Two former appointed Barrington Hills officials who've been political opponentsof Village President Robert Abboud's identified themselves Friday as the editors of a previously anonymous website critical of his administration.
Former zoning board of appeals chairman Jonathan Knight and former plan commission chairman David Stieper have used the website preservebarringtonhills.com to allege various types of wrongdoing in the village government, particularly over pending regulations of commercial horse boarding.
The website has been prominently mentioned in a series of provocative newspaper ads paid for by resident Jim Drury, who is also critical of the village's approach to horse boarding.
"(Drury) was kind enough to give our website some publicity," Knight said Friday. "I'm responsible. David Stieper and I came up with this website last August."
Knight said no legal action has ever been taken against himself, Stieper or the website on the basis of any statements being libelous because everything said is backed up by documentation.
Stieper, an attorney who unsuccessfully ran an independent campaign for village trustee last year, agreed.
"Abboud can't sue us on that because it's all accurate," Stieper said.
Abboud said he hasn't made a practice of reading the website because he doesn't pay much attention to anonymous blogs.
He added that as Stieper is an attorney, he should be familiar with more efficient means of righting perceived wrongs than anonymous blog attacks.
"If (Stieper) believed any of the things he said, he should have filed with the attorney general's office," Abboud said.
Much of the recent conflict has been over a proposed change to the village code over the regulation of commercial horse boarding, which will be considered by the zoning board Monday night at Countryside Elementary School.
Abboud thinks the ordinance will strengthen regulation of horse boarding as a home occupation business by defining specific hours of operation -- 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
But Drury, who lives next door to Oakwood Farms, where up to 60 horses can be boarded, argues that the ordinance will loosen current restrictions. He argues that by making the hours of operation the main standard, it allows horse boarding operations to ignore every other aspect of the home occupation ordinance -- especially that such businesses be invisible to neighbors.
Drury acknowledges that Oakwood Farms' owners, Benjamin and Cathleen LeCompte, have the right to keep 60 of their own horses on their extensive grounds, which include 110 acres for riding space alone.
But it's the comings and goings of the horses' owners, who don't live at Oakwood Farms, that he objects to.
Drury, Stieper and Knight argue that "pay-to-play" politics are at the heart of Barrington Hills' change of heart about commercial horse boarding, saying Abboud was once among the strongest opponents of such businesses.
A lawsuit filed by Drury last year against the LeComptes -- which made such allegations against village officials without naming them as defendants -- was dismissed.
Abboud has said the village changed its position for logical reasons that had nothing to do with money. He said the village's earlier efforts to regulate commercial horse boarding fought the LeComptes' contention at the time that it was permissible as an agricultural use. But the village later decided the operation was acceptable under its home occupation regulations.
Both Knight and Stieper were appointed to their former positions by Abboud, who described this as an attempt to reach out to his political opponents that didn't work out.