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Ex-coroner settles suit with lawyer

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GREENFIELD — A settlement has been reached in former Coroner Tamara Vangundy’s legal malpractice lawsuit against Carl Brizzi, the Indianapolis attorney whose legal advice resulted in Vangundy’s being removed from office in 2012.

Vangundy said a non-disclosure agreement bars her from discussing the details of the settlement, saying only that the parties had reached an agreement, and the case had been dismissed.

A settlement amount is not included in court records.

Vangundy’s complaint, filed May 16 in Marion Circuit Court, states she lost her position as coroner based on poor legal advice from Brizzi, who represented Vangundy after she was arrested for showing up, intoxicated, to the scene of a death investigation in May 2012. She was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated and official misconduct.

Brizzi, who was retained for $10,000, coached Vangundy to take a plea agreement that ultimately resulted in her being removed from office. He later admitted to the Daily Reporter he didn’t realize election laws would prohibit Vangundy from serving as coroner if she pleaded guilty to official misconduct, which is a felony.

“There’s no excuse for it,” he said at the time. “It was a mistake, for sure.”

After Vangundy filed a civil suit against him, Brizzi filed a response with the court admitting he “misinterpreted the applicable statutes” in Vangundy’s case but argued the coroner had the option of backing out of her plea agreement after the fact and refused, even after learning she would no longer be able to serve as coroner or run for re-election.

“Mr. Brizzi corrected his advice,” the response states. “… The special prosecutor later agreed that (Vangundy) could back out … in light of her mistaken understanding of the election laws.”

Vangundy’s complaint states that she asked Brizzi to return his $10,000 fee, but he “laughed and refused.”

Wednesday, Vangundy said she is glad to have the incident behind her.

“I am very relieved,” she said. “… It’s a huge part of healing for myself, my family and our community to know that this is one thing that’s behind us all.”

Current election laws bar those convicted of a felony from running for office, but Vangundy said Wednesday she would still like to serve as a deputy coroner.

Deputy coroners are appointed by the elected coroner.

“I wanted to put this behind me to be able to move forward,” she said. “I would be honored to serve … again.

Reached Wednesday, Brizzi deferred comment to his attorney, who could not be reached. Brizzi was represented by Dina Cox of Indianapolis.

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