Wheeling trustees say voters should be concerned about village board candidate
Five sitting Wheeling village trustees say voters should be concerned about a village board candidate who was accused in a lawsuit of hounding an administrator with at least 2,100 emails at the school district where she previously worked.
In an email to the Daily Herald, trustees Joseph Vito, Ray Lang, Dave Vogel, Mary Krueger and Mary Papantos say first-time village board hopeful Deborah Wilson is not the "selfless good government watchdog" as she's been portrayed.
"To me, I am a voter in Wheeling, I'm a lifelong resident of Wheeling," Lang said. "I'd be very concerned if someone like (Wilson) was representing me or I was sitting alongside someone like that representing the village of Wheeling."
The email came in response to an editorial in Sunday's Daily Herald complimentary of Wilson -- who was not endorsed by the paper -- and crediting her as a government watchdog.
Vito, Lang, Vogel and Wilson, along with Maryann Rodriguez Liguori and Asher Horcher, are running for three, 4-year trustee terms in Tuesday's election.
Wilson has been a frequent critic of the board dating back to at least 2016, and played a prominent role in the uncovering of former Village President Dean Argiris' misuse of a village credit card. She's also questioned possible runway expansion at Chicago Executive Airport, co-owned by Wheeling and Prospect Heights.
In their email, the five trustees call attention to a lawsuit Des Plaines Elementary District 62 filed against Wilson in September 2016, saying its should be concerning to Wheeling voters.
District 62 claimed Wilson violated the terms of a settlement agreement in which she resigned as a literacy teacher in exchange for about $200,000. The district alleged Wilson did not abide by a confidentiality and nondisparagement clause that applied to both sides.
However, Wilson contends District 62 retaliated against her after the Illinois attorney general's office did not find she qualified as a "recurrent requester," for whom standard deadlines for responding to Freedom of Information Act requests would not apply.
Wilson struck the deal with District 62 on May 27, 2015, and her resignation became effective a little more than a year later, according to court papers. Wilson was placed on a paid suspension for the 2015-16 academic season before her official departure, the lawsuit says.
As part of the complaint, District 62 alleged Wilson sent at least 2,100 emails to then-Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Paul Hertel in 2016 "in a prolonged and egregious campaign of harassment" against the school system. Along with Hertel, now the superintendent, Wilson was accused of incessantly emailing school board members, employees and an attorney.
Wilson said the accusations are not relevant to her ability to serve as a Wheeling trustee because "all of it was based upon fraudulent claims."
"In a multifaceted, blitzkrieg-style legal assault against me, in their efforts to foil my efforts to obtain public records that would reveal them making poor choices, (District) 62 also filed a false criminal complaint against me fraudulently alleging that my email to them shut down their internet system causing the entire school district to lose functionality of their internet service," Wilson said.
Records show a judge found Wilson not guilty of harassment by electronic means, a misdemeanor that resulted from a report District 62 officials lodged with Des Plaines police in 2016.
Chicago-based Franczek P.C., the law firm that represented District 62 in the Wilson lawsuit, said the matter was resolved and dismissed in August 2017. Wilson, who represented herself in the civil case, said she didn't pay damages or court costs.
In June 2017, Lang, Vogel, Vito, Papantos, Krueger, late Trustee Ken Brady, Village President Pat Horcher and Village Clerk Elaine Simpson signed an open letter in response to what they called Wilson's "aggressive campaign of harassment and intimidation against the village."