Posts Tagged ‘Orland Park
[Click above to embiggen: Carla Burkhart and her Thundercats-loving attorney Joshua Feagans have lost their SLAPP in DuPage County.]
Something that all conservatives need to start paying more attention to are SLAPPs: strategic litigation against public participation. These are lawsuits that Democrats file against people and groups who expose corruption in public bodies. There has been a resurgence in SLAPPs in recent years, as the Left increasingly uses this type of “lawfare” as a way of silencing the public and taking away people’s First Amendment Rights to Petition government for change and redress of grievances. The goal of a SLAPP is to make people afraid of writing about (or otherwise speaking out about) bad things that public bodies do and to intimidate watchdog groups so that people are too afraid of being sued to engage in the political process or use the Freedom of Information Act to uncover wrongdoing by public bodies.
Essentially, Democrats have figured out that to get away with doing more terrible things, they need to go after and silence people who figure out they are doing terrible things. SLAPPs are a weapon they use to pervert the legal system and bully people into shutting up and allowing Democrats to do whatever they want with taxpayer money in public bodies.
Megan Fox and I were hit with a SLAPP lawsuit in 2014 — which we prevailed in — by a woman named Bridget Bittman, who just happens to be heiress to the Comiskey family, which used to own the White Sox sportsball team up until the 1950s. Comiskey Park was named after her family. Bittman’s maternal grandmother Dorothy Comiskey Rigney was the last female owner of the White Sox; she married one of the baseball players that she owned, John Rigney. Megan and I encountered Bittman, the Comiskey granddaughter, in the fall of 2013 when she worked as the public spokesman for the Orland Park Public Library. This was the library that Megan and I discovered was covering-up sex crimes for years, including men openly masturbating at computers, sexually harassing women, stalking female employees in the stacks, accosting children sexually, and even accessing child pornography (with library staff knowing it kept happening, but choosing not to call the police as they were required by law to do). Bittman lied to the media about what was going on, claiming that no sex crimes were happening. We also discovered that library employees had been spending thousands of dollars at a local jewelry store buying gold for board members and even taking trustees out for $500 steak dinners to ensure that the board always did what library staff wanted and the sex crimes were kept covered up.
Megan and I used FOIA requests to find the library’s internal documents that revealed that library staff had for years deliberately covered up incidents like this. We had to take the library and the Village of Orland Park to chancery court to force them to give us some documents that they tried to keep hidden. The American Library Association (ALA), a group funded by George Soros, in fact instructed libraries to cover up incidents of sexual activity happening in libraries and to evade FOIA production by never writing anything down about anything bad that happens in a public library.
After we broke the story, former female library employees came forward to tell the public about how — when they complained about sexual activity and harassment happening in their work area — they were told by library management to either look the other way and ignore it or quit their jobs. The Orland Park Chief of Police, Timothy J. McCarthy, then engaged in roughly two years of abuse and harassment aimed at intimidating, harassing, and threatening us to try to scare us away so we would stop reporting on the sex crimes that had been allowed to fester in the library on his watch. For some reason, the government of Orland Park wanted to keep allowing child pornography to be accessed in that library and for men to continue to be allowed to use the library for sex. SOMEONE powerful in Orland Park WANTED this to keep happening and Police Chief McCarthy appears to have been tasked with threatening/frightening/harassing whistleblowers to keep Orland Park’s secrets hidden.
We document everything we uncovered in our investigation and everything that McCarthy and the Orland Park Police did to us in our book, SHUT UP! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment. One of the worst things that Orland Park did was to put library employee Bridget Bittman up to suing us in federal court with a SLAPP lawsuit. That was supposed to shut us up and scare us away. Her intent was to restrict our future speech and to make us never write about the library and its terrible employees again…so that Orland Park could continue to hide what had been allowed to keep happening there. That plan backfired because we not only prevailed when the SLAPP was dismissed but there’s now a 666-page book all about Timothy J. McCarthy, the Orland Park Police, the Orland Park Public Library, and Bridget Bittman’s SLAPP.
I hope that John Kraft and Kirk Allen, who run the Edgar County Watchdogs and their site Illinois Leaks, write their own book about the SLAPP that Carla Burkhart and Joshua Feagans (from the slimeball law firm Griffin Williams, LLP) filed against them…in what was very similar to the attempt by Bridget Bittman and Orland Park to silence Megan and me. At their heart, SLAPPs are shakedown efforts that should be viewed as a kind of extortion racket. Only disreputable attorneys file SLAPP suits because these attorneys know from the beginning that they will not prevail in the suit. The point of the litigation is not to win…but instead just to scare a reporter or community activist into ending whatever First Amendment protected activity that reporter/activist is engaged in. In our case, Megan and I uncovered years and years of wrongdoing at a public library that the Village of Orland Park wanted to keep hidden from the public; so, a public employee was encouraged to file a SLAPP against us in federal court to scare us away and make us agree to never write about those crimes again (if the lawsuit was dropped, of course). With the Edgar County Watchdogs, Burkhart and her sniveling attorney Feagans wanted Kraft and Allen to stop writing about the College of DuPage scandal, where the Watchdogs were instrumental in busting that public body for years and years of wasteful spending. The Watchdogs uncovered documents showing that Burkhart was awarded an architect’s contract for a large sum of money when Burkhart is not in fact an architect (and should have never signed an architect’s contract). Other questions were raised about the awarding of no-bid contracts that Burkhart appeared to benefit from, as well as Burkhart’s chummy relationship with disgraced College of DuPage officials who now appear to be under FBI investigation.
Burkhart went to the Griffin Williams firm the same way that someone would go to an ambulance chasing attorney with meritless medical claims against someone or another. SLAPPS are shakedowns. Feagans is one of the worst attorneys I have ever seen in my life. This is a grown man who maintained a Facebook page where he advertised his love of Thundercats (a line of hunky toys similar to He-Man in the 1980s, with muscular cat/human hybrids that fought evil in their underpants). If you review the filings in Burkhart’s SLAPP, you will see that Feagans’ work is poorly written, emotional, sarcastic, and unprofessional. In other words, exactly what you would expect from a grown man in his 30s who is still obsessed with Thundercats.
Yesterday (7/29/16), a three hour hearing was held in DuPage County court where Feagans’ nonsense was picked apart verbally by a judge who was none-too-pleased with his time being wasted by Thundercats-loving Feagans and SLAPP-happy Burkhart. The judge completely dismissed the SLAPP. He ripped this bogus lawsuit to shreds. From what I understand, Feagans cried like a small child after that happened. No doubt, he went home to his Thundercats collection in his room, told his wife he needed “Alone Time,” stripped down to his Underoos, and confided in Lion-O or Panthro or maybe even Mumm-Ra that life is just not fair and that he can’t ever win. Sword of Omens and Eye of Thundera, why is being a lawyer so tough and beyond the scope of my abilities?
