In letter, Wheeling officials threaten resident with legal action
Wheeling officials have slammed a resident in a letter to media, neighboring communities and state lawmakers in an effort to fight her allegations against village officials.
Deborah Wilson, who often attends village board meetings and speaks during the public comment period, has leveled a barrage of criticisms against the village since last year. In the letter, village board members said that Wilson's requests for public records have cost taxpayers $144,000 to process, and they threatened legal action if she continues to "selfishly squander village resources."
"As the board of trustees, we resolve to do all that we can to prevent her from having further impact on the village's successful operations, including the use of any legal remedies available to us," the letter states.
Wilson's campaign against the village's alleged wrongdoing has had hits and misses.
Notably, she questioned former Village President Dean Argiris' use of taxpayer-funded resources. A Daily Herald investigation later showed Argiris used a village vehicle without restrictions and used a village credit card numerous times without a listed public purpose. At times, he was also months behind in paying village utility bills.
The village changed policies in response to each of these findings and Argiris then lost a re-election bid to Pat Horcher.
And in response to a complaint from Wilson, the Illinois attorney general determined Wheeling violated its own open meetings ordinance.
But a dozen other of Wilson's complaints to the state office resulted in no findings, village officials said.
More recently, Wilson alleged Economic Development Director John Melaniphy's private business is interfering with village work. Melaniphy owns the real estate consulting firm Melaniphy and Associates Inc. He has disclosed the company on statement of economic interest forms for Wheeling and Arlington Heights, where he previously worked. He's also refused to do any private work related to Wheeling.
Village staff hurriedly wrote the two-page, single-space letter at the direction of trustees after the meeting Monday, where Wilson sat in the audience.
"We all have the right to speak our minds -- the First Amendment guarantees that," Trustee Mary Krueger said. "However, when that speech is continually based on wild conjecture, riddled with incorrect facts and delivered with hatred and vitriol, that right is relinquished."
When Wilson asked to respond, Trustee Ken Brady admonished her.
"We've heard from you," Brady said, pointing at Wilson. "Shut up."
On Thursday, Wilson disputed claims in the letter and argued her criticisms are intended to expose wrongdoing. She said the village violated the state constitution by allowing Argiris' alleged misconduct. "Their actions have been felonious in nature," she said.
The letter said Wilson's "personal vendetta" against the village was driven by her frustration about the Wheeling Police Department's response to her neighbor allegedly entering her garage and threatening her. She also disputed the village's characterization in the letter of the nature of her termination from Des Plaines Elementary School District 62, where she worked as a literacy teacher. After the dismissal, Wilson was charged with harassment by electronic means, a misdemeanor she continues to fight in court.
Horcher said Wilson's actions have exposed certain issues, which have since been corrected. But Horcher said he disagrees with Wilson's attacks on village staff members and questioned the flurry of open records requests.
"I don't think there should be limits on the Freedom of Information Act, but is there a purpose? Is there a smoking gun?" Horcher said.