Cicero Town President Larry Dominick was secretly recorded by the FBI in a discussion with a town employee and later took the Fifth when questioned under oath earlier this year about specifics of the conversation, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
The explosive details are contained in court filings from a lawsuit filed against Dominick by Sharon Starzyk, who ran the town’s animal shelter, Waggin’ Tails, before she was fired in late 2009.
Dominick and Starzyk used to be close friends.
Starzyk has said in court filings that the friendship soured after Dominick began groping her and sending her filthy text messages, and demanding she lie if questioned in a sexual harassment filed by another town employee against Dominick.
Dominick countered that the only sex acts he had with Starzyk were consensual – she denies any sexual activity happened at all – and says she is a woman scorned after he married his current wife.
Dominick said before his current marriage he would go over to Starzyk’s house “play with her dog and eat there and once in a while whatever came up sexually.”
He also acknowledged he may have sent her a birthday card in 2005, signed “Love, Sammy.”
“That is my dog,” Dominick explained in his deposition.
In early 2009, Starzyk used a FBI recording device disguised as a remote car door opener on her keychain to record Dominick in his town office as they discussed Starzyk being subpoenaed to give testimony in the sexual harassment case by another former town employee. Starzyk said in her deposition that the FBI asked her to make the recording. She alleged Dominick told her to lie in the meeting if asked about his sexually harassing behavior. The FBI declined to comment, but federal investigators continue to show an interest in the town and its government.
“He insisted I deny, and I said. . . I tell the truth and I lose my job, and I lie and I go to jail,” Starzyk testified under oath in a court deposition.
At the end of the 2009 conversation, Starzyk said, “I patted him on the back and said, well, if I go to jail over this, you know I went for you. And that’s when I patted him on the shoulder because I had to get close enough to him to make sure that was on – caught on tape.”
Starzyk would be fired from the town later that year, with town officials contending she mismanaged the animal shelter. Starzyk countered that town officials knew all about the shelter problems and filed her own sexual harassment lawsuit against Dominick, contending she was fired in retaliation.
Starzyk alleged in court papers Dominick repeatedly groped her or touched her inappropriately and sent her text messages in which he suggested she should perform oral sex on a black man – using a racial slur – or engage in a threesome with two of Dominick’s friends – an unlicensed plumber in his late 50s, and the Cicero town collector, Fran Reitz. Starzyk said she showed the messages to people but no longer has them.
In her deposition, Starzyk described her frustration at Dominick’s alleged continued groping. She described how she, Dominick and his secretary drove to an animal rescue site in early 2009, and what happened after Dominick’s secretary got out of the car.
Dominick “turned around and grabbed a breast, passed some gas, got out of the car. And I just sat in there, this is it. I’m done. I am absolutely done. It’s never going to stop,” Starzyk said.
Dominick, through his attorney, denied ever touching Starzyk inappropriately or telling her to lie. He said he never sent her obscene text messages.
In Dominick’s deposition, when he was asked by Starzyk’s attorney, Terence J. Moran, “Did you ever tell Sharon that she should deny that she had any kind of contact or sexual relationship with you?”, Dominick, on the advice of his attorney, invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
“Just so we are clear,” Moran said later, “Any question that I ask about your discussions with Sharon Starzyk in your office about the subpoena that she received, you are going to…”
“Fifth Amendment,” Dominick replied.
Dominick’s attorney, Craig Tobin, called the recording “a ploy and a tactic” by Starzyk to try to improve her lawsuit and any possible settlement. Tobin called Starzyk “a jilted, former lover,” who was crushed when Dominick got married to his current wife and has filed a sex harassment lawsuit before.
Moran replied that “it’s been clear that Larry Dominick’s defense in this case is that Sharon Starzyk is a woman scorned. That is not accurate, and we are confident the jury won’t buy that at trial.”
Tobin said he instructed Dominick to take the Fifth because Dominick had not heard the tape recording, and it would have been unfair to him to answer questions about it.
The revelations from the lawsuit are only the latest legal headache for Dominick and the town of Cicero.
In July, a federal jury awarded a former Cicero town handyman $650,000 who said Dominick fired him in political retaliation.