Burkhart is pretty typical for a SLAPPer. She appears to have the money to burn on a lawsuit she knew she wouldn’t win, thinking that she could spend a few thousand to hire Feagans to essentially extort the Watchdogs. She just had to find a law firm dumb enough to sign her as a client on an un-winnable case. Perhaps she came across Feagans’ Facebook page, saw that he was a grown male attorney still really into children’s toys from the 1980s, and figured: BINGO! I’ve found my BOZO!
Feagans and the Griffin Williams firm then filed this bogus lawsuit for her…with the expectation that the Watchdogs would not be able to afford an attorney to fight it for them. The scary thing about SLAPPs is that they are wickedly effective when the target of the SLAPP does not have the means to hire attorneys for a defense and is too afraid to fight the suit him or herself pro se in court. What usually seems to happen is that someone is SLAPPed and then the shady attorney for the SLAPPer makes an offer that the SLAPP will go away and be withdrawn if only the target would agree to never talk about or write about the SLAPPer again. The SLAPPer’s slimeball attorney engages in extortion/shakedown here: if you don’t want to go to the trouble of defending yourself in court, then you must tear down everything you wrote about the SLAPPer and agree to restrict your future speech and never write about the SLAPPer or the bad things she did again. Otherwise, you will have to spend years and thousands of dollars fighting in court to make this bogus lawsuit go away.
See what they do here? If you catch something horrible happening with a public entity like the College of DuPage or Village of Orland Park and you expose it, to punish you someone connected in some way to that public entity will file a SLAPP against you. That SLAPP is never intended to survive a motion to dismiss or ever enter into discovery. These lawsuits never make it to summary judgment, let alone a jury. The purpose of the SLAPP is just to scare you, make you wish you never wrote about the public body or spoke out against it, and then you are supposed to beg the SLAPPer to make the lawsuit go away…with the promise that you will never get involved in local politics or participate in government activism in any way again. The SLAPP is designed to teach you a lesson, and that lesson is: do not mess with Democrats and what they are doing with taxpayer money because you will be sued if you get in the way of that gravy train.
The SLAPPers are usually people with money to burn or people who are in some way being funded by either the public entities themselves or a lobbying group that benefits from the public entities continuing to engage in wrongdoing. In our case with Bridget Bittman, she was not only the Comiskey heiress (with the resources of someone whose grandmother owned a major league sportsball team) but she also received funding from members of the American Library Association to pay for her SLAPP against us, since the ALA had a vested interest in seeing us silenced (as they never wanted anyone to ever hear about things that the ALA does to cover up sex crimes in public libraries). With the Edgar County Watchdogs, Carla Burkhart wanted to silence John Kraft and Kirk Allen because she (and likely others connected to the College of DuPage scandal) didn’t want the public asking questions about all of the no-bid contracts and other shady dealings that the Watchdogs were exposing.
The thinking seems to be that if a SLAPP is targeted at a reporter/activist that the SLAPP will be so scary that the investigations stop, people become too afraid to write about the wrongdoing, and the people who engaged in whatever terrible things were being written about get away with whatever they did wrong. I wish that SLAPPers would come forward and at some point be honest with the public about what goes through their minds. Do they run a cost/benefit analysis and come to the conclusion that investing a few thousand dollars to hire a clown like Joshua Feagans (Thundercats, HO!) on the chance that the SLAPP could work is worth that roll of the dice?
Did Carla Burkhart, like Bridget Bittman before her, really believe that filing a SLAPP would make reporters give up on a story of great public interest? It amazes me that an attorney like Feagans is allowed to keep practicing law. In a just world, a lawyer like him should lose his license for not advising Burkhart that her lawsuit was meritless and that filing it would only be wasting the court’s time because the First Amendment precludes silencing reporters who are reporting on wrongdoing that involved a public body. I do not understand why the State of Illinois allows Joshua Feagans to continue being an attorney when he and his firm Griffin Williams file SLAPP lawsuits that they know have no hope of succeeding. He and everyone at his firm who signed off on this should be disbarred.
In my opinion, there should be a One Strike and You Are Out rule when it comes to SLAPPs. Feagans should not be given a second chance. If you read any of his filings, you will see within the first paragraph that he is too immature to be practicing law alongside real grown-ups. And that’s even without looking into his Facebook love of Thundercats and other children’s toys.
As for Burkhart, she has 35 days to refile and start this whole process again. Efforts are underway at the federal level to create a national Anti-SLAPP law that would severely punish SLAPPers for abusing the court system and using it as a weapon in the way that Burkhart and Bittman did. I hope those efforts succeed. We cover Bittman’s SLAPP in exhausting detail in our book SHUT UP!, which I hope legislators read as yet another firsthand account of a SLAPP and its intended purpose of silencing criticism of public bodies and discouraging participation in government.
COUP IN CHICAGO SUBURBS: Police Chief Tim McCarthy Takes Over Village, Declares Himself Village Manager
[Click above to embiggen: Orland Park Police Chief Timothy J. McCarthy is written about extensively in our book, SHUT UP! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Declared on the First Amendment due to his use of police harassment to silence criticism and chill participation in local government.]
A police chief with a sorry history of using police resources to harass the public and abridge First Amendment rights has now declared himself to be the new Village Manager in what feels like a coup in the affluent Chicago suburb of Orland Park. By all accounts, this is an unprecedented move, as I can find no other public entity in Illinois where a police chief simultaneously held that post and also took over as Village Manager. Since the Village Manager is supposed to oversee the police chief, this means that McCarthy has declared that he will now be overseeing himself. This feels like tyranny.
By very definition, this means that the people of Orland Park now live in a POLICE STATE, since the person who controls the police force is now the person who controls all local government. This is very un-American and very concerning. No police chief should operate without civilian oversight, especially not a police chief with a documented history of abusing the public.
Timothy J. McCarthy is featured prominently in our book SHUT UP! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment. For several years, McCarthy signed off on a pattern and practice of the Orland Park Police Department harassing Megan Fox and myself as we investigated the Orland Park Public Library for sex crimes that were covered up by library staff in the building and for spending abuses (which included library employees using taxpayer funds to shop at a jewelry store and to treat library board members to $500 steak dinners, seemingly to ensure the trustees always signed off on whatever the public employees wanted).
Because McCarthy is a nationally-known celebrity (he is famous for being the Secret Service agent who was shot in the line of duty in 1981, during the attempt on President Ronald Reagan’s life) he is allowed to do whatever he wants in Illinois. No rules apply to him. If he wants to harass you, dispatch the police officers who work under him to harass you, have the police call you at home to harass you, or bully and threaten you to scare you off exercising your First Amendment rights by passing out political flyers door to door, he will do it and get away with it…because he is Timothy J. McCarthy, the man who took a bullet for Reagan back in 1981. McCarthy is the only police chief in Illinois that I know of who holds autograph signing events; he routinely gives speeches around Orland Park and Illinois talking about Reagan, where people swoon and laud him for taking that bullet in 1981. The consequence of that is clearly that here in 2016 McCarthy is never allowed to be questioned or criticized. Don’t you know who he is? He took a bullet for Reagan! How dare you question him! He can do whatever the hell he wants!
