Lester: COD Foundation board member sues Hamilton, watchdogs
A College of DuPage Foundation board member is suing the school's former board president and members of two watchdog groups she claims damaged her reputation and drove away business from her graphics company, I've learned.
Carla Burkhart and West Chicago-based Herricane Graphics Inc. filed the lawsuit on New Year's Eve in DuPage County Circuit Court against former COD board Chair Kathy Hamilton, members of the Edgar County Watchdog Group and For the Good of Illinois President Adam Andrzejewski seeking more than $50,000 for compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages.
The suit claims the defendants, in blog posts, improperly described COD's payments to the graphics company for a $90,340 signage design contract as part of an "accounting scheme" that was part of a "pay to play" environment at the college.
The suit says those claims propelled Hamilton into a position of power while Herricane Graphics' sales revenue plummeted to less than half of what it had been in the previous four years.
'We're in Illinois'
Joshua Feagans, the Geneva-based attorney representing Burkhart in the suit, says she suffered irreparable damage by simply doing what COD asked in agreeing to the contract.
"We're in Illinois, right? The phrase 'pay to play' has direct negative connotations," Feagans says.
Hamilton declined to comment, as did Kirk Allen of the Edgar County Watchdogs. Andrzejewski didn't immediately return calls.
Social media screening
Allow the Department of Homeland Security to use Facebook as a screening tool for entrance to the country? That's the aim of legislation to be filed in the coming weeks by U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, I'm told. Republican Kirk, of Highland Park, and West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin sent a letter last month to President Barack Obama urging adoption of regulations to allow screening officials to check the social media postings of applicants. Though many social media posts are public, Kirk points to reports where the department declined to screen social media due to concerns about public backlash regarding civil liberties. "The first and most concerning problem is the administration isn't even looking at openly publicly available social media when screening, and there's a lot out there," campaign spokesman Kevin Artl says.
Mr. Sharma heads to Washington
Niles North High School history teacher Pankaj Sharma is heading to Washington to speak on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court before oral arguments begin in the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association labor case next week. A former president of the Niles Township Federation of teachers, Sharma, of Evanston, says he's putting his words into action to show his students "we can't just talk about democracy, we must take an active role in it." The Friedrichs case asks the court to decide whether public sector unions may continue to charge non-members a fee equal to the cost of representing them to their employer. Sharma, colleagues say, is well known for his work beyond the classroom, including doing social justice work with students and raising $800,000 for charity through Dance Marathon.
Restaurant Week lineup
Barbakoa Tacos and Tequila in Downers Grove is one of a small number of suburban restaurants participating in Chicago Restaurant Week. For $33, Barbakoa offers a three-course prix fixe menu that features Peking duck and pork tacos cooked in banana leaves, double baked potatoes with chorizo, chimichurri fries and lemon tarts, among other items. I have a food coma just thinking about it all.
Elmhurst College's gardens and food scrap composting program have received accolades from the National Wildlife Federation and the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition.
The federation recently designated the college's gardens a Certified Wildlife Habitat because they help wildlife thrive by providing ample food, water, cover and a place to rear young. Elmhurst has also generated more than 21,000 pounds of food scrap compost in this academic year so far, making it a regional leader in such efforts.
Barry Keefe mourned
Condolences to the family of Barry Keefe, the longtime director of news and public affairs at WTMX-FM 101.9. Keefe died Sunday at his home in Wheaton from pancreatic cancer. He was 62.
As well as being a fan of Keefe's work as a news anchor on the Eric and Kathy Show, I also spent years in political press scrums with Keefe's son Alex, who worked as WBEZ's political reporter for a number of years and clearly picked up a love of broadcast journalism from dad. Among Alex's memories are "sitting in my car before high school on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, only to hear Dad's voice break into the morning show on 101.9 to say that someone had flown a plane into one of the World Trade Center towers." Services are scheduled for Saturday afternoon at Williams-Kampp Funeral Home in Wheaton.