Elk Grove mayor says robocalls have risen to 'sad, sick level'

Elk Grove Village officials have ramped up their criticism of a local developer who they claim is behind mysterious robocalls that continue to dial phone lines across town.

The latest came less than an hour into a village board meeting Tuesday night, after Mayor Craig Johnson had spent more than 10 minutes criticizing the series of robocalls and campaign-style mailers that have flooded residents' phones and mailboxes since August, saying they have risen to a "sad, sick level."

The newest recorded call, voiced by a speaker with a British accent, offers tongue-in-cheek gratitude to Johnson for supposedly welcoming a Haymarket Center drug and alcohol treatment center to town, which fits with the mayor's Elk Grove Village Cares anti-opioid initiative.

The Haymarket proposal is pending in Itasca, and Elk Grove officials say they've never talked with anyone from the organization about locating a facility in Elk Grove.

Johnson, Village Attorney George Knickerbocker and others on the village board dais traded notes and a cellphone to hear the recording during the meeting, before Johnson publicly described the call and leveled an indirect swipe at local developer Mario Gullo.

"It shows how upset I guess they were, Mr. Knickerbocker, with your revealing of some names last week in the press," Johnson said. "You must of hit a nerve with that unveiling of a name."

Without mentioning Gullo by name, Johnson was referring to statements made by Knickerbocker during an Oct. 3 court appearance, as reported by the Daily Herald, in which the village attorney accused Gullo of being behind the robocalls and mailers critical of village officials.

"It's sad though. It really is sad," Johnson continued. "Some sad individuals. I thank you Mr. Knickerbocker for identifying one of them. I appreciate that. A prominent one that's got a lot of vacant stores in this village, including the old Sears Hardware that's been vacant since 2006."

Through his attorney during the court hearing last week, Gullo denied any involvement in the robocalls. The owner of George Gullo Development Corp. sued the village in an attempt to block the municipality from annexing unincorporated properties the company owns along Higgins Road.

He didn't respond to requests for comment Tuesday or Wednesday about Johnson's latest criticisms.

Knickerbocker said he received a cease-and-desist letter from Gullo's attorneys to not make any public statements about settlement discussions with Gullo.

"Now it's getting a little hostile. Or a lot hostile," Knickerbocker said of hopes to resolve the legal dispute.

A Sunday robocall to many Elk Grove phone lines took aim at Knickerbocker, campaign contributions received by the mayor, and residents Kitty and Murray Weiner, whose Entertainment Management Group books the village's summer concert series. Kitty Weiner, the mayor's political consultant, heads the local committee opposing resident Tim Burns' term limits effort that seeks to oust the 22-year incumbent mayor and his long-tenured board in a March 2020 referendum.

There have been about 10 robocalls reported since August, but only one was attributable to Burns, who says his group is dealing only with the term limits issue and isn't affiliated or coordinating with those behind the other robocalls and mailers.

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  Elk Grove Village officials, including Village Manager Ray Rummel, from left, Mayor Craig Johnson, and Village Attorney George Knickerbocker, react after another robocall was reported during a village board meeting Tuesday. Christopher Placek/
  Elk Grove Village officials this week leveled more criticism at George Gullo Development Corp., accusing owner Mario Gullo of being behind robocalls that attack them. Gullo has denied any involvement in the calls. Christopher Placek/
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