As we wrote in our book, this is how liberty is lost and tyrants are born. Everyone in the world should be grateful for what a Young McCarthy did back in 1981. He was brave. He was shot in the line of duty. He was an excellent Secret Service officer.
But that does not mean this man makes a good police chief…or DICTATOR, which is the only word I can think of for a police chief also being the village manager. When the police take over the government and the police chief becomes the highest authority in a locality, then the local entity is no longer democratically governed. That locality becomes a POLICE STATE…and in this case, it becomes a locality that is run by someone who is never allowed to be questioned or criticized because of who he is as a celebrity.
The Orland Park Police Department violated the law repeatedly and Megan and I had to sue them in chancery court; the police settled for $12,000 and had to produce documents they were hiding that they wanted to keep from us while we were investigating the library. Chief McCarthy was behind all of this. Additionally, important audio that the police had in their possession was mysteriously deleted, so we could not hear what one police officer was saying while speaking with the husband of a library employee as he and the officer were conspiring to take away our First Amendment right to pass out flyers critical of the library’s abusive spending and policy of covering up sex crimes that occurred in the building. We wrote about all of this in our book.
Last year, because of his celebrity status, McCarthy was the first police chief in Illinois to be given a drone to use against the public. Orland Park is a small suburb in southwestern Chicagoland. There appears to be no legitimate reason for Timothy J. McCarthy to have a drone to fly around people’s homes. But, he wanted one. He asked the FAA for one. And because in 1981 he was the Secret Service agent who took a bullet for Reagan, he was given one. Whatever McCarthy wants, McCarthy gets. Don’t you know who he is?
Now, not content with just being in control of his police force and his drone, McCarthy wanted to control the whole town…so he’s the new Village Manager as well as being Police Chief.
Are you okay with this?
Shouldn’t the Village Manager and Police Chief be two separate positions, so that the Village Manager can have oversight over the Police Chief? Local government in America is not supposed to be structured so that the police chief is the most powerful person in the town.
Megan Fox and I witnessed Timothy J. McCarthy and his police officers doing some pretty terrible things over the years, but I never thought he would do something this outrageous. It’s shocking that McCarthy made this power play.
Will the people of Orland Park allow this to stand and allow themselves to be ruled by the head of a police state?
[Click above to embiggen: Drudge’s front page for 7/6/16]
Some thoughts on today’s headlines.
1. Monica Crowley raised some great points in a Facebook post. For those of you out there who are upset that FBI Director Comey seemingly buckled under political pressure and chose not to recommend criminal charges for Hillary Clinton, Crowley raises the specter that this move harms Hillary in ways you might not see at first. Look around the Interwebs today and see something remarkable: there are different factions angry about this decision by the FBI for different reasons. Few people are cheering it and even fewer think it was the right call by the FBI. The majority consensus is that the FBI damaged itself and its credibility by refusing to recommend prosecution of Hillary for things that others, such as a “hero marine nailed for secret email,” were prosecuted for. Americans are a forgiving people but also possess an inextricable sense of fair play. Cheating and favoritism are frowned upon here…and once people form an opinion that someone is a cheater, that opinion never changes. What Hillary Clinton did to herself with this email garbage is probably the worst political mistake that any human being has made in American politics…because it redefined her to a lot of people. Even people who hated her before now hate her for a more concrete reason…and people who defended her for years and years (and even decades) now have said they’ve had it and this was the last straw. This is anecdotal, but it was my personal experience back in the snowy 2008 campaign leading up to Iowa: back when she ran the first time for president, animosity aimed at Hillary was over the fact that people wanted her to leave her husband and they were angry she stayed with him after he cheated. Others would say that Hillary was just someone’s wife and had accomplished nothing in her own right. A few people would just say they never liked her, but could not define why. It was just a nebulous dislike of her, or they didn’t want to say it was because they wanted her to leave her husband. Back in 2008, people were still very focused on wanting her to be divorced and to have left Bill. After the 2008 election and while she was Secretary of State, there was a brief period where even the people who said they hated her seemed to agree she would have been a better president than Obama. I think Hillary picked up on that, which is why she wanted to leave the State Department before she could mess that up in any way…she finally got people to stop talking about how much they wanted her to be divorced and how they hated her…and she even had Republicans saying she would have been better than Obama. In truth, if she had become president Hillary would have been very much like Jeb Bush in a pantsuit. The Bushes and the Clintons are one and the same at this point, and both families seem to take orders from the Saudis. How Benghazi was handled and Hillary’s tone-deaf response to that criticism and her strange decision to tell lies and to go along with whatever lies the Obama people were telling was a big blow to her…but one she could have recovered from because people’s memories are so short and Mitt Romney made the fateful decision in 2012 to not turn Benghazi into a big issue. Since Mitt didn’t care about it in the last days of the 2012 campaign, people at large didn’t care about Benghazi much after that. I know that there are those out there that are still VERY passionate about this failure of our government (and they should be)…but by and large the public moved on and didn’t blame Hillary for much if anything. And then this email scandal hit the fan, but even that was nebulous. It’s complicated for people to understand what was on which server etc. and why that matters. What people CAN understand however is favoritism and elitism and some people being above the law. I’ve seen people spitting mad since yesterday who have not been worked up about anything Hillary-related for years. These are people who don’t like her but were resigned to her becoming president because the fix always seemed in. What FBI Director Comey did yesterday changed that in a way that is still unfolding. People understand that laws were broken with those emails…and that the government chose not to do anything about it because Hillary is Hillary and is above the law. This angers people in a way that I don’t think the talking heads pundits appreciate. If Donald Trump keeps on this and if he pulls no punches and just keeps hammering it, he really has an opportunity to make people angry at both the Clintons and the establishment in a new way. Now, the people who could never really put into words why they hate Hillary Clinton have this concrete fresh example of why they hate her: the fact that the FBI said she was above the law and couldn’t be touched, no matter what she did. This is new. It is devastating because it taps into whatever hatred people had for Hillary for years but could never effectively articulate. Now, they have something they can say — and say loudly — and it’s cogent, relevant, and topical. “Extremely careless” will be said over and over again through November. I don’t know how Hillary will be able to overcome that if Trump does not let it go.
