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updated: 10/9/2013 2:00 PM

Island Lake Trustee Shannon Fox facing censure for email she sent

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  • Shannon Fox

      Shannon Fox

 
 

Island Lake Trustee Shannon Fox could be formally scolded by the rest of the board Thursday for her response to a local property dispute.

The proposed resolution of censure, which was given to the Daily Herald ahead of the board meeting, focuses on an email Fox sent to Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran and Lake County commissioners. The email criticized one of the people involved in the disagreement and asked officials to reconsider patronizing the person's business.

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The resolution says Fox's email didn't represent the position of the board on the matter, and it says she wasn't authorized to write the message. It also calls for Fox to send a retraction to the recipients of her missive.

Fox said she stands by the email and will not issue a retraction.

"I certainly have the authority to voice my opinion," she said in a telephone interview.

The controversial email concerned an ongoing dispute between Island Lake resident Mike Johnson, the owner of a company called Mike's Towing, and residents Betty and Glenn Reckwerdt.

Mike's Towing is the preferred towing company for the Island Lake Police Department. Johnson also financially supported Mayor Charles Amrich in the spring election.

Johnson claims the Reckwerdt's driveway, which cuts through property he owns, is in the wrong spot. The Reckwerdts disagree.

On Sept. 20, Johnson placed large, concrete barriers across the driveway and alongside it. Johnson moved the barriers off the driveway Sept. 23, following complaints from the Reckwerdts and inquiries by the Daily Herald.

Fox sent her email two days later. In it, she asked county officials to reconsider using Mike's Towing because of Johnson's actions. It included a link to a Daily Herald article about the dispute.

Fox sent the email -- distributed to the media this week by Village Clerk Teresa Ponio -- from her official village account. She identified herself as a trustee and leader of the grants committee.

The email became public knowledge shortly after it was sent. Fox was criticized by Johnson and other residents for sending it at the board's Sept. 26 meeting.

Amrich said he received phone calls and emails from residents who suggested censuring Fox. Some also called for her resignation, he said.

Although he won't vote unless there's a tie, Amrich believes a censure is warranted.

"If you're making a statement, make it as a person and not an official," he said. "She's not acting in an official capacity when she makes a statement like that."

The proposed censure resolution denounces Fox's email and includes an apology to Johnson and his company.

It also orders Fox to send all of the recipients of her email a retraction of her comments within three days. Copies are to be sent to the village board members and Ponio, too.

If Fox doesn't send a retraction, Ponio will email a copy of the censure resolution to the county officials.

Fox said she didn't claim to represent the full board or the village in her email.

"It is understood that these are (an) individual's opinions," she said.

Village officials are supposed to stand up for residents and help them when needed, she said.

"That is what I did and I would do it again," she said.

Fox was similarly defiant in a Facebook post Wednesday morning.

"I still can't figure out why the majority of (the board) didn't think it was our place to defend a resident in need who asked for help," she wrote. "If someone blocked access by emergency personnel to easily reach your home, would you want your elected officials to step in and say it isn't right?"

At the time, village and public-safety officials said the dispute between Johnson and the Reckwerdts was a private matter that didn't affect the greater public's safety.

The proposed censure doesn't mention Fox's interest in the issue -- only the email she sent.

Fox's pending censure is the latest volley in an ugly political battle in Island Lake, one that in recent months has pitted Fox and fellow Trustee Thea Morris against Amrich and his board allies.

They've criticized Fox and Morris for supporting then-Mayor Debbie Herrmann in the spring election and for ruling against Amrich when they sat on an election board that voted to knock him off the ballot.

A Lake County judge's decision restored Amrich to the ballot, and he overwhelmingly defeated Herrmann.

Once Amrich and his allies took office, Fox and Morris found themselves in the minority on several issues.

Thursday's board meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at village hall, 3720 Greenleaf Ave.

Fox said she'll attend the session despite the threat of censure.

"I'll always show up," she said.

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