Development family wants apology from Hawthorn Woods speaker

Development family wants apology from Hawthorn Woods speaker

Family members behind a potential commercial development near Hawthorn Woods want a public apology from a woman for what they contend were disparaging remarks she made about them at a village board meeting.

Diane Benz, who spoke in opposition to the proposal at the Hawthorn Woods board meeting Feb. 2, received a letter from the Dimucci family this week asking that she “offer proof” supporting her accusations or apologize.

Robert Dimucci wasn't among 50 or so spectators at the meeting, but he stated in his letter to Benz that he learned about her false statements. Dimucci informed Benz he considered her 17-second commentary to be defamatory and baseless.

“I am proud of my character, my associations and the conduct of my business,” wrote Dimucci, manager of the family's RK123 development business.

John Dimucci said his father expressed the family's wishes in the letter to Benz.

“It was something we worked on as a family,” he said. “When we heard about (the comments), obviously it was offensive.”

Benz, who lives in an unincorporated area near Hawthorn Woods, didn't respond to requests for comment.

Hawthorn Woods and North Barrington officials — along with many residents — oppose the Dimuccis' request to have zoning rules changed to allow eventual construction of a shopping center at the southeast corner of Route 12 and Old McHenry Road.

Roughly 53 acres are in unincorporated Lake County with a residential zoning classification. A Lake County Regional Planning Commission hearing on the proposal was postponed because an overflow crowd of more than 150 couldn't be accommodated in a library meeting room Monday.

John Dimucci said the family understands there are opponents to the plan for their farmland. However, he said, a civil tone should be part of the process.

In the letter, Robert Dimucci wrote it is in the spirit of maintaining rational communication that he wants Benz to consider making the apology or support of her claims in a “very public forum” to his family.

“I am not talking about the oft-used, insincere format of, ‘If I have offended someone, then I apologize,'” he wrote. “I am talking about an apology that recognizes you had no basis to make those accusations at all.”

Robert Dimucci intends to file a Freedom of Information Act request with Hawthorn Woods for any notes, minutes or recordings of Benz's remarks.

Donald Craven, a Springfield-based a First Amendment lawyer, said speakers during public comment time at government meetings have some level of protection through the state's Citizen Participation Act.

However, Craven said, it's not a bad idea for speakers to be careful.

“My mother always taught me, make your point on the merits of what you're talking about and don't call people names,” he said.

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