2. America has a major problem with government officials believing that the law does not apply to them. For the last few years, Megan Fox and I have been working on the ground in Illinois, mostly out in the southwest suburbs, studying and documenting corruption of local boards and municipal officials. You might think this would be less exciting or dangerous than covering national politics, but Megan and I actually faced more hostility and received more attacks/threats than either of us ever did on the national beat. After watching both McCain and Romney hand their elections to Obama and the Cocktail Party GOP Establishment consistently cave and surrender to the Left without any sort of a fight, Megan and I both independently decided that the only way to make a difference in American politics would be to focus on local matters…where we could be on the ground covering stories that the Dinosaur Media refused to cover. So, we formed Story Time Digital Media and let it be known that we’d report on wrongdoing and lawbreaking of local officials and public bodies. Our most fascinating and exciting case (so far) was the Orland Park Public Library Board and the lengths it went to in trying to scare us away and stop our investigation. Officials in Orland Park used the police there as a weapon against us, harassing us for almost two years when we’d pass out flyers or protest what elected officials were doing. They would repeatedly violate our First Amendment rights and censor us, bully us, threatened us, etc. We caught Orland Park officials breaking the law over and over again but they all had the attitude that they didn’t care because even though violations of our state’s Open Meetings Act carry misdemeanor Class-C criminal penalties, the State’s Attorney and Attorney General made it clear years ago that they would never prosecute local officials for violating the law. The police also made it clear that they were there to do what the local officials said and that they would harass the public if the local officials wanted the public to be harassed. It is remarkably similar to the attitude that the FBI has when it comes to Hillary Clinton violating the law with the “extremely careless” email scandal. We have a real problem in this country where the government at all levels seems to be covering and running interference for other branches of government, with law enforcement openly and unapologetically hostile towards the public and working as a sort of praetorian guard for elected officials. I urge you to start paying attention to your own local government officials: school boards, library boards, village boards, parks & rec boards, county boards, etc. because I am certain you will find people who are breaking the law left and right (but law enforcement views them as being above the law and will do nothing about it). What we caught happening in Orland Park is happening where you live. Maybe some of what Megan and I went through and documented in our book (SHUT UP! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment) will be useful or instructive for you.
3. Anecdotal remarks at Independence Day parties. My boyfriend Justin and I attended a few Independence Day parties, after going to a suburban parade in the morning. We went to a mixture of get-to-togethers. The first was a Tea Party kind of group, with people I’ve known since 2009 or so; the second was a BBQ with people I met on a recent case that Megan and I worked where we helped do Freedom of Information Act research and gave Open Meetings Act advice/support to some people who were challenging their out-of-control local board; and then the day ended with drinks and fireworks with a younger gay crowd that Justin knows. So, two of the groups were politically minded and the gay group was, sadly, like all gay groups (and had a lot of the Left’s brainwashing from the “gay community”). This is not a representative sample of anything, but it’s still interesting noticing the changes in people. Remember this is before the FBI Director gave his press conference on 7/5/16, so no one was angry over that yet. In conversations, the election came up and there was never any love for Hillary Clinton. Because people know I worked hard on the 2008 campaign, I’m always expected to defend Hillary, as if I know her personally and am an official surrogate for her. I’ve found that I can’t defend her anymore and that has been true for some time. A big breaking point with me happened because of Hillary’s (and all Democrats’) coziness with Muslims and how the Left wants to aggressively colonize the West with Islam. All Democrats want this and view Muslims as useful, since they disrupt communities and cause chaos as they colonize the West. The Left uses that chaos and violence to then push for gun control, to disarm the public and make it easier for the government to control all our lives. Democrats are basically bringing sharks into the local swimming pools because once the sharks start eating people and causing mayhem then Democrats get to say “You need us to make the pools safe again!,” and of course the answer they have for making things safer is draconian control over everyone’s lives. At that suburban parade in Will County on Monday, the local government proudly featured brand new armored SWAT vehicles and what looked like a war tank in the parade. Why a farming county like Will County needs a paramilitary SWAT war machine is beyond comprehension…but it was just the government showing off that it was powerful and that it had things at its disposal that could really hurt the public if the public ever decided to rise up against the government. Personally, though, I looked at the tens of thousands of people lining the street for the parade…and that giant black SWAT tank seemed pretty puny compared to all of the able-bodied, strong, and patriotic Americans who turned out that morning for the parade. I firmly believe that when things hit the fan that the Left will be sorely disappointed and downright stunned by how useless the paramilitary equipment is against Americans. When the American people finally have enough and decide to topple this corrupt government, the police and state troopers and national guard will have to make a choice between firing on American citizens or turning on the Leftists who count on using law enforcement as an American gestapo. I find it impossible to believe that the good men and women in uniform will make the wrong choice…or that even if they did that they could overwhelm the sheer numbers of Americans who would be shouting ENOUGH! and demanding a return to our constitutional republic. But, every year at these parades when those SWAT vehicles drive by people worry and show fear over them…though more and more people look upon those vehicles with resentment and the sense that it really is only a matter of time before the public and our corrupt government come to revolutionary blows.
Over and over again at whatever party we were at, people would tiptoe around the election in a weird way. No one wanted to be avowedly pro-Trump when talking in a big group but if you got people down to small groups of three or four then they would admit they are voting for Trump. People are truly sick of the political correctness. They are sick of the establishment. This is an election where there will be no staying home and just allowing Democrats to win, because that teaches no one a lesson this time. People admit that they stayed home to teach Republicans a lesson with Romney and McCain…but staying home this November just makes Hillary Clinton president. And this time around, since the establishment was so against Trump, staying home and letting Hillary win doesn’t hurt the establishment (but instead helps the establishment, since the Cocktail Party GOP Elite openly says that it wants Hillary to win).
These are strange times, indeed. The most interesting thing said to me all day came at the gay fireworks watching party. Almost all of those guys were Bernie Sanders supporters and they are very angry with Hillary. The FBI decision to not prosecute her had not even come out yet and they were very worked up about the email scandal. They were griping about the primaries being rigged for Hillary and it all being a sham and also believing that the general election was rigged for her too. There was a sense of hopelessness and anger over that. Normally, gay people are ranting and raving and shouting nonsense about Republicans being evil and wanting to kill gay people and whatever other hooey the “gay community” propagandizes and brainwashes into them. None of that can be said about Trump, especially not after the Muslim Massacre in Orlando. Usually gays go on and on about Christians hating gays and churches needing to be destroyed and how Christians need to be mocked and silenced…but none of that is being said at the moment due to the Muslim attack on a gay bar in Orlando. While gays have not yet made the leap to openly condemning Islam or calling for anything to be done about the Muslim hatred towards gays, they aren’t attacking Christians this time around like they did in 2012 and 2008. Maybe that’s because Trump is so different from previous GOP candidates or that as a brazen New Yorker he’s hard to paint as the stereotypical villain to gays. There are a lot of variables this time around that were not present in 2012 and 2008…including the fact that gay men feel no social pressure to support Hillary Clinton the way that everyone wanted to value-signal by backing the charismatic black guy for president in the last two elections. It’s not hip or cool to support Hillary and there is no social stigma or punishment for not supporting her. In fact, there is social cachet and reward for railing against her and claiming that Bernie Sanders was cheated and robbed. Instead of gays going at the Republicans with venom and bite this time around that sort of aggressive hostility is actually being aimed at Hillary and the DNC for “robbing Bernie.” Never in a million years would I have even begun to dream that something like this would have happened and all these gay guys would be so upset over a near-octogenarian socialist not becoming the Democrats’ presidential nominee.
