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Rauner fights to keep lawsuit sealed as he seeks to have it dismissed

Harreld “Kip” Kirkpatrick III

Harreld “Kip” Kirkpatrick III | From You Tube

Gov. Bruce Rauner is fighting to keep a lawsuit filed against him sealed from public scrutiny — and arguing to get the entire legal action by a former business partner tossed out of court.

Attorneys for the former business partner want the case unsealed.

The lawsuit against Rauner — who ran a private equity firm before becoming governor — was filed Oct. 5. by Harreld “Kip” Kirkpatrick III and the Kirkpatrick Capital Partners Fund, according to Cook County Circuit Court records.

Kirkpatrick — who ran for state treasurer as a Democrat in 2009 — is a former Northwestern University basketball star and co-CEO of the Vistria Group, a private-equity firm in Chicago. He said the lawsuit was filed as a “result of a dispute with a former partner” — namely Rauner, according to a memo that Kirkpatrick sent to Vistria employees.

During a status hearing on Thursday at the Daley Center, Kirkpatrick’s attorney Bill O’Neil told Cook County Judge David Atkins Rauner is seeking to keep the case under wraps, but O’Neil wants the case made public.

“We believe it should be unsealed. They believe it should be sealed,” O’Neil told the judge.

Rauner attorney Joe Smith plans to file a written request to oppose the unsealing while also filing a motion to dismiss the case. Smith plans to file both by Oct. 26. The plaintiff plans to respond to those requests by Nov. 9. Lawyers will meet on Dec. 13, sans the judge, to discuss the case.

During the short status hearing, Atkins told attorneys there may be a need for oral arguments.

Attorneys declined to comment publicly on the case after the hearing. Neither Rauner nor Kirkpatrick were in court. The governor was at a news conference with Mayor Rahm Emanuel to discuss a proposed development in the South Loop.

The complaint against Rauner and three exhibits filed in the matter all remained under seal at the Daley Center.

In the memo, Kirkpatrick also told his employees all documents in the case were hidden from public view because that’s how Rauner wants it.

“Gov. Rauner has requested that the details of this lawsuit be sealed so I am unable to provide you with additional information at this time,” Kirkpatrick said in the memo sent on the same day the suit was filed.

“In consultation with our legal counsel, we do not believe the lawsuit should be sealed and we are hopeful that a judge will deny Gov. Rauner’s attempt to keep it from public view,” Kirkpatrick added.

Dan Webb, a former U.S. attorney with the law firm of Winston & Strawn LLP, is representing Kirkpatrick, according to court records. Rauner’s lawyers are from the Barlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott LLP firm.

In Kirkpatrick’s memo to his employees, which the Chicago Sun-Times obtained, he said the dispute with Rauner had been brewing since long before he sued the governor.

“We have spent months trying to avoid this action but must do what is in the best interests of all stakeholders involved,” Kirkpatrick wrote.

Kirkpatrick told his employees that the legal fight with Rauner stemmed from an unspecified “prior endeavor” before he helped form the Vistria Group, and that the Vistria Group “is in no way associated with this litigation.”

Rauner disclosed a “partnership interest” in Kirkpatrick Partners Capital Fund I LP in the statement of financial interests for 2016 that he filed with the Illinois secretary of state in April.

This business venture was formed in June 2011 in Delaware, public records show.

Kirkpatrick announced in 2009 that he was running for Illinois treasurer as a Democrat, and raised more than $500,000 for that race before dropping out. First lady Diana Rauner contributed $20,000 to Kirkpatrick’s campaign in 2009.