The third lawsuit to drop against the Illinois Integrity Fund, Michael Noonan, Roosevelt Group, Inc., Sean Tenner, and KNI, Inc., was filed by McHenry County Board member Chuck Wheeler.
Jack Franks and Breaker Press were named as “Respondents in Discovery.”
At issue in Wheeler’s case are three postcards sent during last year’s Republican Party Primary Election.
The first combines what taxpayers spent on health insurance and travel expenses.
Attorney Charles L. Philbrick of the Wheaton law firm of Rathje Woodward LLC argues that the mailings were “defamatory, defamatory per se, and cast Plaintiff in a false light.”
Respondent in Discovery, Breaker Press Co., Inc., and Jack D. Franks, are “believed by the Plaintiff to have information essential to the determination of who should properly be named as additional defendants in this action.”
With regard to the health benefits charges, the filing states, “Plaintiff never billed the County for healthcare reimbursements.”
On travel expenses, “Plaintiff submitted travel expenses for his mileage driving to and from County Board Meetings totaling less than $6,000.”
Quoting the following, the argument is made that the statements are either “defamatory pro se” or “defamatory:”
- “WASTEFUL CHUCK WHEELER”
- “WASTEFUL CHUCK WHEELER COSTS MCHENRY
COUNTY TOO MUCH”
- “HE’S DRIVING OUR REPUBLICAN PARTY INTO
- “Wasteful Chuck Wheeler Really Gets Around”
- “In the last 4 years, Wasteful Chuck Wheeler has billed
McHenry County more than $100,000 for mileage and healthcare
reimbursement in his capacity as a County Board Member. REALLY?”
- “As a member of the McHenry County Board, Wheeler sold out the core
principles of the Republican party”
The suit claims these statements are “defamatory per se as the defamatory character of the statement is apparent on its face”…”the words used are obviously and materially harmful to the Plaintiff and injury to his reputation may be presumed.
Wheeler’s attorney includes the following about the statement,
“Wasteful Chuck Wheeler Really Gets Around”
is “defamatory per se as it imputes adultery or fornication.”
Wheeler argues in the suit “the representations and statements in [the above flyer] are
- “not reasonably capable of an innocent construction
- “not privileged
- ‘”were published by Defendants with actual malice knowing the statements were false or with a reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of the statements
- “were made with actual malice and the intent to harm the Plaintiff in his business and professional reputation as to a public official and is an appropriate basis for the imposition of punitive damages”
Referring to the $25,000 payment, the suit says,
“While serving as a McHenry County Board Member, Plaintiff voted against approval of the $25,000 settlement of an Open Meetings Act claim filed by Union of Operating Engineers Local 150.”
(Local 150 later contributed $25,000 to Jack Farnks’ campaign for County Board Chairman.)
“Knowing the truth of the matters of public record and facts…but maliciously intending to injure Plaintiff and to bring him into public scandal, disrepute and disgrace, Defendants maliciously published the flyers concerning Plaintiff with their false, scandalous, malicious and defamatory words..” Chuck Wheeler’s attorney writes.
The brief asserts:
“… the Plaintiff is a person of good repute, law abiding and has honorably served the citizens of McHenry County as a County Board Member;
“Defendants knew that Plaintiff had not billed McHenry County for more than $100,000 for mileage and healthcare reimbursement, nevertheless made certain statements that accused the Plaintiff of dishonorable and illegal conduct, and official misconduct knowing, because all of the true facts were a matter of public record, that the statements more fully detailed below were false or with a reckless disregard as to whether they were false or not.”
Referring specifically to the hit piece above, the suit pulls out the following charges:
- “Wasteful Chuck Wheeler”
- “Waste Chuck Wheeler’s Arrogance COST MCHENRY COUNTY TAXPAYERS $25,000.00;”
- “Wasteful Wheeler and his board cronies disregarded the Open Meetings Act, the board was sued and had to pay $25,000.00. All because Wasteful Wheeler thinks he doesn’t have to play by the rules”
Many of the same arguments put forward about the first postcard are repeated about the second and third mailings.
The third mailing is below:
The following statements by the so-called Illinois Integrity Fund are brought into play while discussing the third mailing:
- “WASTEFUL CHUCK WHEELER DOESN’T FOLLOW THE LAW”
- “HE FLUSHES OUR TAX DOLLARS AWAY”
- “Wheeler & his cronies cost taxpayers $25,000 to settle the lawsuit.”
- “WASTEFUL CHUCK WHEELER IS ONE ARROGANT FELLOW”
- “Wasteful Wheeler thinks laws don’t apply to him & his crazy cronies”
In addition to the defamation counts, Wheeler’s suit includes “false light” accusations.
“The flyer(s) falsely and publicly portrayed Plaintiff in a negative, false light.”
False light, I am told, is an easier cause of action to prove than defamation, libel or slander.
A jury trial is requested.