Did you notice anything interesting at any parties you went to over the weekend?
What else is on your mind today?
[Trailer for our book that deals with Bridget Bittman’s SLAPP, filed against us in October 2014. We prevailed in this meritless piece of lawfare, but SLAPPs typically succeed in silencing their targets. SLAPPs are a form of lawfare used by government employees to chill free speech and make people afraid of challenging bad government.]
You may not realize it, but we’re currently facing an epidemic of SLAPP lawfare in this country. A SLAPP is “strategic litigation against public participation,” a term coined by George Pring and Penelope Canan back in the 1990s in their book, SLAPPs: Getting Sued for Speaking Out. This remains the definitive reference on SLAPPs, though a lot has happened since the book was written.
If you are looking for a hobby and a new topic of interest, I suggest starting a binder or notebook and researching what’s happening with SLAPPs. They are an insidious way that the government chills First Amendment protected speech by using the legal system as a weapon against the public and investigative reporters. This is happening where you live, I guarantee…but of course your local media is not talking about it. Typically, people never hear about SLAPPs until either they or someone they know personally is hit with a SLAPP.
Megan Fox and I were SLAPPed back in 2014, when Bridget Bittman (the granddaughter of the woman who used to own the Chicago White Sox sportsball team) sued us in federal court in an effort to silence our First Amendment rights. Bittman at the time was the public spokesman for the Orland Park Public Library and was told to sue us during a board meeting by Diane Jennings, one of the library’s trustees (and also the most loathsome human being I have yet met on this planet). Megan and I had uncovered years and years of unreported crimes that occurred in the library, including: (a) library staff allowing a man to admit to accessing child pornography without police being called, (b) staff allowing men to masturbate in the library openly with their penises fully exposed without calling the police, (c) men stalking women in the stacks, (d) men sexually harassing female library employees but the library telling the women they should quit if they didn’t like it, (e) a man trapping a young woman in a study room while accosting her sexually, (f) young children being accosted sexually in the library, and other sex crimes that all warranted police intervention…but time and again the library staff CHOSE not to call the police when they should have. This was a clear pattern that Megan and I uncovered, where the Orland Park Public Library made a decision to NOT call the police because it seems clear they knew that if they had done so then the police would have come and made arrests…and that would have been bad publicity for the library.
Since Bittman was in charge of the library’s publicity as its spokesman, the library Board pushed her to hit us with a SLAPP to scare us away and silence us. Megan and I wrote about it in our book SHUT UP! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment (now available in paperback and as an eBook too). We prevailed in this SLAPP and our First Amendment rights were upheld, though Bittman’s lawsuit cost us more than two years’ of time to defeat and many hours of work defending ourselves which could have been spent writing, researching, and participating in other investigations into corrupt government.
So, by suing us, Bittman was able to strategically steal time and resources from us that prevented Megan and me from exposing other public bodies that were doing the same things that the Orland Park Public Library was doing…or even prevented us from finding more of what Orland Park was trying to desperately to hide. Bittman knew her lawsuit would never even make it into discovery and she never had any intention of winning (since she knew she never had any ground to stand on); the whole point of the lawsuit was to be a time-killing energy drain that would distract us, take up our time, and cost us precious resources to defend against.
Consumerist has started reporting on SLAPPs, which is great because I hope that more people out there realize that this is happening. In a recent article, Consumerist talked about SLAPPs and how they “leverage the legal system — and all its attendant costs and Byzantine paperwork — in an effort to chill free speech.” In our example with Comiskey heiress Bridget Bittman, Megan and I were forced to come up with a way to defend ourselves in a meritless lawsuit filed by a woman who not only had the remnants of the Comiskey fortune at her disposal but was also being funded by members of the American Library Association (who wanted Megan and me silenced because we were exposing the consequences of years and years of bad ALA policy). Having to mount a defense against even a meritless lawsuit is soul-killingly expensive because of how our system works and how a plaintiff with disreputable attorneys can manipulate the system to cause delay after delay. In Bittman’s case, almost every time there was some filing due, her attorneys (which were the sort of people who advertise on bus benches or in the local coupon paper that comes to your doorstep) would invent some new excuse for why they needed an extension. Sometimes they would do this the day that the filing was due. If everything they said happened to them was true every time they wanted to delay the process, that law firm should be the star of its own reality show: there were mysterious deaths, severe illnesses that would have made great episodes of House, M.D., claims they suddenly had to fly to London, a dog eating the important papers, etc. The strategy appeared to be one of delay, delay, delay…hoping that financially Bittman could outlast us and break us before the lawsuit would ever enter into discovery phase.
I spent hours reviewing everything that Bittman’s attorneys filed, as well as all of the documents that our own attorneys had to file in response. Many more hours were spent collecting documents to rebut Bittman, combing through emails for responsive documents, and assembling everything related to our investigation into the Orland Park Public Library so it could all be reviewed by attorneys. I probably put 200 hours of work, at least, into this sort of tedious-but-necessary document review in our defense against her SLAPP.
That’s 200 hours that I was then not able to spend writing, researching, going to board meetings, or otherwise working as an investigative reporter and citizen sleuth covering corrupt government in Illinois. So, Bittman’s SLAPP lawsuit created an obstacle to my work exposing government corruption, since the SLAPP took time and resources away from me that I would normally have used to investigate bad local government (such as the Orland Park Public Library Board).
SLAPP lawsuits typically end before discovery begins, which is what happened with Bittman’s suit. A federal judge dismissed more than half of the counts she filed against us and then Bittman withdrew the remainder of her lawsuit before any documents were ever exchanged in discovery. No depositions were ever taken and Bittman never had to produce any documents that would have been embarrassing to her or that would have proved she was dishonest in the various claims she made in her suit. The way our legal system is setup, someone like Bittman can file a SLAPP to silence your free speech, never intending to win the lawsuit, and drag it out strategically with delays and extensions…but still have the option of withdrawing it in the end (before she would be exposed in discovery for being dishonest). In Illinois at least, there is no mechanism to punish a plaintiff for bringing a SLAPP using this strategy. That’s why more and more people like Bittman are doing this around the country when they don’t like that someone is criticizing a public body or public employees.
