'Enough is enough': Amid anonymous mailers, robocalls, Elk Grove mayor starts 'naming names'

  • Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson criticizes a campaign-style mailer at a village board meeting Tuesday. The mayor also took aim at his political opponents, accusing them of fueling anonymous attacks on him.

      Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson criticizes a campaign-style mailer at a village board meeting Tuesday. The mayor also took aim at his political opponents, accusing them of fueling anonymous attacks on him. