the community center at 771-7737 for additional information or to register.

Alleged brawler recovers lost wages

A 2005 election night brawl at a Roosevelt Road steakhouse continues to reverberate and on March 11 one of alleged participants received more than two years’ worth of back wages.

Berwyn firefighter Jerry Marzullo was awarded some $160,000 in lost pay from that city when elected officials there voted to override Mayor Michael O’Connor’s veto of a settlement agreement. The 6-2 vote will see an arbitrator’s ruling enforced, compensating Marzullo for 25 months he was not allowed to return to his job following an April 2005 altercation at the Golden Steer Restaurant in Forest Park. The settlement also includes money for employee benefits Marzullo missed out on during his absence from the fire department, according to Berwyn City Clerk Thomas Pavlik.

On April 5, 2005, Marzullo, his father Frank Marzullo and his uncle Russell Marzullo were accused of beating Wayne Pesek, a former village administrator for North Riverside. Pesek was hospitalized for several days. Frank Marzullo was employed as Berwyn’s director of public safety at the time of the alleged incident, and Jerry Marzullo had recently taken a leave of absence from his duties as a firefighter to take a job with the Cook County state’s attorney and had lost his aldermanic bid that day.

Jerry Marzullo resigned from the county office shortly after the incident. His father also resigned from his Berwyn post. Jerry and Frank Marzullo were indicted alongside three others for their alleged role in the beating. In May 2007, acquittals were handed down on all charges.

Two federal lawsuits filed against Jerry Marzullo by Pesek and a Golden Steer bartender are still pending.

County extends appeal period for property owners

For the first time ever, the Cook County Board of Review will give property owners an extended period to file an appeal on their assessment. That added period runs from March 17 to March 31.

This gives taxpayers in 24 Chicago and suburban townships an additional two-week window to appeal their property tax assessments, upon which their tax bills are based. The affected townships include five in the city and 19 in the suburbs.

The Board of Review extended the deadline in response to the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the recent drop in housing prices, according to a press release. Typically, homeowners must wait a year before the next opportunity to file an appeal.

“We want to afford taxpayers every opportunity to make sure their property tax assessment is fair in light of the current market crisis,” Board of Review Commissioner Joe Berrios said in the release.

Residents can go to www.cookcountyboardofreview.com to download the form and obtain further details on this extended filing period. They may also call the Board of Review at (312) 603-5542.

El passengers to see more trains

Rail commuters in Forest Park can expect to see an increase in the number of trains frequenting the Chicago Transit Authority’s Blue Line station on Desplaines Avenue, thanks to a March 12 vote of the transit board. At that meeting, members agreed to a temporary halt of the 54th-Cermak route of the Blue Line, which operates during rush hour periods only. According to a statement from the CTA, during a six-month pilot beginning April 27, additional rail service will be added to the Forest Park and O’Hare branches of the Blue Line. Also, additional trains will service commuters on the Green Line, which also stops in Forest Park, during the rush hour periods.