In Illinois we have a weak anti-SLAPP law called the Citizen Participation Act (CPA), but it only is useful in very specific and limited cases in dismissing a SLAPP before the discovery phase. Courts have severely weakened the CPA and have limited its use to only the most rare of occasions. This means our state legislature needs to go back to the drawing board to strengthen it. The courts want to maintain a balance between allowing legitimate lawsuits to continue but ending these vexatious SLAPP suits…and courts in Illinois have felt that balance was not achieved with the CPA.
As Consumerist notes, California has the best anti-SLAPP law in the country that is most pro-defendant: it allows for an expedited hearing on the defendant’s motion to strike, and will award the defendant attorney fees and court costs if the defendant prevails. But remember that there is no federal anti-SLAPP legislation. That’s something that Free Speech activists are trying to remedy right now with Congress. Something that you could do to help would be to write, email, or call your Senators and Congressional representative and tell these people that you want them to support anti-SLAPP legislation at the federal level. Tell them about the book that Megan and I wrote about Bridget Bittman’s SLAPP and what she did to us to try to chill our First Amendment protected speech.
Congress is now considering the SPEAK FREE Act, which would be federal anti-SLAPP legislation. As it’s written now (before it will no doubt be monkeyed with in committees), if the SPEAK FREE Act had been in place back in 2014, Bridget Bittman’s SLAPP against us would have been tossed out much faster than it took for us to ultimately prevail against her. She sued us in October of 2014 and her lawsuit was not fully terminated until May of 2016. That was almost two years’ of time and energy drained by a lawsuit that never involved any discovery or depositions or anything. Because the federal court system works so slowly on its own…and Bittman’s attorneys aggressively pushed for one delay after another to keep things delayed even further…this SLAPP dragged on and on absent anything like the SPEAK FREE Act to eradicate it quickly.
SLAPP lawfare is used by public officials and public employees to tie community activists up in court so they no longer have the time, money, or energy to criticize public bodies. Big developers can also use SLAPPs to crush and silence community opposition to their projects. Large corporations like AMC can even use the threat of a SLAPP to silence people’s free speech rights (in a recent instance reported by Consumerist of the tee-vee network menacing a small website that used to post spoilers and fan theories about the show The Walking Dead…but the threats from AMC’s lawyers silenced and shuttered that spoiler site).
How you can help
1. Setup a Google alert for yourself for the key words SLAPP, ANTI-SLAPP, SPEAK FREE Act, etc. This way, you will be alerted every day if stories appear somewhere on this topic. And you can then start to see how prevalent this problem is.
2. Let people know about our book SHUT UP! and that it involves a SLAPP lawsuit filed against us by Bridget Bittman, granddaughter of Dorothy Comiskey Rigney, the woman who used to own the Chicago White Sox. Bittman’s lawsuit cost us time and resources to defend against and we worked hard to give other people facing SLAPPs lessons and tips for what they, too, can do to defend themselves against this type of vexatious lawfare.
3. Contact your Senators and your Congresscritter. Tell them that you oppose SLAPPs and that you want them to support the SPEAK FREE Act to stop people like Bridget Bittman from being able to file SLAPPs to silence people who take on corrupt local government.
4. Make studying SLAPPs into a new hobby. It’s more interesting than bird watching…and SLAPPs come in all shapes, sizes, and forms. The way to bring change to our government is to empower citizens to be able to fight for that change…and one of the main weapons the government is using against the people are these SLAPPs. Let’s take this away from them so that people will no longer be intimidated into silence or feel that they need to SHUT UP! if they don’t want to be sued by powerful or rich people who have more resources than they do.
I’m sharing this because it’s such a fun moment.
Megan Fox and I worked on our investigation into the sex crimes (and other illegal activity) happening in the Orland Park Public Library for a full 2 years. Just when we thought we uncovered everything there was to find, we’d stumble on something new. That Library had been covering up so much wrongdoing — with the blessing of the Village and the Police Chief — that it took us years to piece it all together. Along the way, the Village and police and the American Library Association all ganged up and tried everything they could think of to destroy us and shut us up. No one in Orland Park (or at the ALA) wanted us talking about the child pornography, sexual harassment of women, open public masturbation, and even gold theft happening at that Library.
We were even hit with a SLAPP lawsuit by the granddaughter of the woman who used to own the Chicago White Sox. All to shut us up.
But, Megan and I never stopped working, never stopped researching, and never stopped speaking out. And now every horrible thing that the Village of Orland Park, the Orland Park Police Department, the Orland Park Public Library, and the American Library Association did to us since 2013 is all being told.
Megan and I captured the moment when UPS brought us the first copies of the book. Almost three years of having everything and the kitchen sink thrown at us to shut us up and to terrorize us so we would never tell this story…yet, here it was.
666 pages of what no doubt is the American Library Association’s and the Village of Orland Park’s worst nightmares.
What a fabulous day.
SHUT UP! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment is available on Amazon.com now!
SHUT UP! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment is now available on Amazon.
The book details the harassment that Megan Fox and I received from Timothy J. McCarthy, the Orland Park Chief of Police, for several years, as the Village of Orland Park tried to scare Megan and me away from investigating sex crimes and other violations of state law that McCarthy had knowingly allowed to keep happening in the Orland Park Public Library for years.
Megan and I uncovered evidence that child pornography had been allowed by Library staff to be accessed without police being called as they should have been. The Library did not want police called on anyone engaging in sexual activity in the Library because then arrests would be made…and that would end up in the police blotter in the newspaper…and likely Drudge would find out about it. So, in a big public relations effort that McCarthy and other Village officials seem to have signed off on, the Library just kept quiet about the bad things happening in there. According to other sources, McCarthy knew for years that convicted child molesters who are barred from being around children were also using the Orland Park Public Library in violation of their parole. But he and the Orland Park Police chose not to do anything about that.
Instead, when Megan and I started uncovering what had been going on in that strange messed-up Library, McCarthy sent his goons after us. We were harassed and illegally detained while passing out political flyers. The Orland police called Megan at home to threaten her. McCarthy allowed Village and Library employees to make false police reports against us to try to frighten us away. The Orland Police would never take any action against the Library, not even when the Illinois Attorney General issued letters of determination showing that the Library Board Members had committed Class-C misdemeanors by knowingly and willfully violating the Open Meetings Act.
Timothy J. McCarthy seems to be allowed to get away with all this because back in 1981 he was the blonde Secret Service agent in a blue suit who was shot during the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. Because McCarthy was a hero back on that awful day…for the rest of his life he gets to be a tyrant, I guess. He does what he wants, harasses who he wants, uses his police to terrorize who he wants…all because he is a “national hero” for being shot alongside Ronald Reagan and can never be questioned.
Is it smart to make a man who can never be questioned the police chief?
