Edgar County Watchdogs wants Supreme Court to toss case related to COD scandals
The Edgar County Watchdogs (ECW) and other defendants in a legal case related to the scandal-plagued College of Dupage (COD) recently filed multiple Prayer for Leave to Appeal briefs with the Illinois Supreme Court to have the case thrown out.
The briefs were filed after a circuit court denied motions to dismiss the case of Carla Burkhart and Herricane Graphics Inc. vs. ECW, Kirk Allen, Adam Andrezejewski, Kathy Hamilton and Claire Ball.
Allen is a principal with ECW. Andrezejewski, a businessman residing in Hinsdale, founded a nonprofit citizen watchdog group to advocate for transparency in government spending. Hamilton is the former chairwoman of the COD board; and Evanston native Ball ran as a Libertarian for the position of Illinois Comptroller in 2016.
Burkhart's company Herricane Graphics designed and installed signs at COD. In her suit, she alleged she was defamed in numerous online news articles -- including in the Dupage Policy Journal -- when the defendants accused her of "pay-to-play" deals and misrepresented her business dealings with the college.
In their appeals to the supreme court, the defendants argue that "important First Amendment considerations" are at stake, specifically "whether journalists may report on politicians engaging in favorable transactions with their friends, and label this behavior as 'pay to play', without having to prove that the subject politicians were engaged in criminal behavior."
When the suit was first filed, the Chicago Tribune reported that college records revealed Herricane Graphics received more than $600,000 from the school without every submitting a competitive bid.
COD has been awash in scandal in recent years.
In 2015, the COD board came under fire for approving a $763,000 taxpayer-funded severance package for former COD President Robert Breuder, who had been accused of lack of oversight and excessive spending related to more than $95 million in questionable expenditures on behalf of the state’s largest community college.
Breuder was later fired and never received the severance package.
A Dupage Policy Journal article later revealed that former COD trustee Kim Savage, who was on the board that approved Breuder's severance package, was herself receiving a taxpayer-paid pension as a former administrator at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The story also pointed out that, according to Savage's LinkedIn page at the time, she continued to be paid as a consultant, focusing on strategic planning, assessment development planning and administrative services to the college.
After the revelation came out, Savage filed a Federal Election Commission (FEC) complaint asking that the DuPage Policy Journal be shut down because it allegedly wasn't an independent newspaper.
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