Getting your name out is key for any business -- just not when that name happens to be "super scofflaw."
The designation stings even more when you're neither a super scofflaw nor an average scofflaw, businessman John O'Hara has found. So the president of Specialty Contractors Inc., a Lake in the Hills-based firm, filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Illinois tollway after the agency included the business in its "super scofflaw" list in August 2013.
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The problem was -- Specialty Contractors had already paid a disputed debt in tolls several weeks before the list went live, O'Hara said.
"I looked like public enemy No. 1 on a matter that had already been settled and dismissed by the court," he said Wednesday.
The tollway has not yet been served with the lawsuit and declined to comment on specifics.
"Specialty Contractors, Inc. eventually settled debt back in 2013 that the tollway had to sue them to collect," spokeswoman Wendy Abrams said in an email, adding the company was removed from the scofflaw list "shortly after that settlement."
"Our zero-tolerance policy for delinquent debt is important to ensuring that these chronic violators end up paying their fair share," she said.
The lawsuit filed in Cook County argues that the tollway damaged the firm's reputation.
O'Hara said he first ended up in court with the tollway when a dispute over $100 owed in tolls snowballed into $5,000. After O'Hara and the tollway settled the matter, he thought that was the end of it.
But with the publication of the scofflaw list, he began receiving some unwelcome attention.
"People hear your name and say, 'oh, I saw you on that list,'" O'Hara recounted.
"Some said it as praise, some didn't. I started to consider that the implications are farther reaching than I had thought. The bottom line is -- it just isn't OK. The tollway is using (the list) as a club but they can't accept a settlement and club you anyway."
Abrams noted, "the majority of tollway users pay their tolls, and we have a responsibility to our customers to try to collect all revenue owed to us."
The list on the tollway's website includes the names of toll violators who owe $1,000 or more.