Is it safe for a community to have a police chief who can violate people’s civil rights and never be challenged, because he has that hero’s lifetime criticism-free pass?
Isn’t there another role that Timothy J. McCarthy could have in Orland Park besides police chief? It’s obvious people continue to want to reward and recognize him for his bravery 35 years ago…but is making him in charge of a police force really the best idea when he apparently can never be stopped from doing anything bad because of his celebrity status?
Read all about everything that McCarthy and the Orland Park Police did to us to try to shut us up in SHUT UP! (available now on Amazon).
My new book (written with my friend Megan Fox) is coming out next week: SHUT UP! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment.
This book tells the story of the lengths that local government goes to (with the help of national lobbying groups) to silence the First Amendment rights of Americans when they criticize and petition the government for change. Something is very wrong with this country when even local library boards and villages out in the suburbs believe that they can throw everything and the kitchen sink at Americans to chill free speech, silence them, and shut them up.
Back in 2013, Megan and I stumbled upon years’ of unreported crimes in the Orland Park Public Library. It happened by accident, after a library staffer tipped us off that they “got a lot of that” in there. Curious what “a lot of that” meant, Megan and I used the Freedom of Information Act to look into the Library’s internal incident reports and legal invoices, to see what problems that Library had through the years. Immediately, the Library Director chose to involve the Orland Park Police Chief, Village staff, and the law firm Klein Thorpe Jenkins to try to scare Megan and me away so that we would not be interested in the incident reports she wanted to keep hidden.
The Library illegally redacted reports and hid other documents entirely. Some records appear to have been destroyed completely, but what we found shocked us: years and years and years of sex crimes happening in that Library, with staff never calling the police. In the instances where something bad happened at the Orland Park Public Library and police were called, it was library patrons (not staff) who called the police. A pattern emerged where it seemed that Library staffers were doing all this on purpose, as if they knew that if they called the police then what happened in that Library would make the news…and they didn’t want that bad publicity.
Very quickly, Megan and I were targeted for destruction. The American Library Association (a lobbying group that is funded in large part by George Soros) sent “crisis managers” to advise the Orland Park Public Library on how best to silence and scare Megan and me away. We did some digging and saw that the ALA does this to every mom or dad who discovers something awful happening in a Library and complains about it. The ALA targets the parents who complain and chases them away. This has been happening for years.
Figuring out who was behind all this — and who in Orland Park wanted the sex crimes to keep happening in the Library and to keep going unreported — took several years to figure out. FOIA requests gave us some insight and Megan and I took to attending board meetings to petition the library board to address its many problems. Instead of listening and doing the sensible thing, the Library decided to go to war against us…even encouraging a Library staffer to sue us in a bogus SLAPP (strategic litigation against public participation) suit.
Along the way, Megan and I became experts in the Freedom of Information Act, the Open Meetings Act, and SLAPPs. We lived to tell the tale, which oddly was a story that the local media refused to ever report on accurately. You see, if you ever find yourself up against local government (especially an entity like a library board that no reporter wants to write a negative story about, no matter what happens in there), you will realize that the media is too chummy with government to ever tell the real story.
In our book, we document run-ins we had with reporters from the Chicago Tribune, the Daily Southtown, NBC, CBS, the Orland Park Prairie, the Orland Patch, and other outlets. Not a single one of these people ever wanted to report on the sex crimes that were covered up in the Orland Park Public Library for years and years (which all appeared in their incident reports, which reporters chose to ignore). No media outlet wanted to report on the female employees of the Library who were sexually harassed on a daily basis by men masturbating to porn in the Library. None of this was happening in downtown Chicago and these were derelicts doing any of this…this was all happening in an upscale, affluent suburb of Chicago…where local politicians and police seem to have decided that they were all going to deliberately look the other way and never stop any of this (because someone wanted this to keep happening at the Orland Park Public Library).
Every terrible thing that a local government entity can do to you to shut you up and scare you away was done to us. Sometimes twice. Sometimes eleven or more times.
The book goes on sale next week. I hope you buy it because in addition to telling our story of what the Village of Orland Park, the Orland Park Police, the Orland Park Public Library, and the American Library Association did to us it’s also an account of ways that you can fight back against entities like this when they come after you.
The First Amendment Right to Petition our government for change and redress of grievances is under attack in this country. Washington DC is largely a lost cause, depending on how you look at it…but your local government can still be changed, if citizens are brave enough to do that. I hope Orland Park goes down in history as an example of how wrong local government is when it thinks it can silence its critics.
Because even if the local media refuses to report on any of it, someone could always write a book about every terrible thing that happened. And if irony holds, the very same public library that declared war on the First Amendment might very well be forced to carry a book on its shelves all about every awful thing it did to try to silence people!
– Book will be released last week of May 2016 –
* For the last few years, Megan Fox and I have been studying corruption and illegal activity in the Village of Orland Park, Illinois (in Chicago’s southwestern suburbs).
* We became interested in Orland Park after discovering that the Orland Park Public Library had a long and disgraceful history of covering up child pornography and sex crimes happening in the building (as well as harassment of female employees who complained about the sexual activity ongoing in the Library). Orland Park also happens to be the site of a large Muslim colony in Chicagoland, which creates its own share of problems in the community. Village of Orland Park public employees have been caught violating the Freedom of Information Act, Open Meetings Act, and other “good government” laws to cover up whatever they don’t want the public to see. This includes extravagant wasteful spending, usually centered on trips, parties, or gluttonous meals that public employees buy for themselves with public funds.
* Orland Park is an interesting case study for government watchdogs because of how aggressively the Village and public employees lash out and push back against efforts at transparency. In many ways, dealing with Orland Park is like going up against the mob. They fight by “Chicago Rules” to defend their racket in this Village You’ve Never Heard Of.
* Orland Park is like the “Twin Peaks” of Chicagoland: something strange and terrible is always happening there and the people who run the Village don’t want you to know about any of it!
* The Edgar County Watchdogs have been reporting on Orland Park for some time and have a solid archive available for perusal.
The Village of Orland Park once again has some explaining to do. Must be Tuesday!
On 1/18/16, the Village’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) compliance officer Alexandra Snodsmith (that’s her real name, I swear…though it sounds like a made-up name that the character Karen Walker would have used in a pinch on Will & Grace if her usual alias of Anastasia Beaverhausen was not available) finally produced copies of the “Lost Receipt Affidavits” that the Village had been repeatedly delaying production of for some time.
The Village claims it started using “Lost Receipt Affidavits” in April 2015 in situations where a Village employee demands reimbursement for food and drink while supposedly traveling on Village business…but the employee “lost” the receipt to prove the purchases were really made. This is in stark contrast to the private sector, where if an employee at a private company would “lose” a receipt then that employee would be out of luck (as private sector accountants have strict rules about never reimbursing for expenses without receipts).
(Aside: I keep putting “lost” and “lose” in quotes because I don’t believe these receipts are ever really lost and think that Village employees just claim to have “lost” the receipts because something fishy is going on. End Aside)
The Village at first refused to comply with a FOIA request for these Lost Receipt Affidavits, claiming it would be “too burdensome” to search for them. This is what the Village always says when it does not want to turn over embarrassing documents. The Village just settled a $12,000 lawsuit for violating the Freedom of Information Act but doesn’t seem to have learned its lesson in this regard.
In an earlier FOIA production, one of these “Lost Receipt” documents had turned up involving a forgetful employee who claimed she couldn’t find her receipt for the Chick-Fil-A sandwich, fries, and drink she consumed. Instead of obtaining a new receipt from Chick-Fil-A, the Village employee filled out this Lost Receipt Affidavit and was reimbursed. The form states at the bottom that it should be used only in rare occurrences, which made us curious to see how many times these forms have been used in recent years.
That’s when the Village, through its FOIA compliance officer
Anastasia Beaverhausen Alexandra Snodsmith, refused to produce the Lost Receipt Affidavits (because…burdensome). We had to complain to Village Manager Paul Grimes and Mayor of Orland Park Dan McLaughlin to compel Snodsmith to provide the Lost Receipt Affidavits. We successfully argued that the Lost Receipt Affidavits were documents in the possession of the Village of Orland Park and that they must be produced for public scrutiny. The Village admitted that it had these documents, but it didn’t want to give them to us so they just made up lies.
Snodsmith had claimed it would take her over 50 days to look for these documents. That seemed stupid, since I can’t imagine it taking 50 whole days to find the file cabinet marked “L” for “Lost Receipt Affidavits” (or possible “R,” for “Receipts, Lost” or whatever). She made it seem like she would have to travel to that big creepy warehouse in Area 51 that they showed at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the federal government locked away all the treasures that Indiana Jones uncovered. I highly doubt that
Alexandra Illinois Snodsmith needed to wander through a maze of giant wooden crates for 50 days (and 50 nights!) like a lost tribeswoman of Israel in search of these “Lose Receipt Affidavits” the way she made this all out to be so difficult for her to do. After we complained to Grimes and McLaughlin, the next day Snodsmith admitted they had only been using the forms since April 2015 and that it wouldn’t really take 50 days of burdensome effort (in Area 51) after all to locate them. Imagine that!
This made us wonder what the Village didn’t want us to see in these Lost Receipt Affidavits, because every time they play games and refuse to produce something it’s because there is a page or two in there that they don’t want us to see because we will no doubt embarrass them with it. We suspected the Lost Receipt Affidavits might show either the same “forgetful” employees “losing” receipts consistently or employees being reimbursed without a receipt for questionable purchases. We imagined if an employee ordered something that he or she should not have ordered and wanted the Village to use taxpayer money to pay for it, a good way to hide whatever it was would be to claim the receipt was lost and obtain reimbursement by way of these affidavits the Village created.
When Snodsmith finally responded with the Lost Receipt Affidavits, she produced a total of 9 instances where forgetful or careless Village employees claim to have lost their receipts but still demanded reimbursement from taxpayers anyway. Again, no private company I’ve ever heard of would have handed over a cent to these forgetful idiots without having hardcopy receipts to verify these purchases were legitimate.
The page that jumped out as most questionable was a Lost Receipt Affidavit completed by Village employee Karie Filing on 5/22/15, for expenses she claimed she incurred on 4/18/15. Filing requested $15.59 to reimburse her for what she spent at McMenamins Six Arms Pub in Seattle, Washington. The website for this establishment shows that McMenamins is a brewery…and a delightful one at that!
Without a receipt showing what Filing ordered, there’s no way to tell if she was reimbursed with taxpayer money for beer or other alcohol at this pub. This is an example of why public bodies should not allow something like a “Lost Receipt Affidavit” to ever be used; such a document allows public employees an opportunity to slip in reimbursements that might not have been allowed if the employee was forced to produce an actual receipt showing everything that was ordered in a questionable establishment like a pub.
Abuse of this Lost Receipt Affidavit is not only possible but probable if public employees know they can be paid back for going to a pub if they conveniently “lose” their receipt and then fill out this affidavit form instead. Then, no one can see what was ordered at the pub.
Let’s be real: who goes to a brewery and doesn’t have a frosty cold one?
The Village of Orland Park has a policy against reimbursing for alcohol purchases by public employees, but without the actual detailed receipt from McMenamins Six Arms Pub no one will ever know what Karie Filing ordered while she was there…and her reimbursement check was cut for her without any further questions from her bosses at the Village. Should that be the case?
Do you think the Village would let you get off the hook for something if you needed to have documentation but you said you “lost it” or “forgot it” or “left it in Seattle at the brewery”? Hell to the no. Government employees should be held strictly to the rules because these very same government employees take delight in wielding rules against the public. The problem is that too few members of the public bother to scrutinize what our government at all levels is doing, which is why “Lost Receipt Affidavits” pop up as loopholes for pub crawling reimbursement.
Another Lost Receipt Affidavit was for $125.00 worth of bagels that were supposedly ordered and given to Fifth Third Bank by Village employees, for some reason. Can’t the bank buy its own bagels? Without a receipt, how can you know if bagels really were ordered and if this is legitimate spending? With an order that large, couldn’t the Village have contacted the bagel shop and asked them to reprint the receipt instead of just taking the employee’s word that she really spent $125.00 on bagels? That sounds like an awful lot of bagels. Another careless employee claims she drove to the Wisconsin Dells and wanted $98.00 in taxpayer money given to her for the drive, but she “lost” her receipt. Did she really go to the Dells or did she just want $98.00 for free? Without a receipt, we’ll never know for sure.
Why Should You Care?
Lost Receipt Affidavits are a bad idea from a public policy and government transparency perspective. It is much better if a public body takes a “tough luck” approach to these situations, where Village employees who are forgetful or careless should be told “tough luck” and forgo reimbursement if they cannot be bothered to keep ahold of their receipts. Let them have to pay for their own delicious chicken sandwiches, fries, pub crawls, and bagel-paloozas and watch them learn lickety-split to stop losing their receipts.
A strict policy of “no receipt means no reimbursement” would mean employees who go to pubs while on trips they intend to bill to taxpayers will be sure not to order anything they aren’t supposed to be ordering, since they know the itemized receipts will be scrutinized. And all bagel purchases and trips to the Dells would have to be completely legitimate and above the board too, since receipts would prove whether those events really happened as well.
Without such receipts, too many questions are raised. The reason Illinois is in such a mess is because public employees believe they can get away with the little things they do that are bad…which then convinces them to try other, larger, more terrible things since they figure no one is ever watching.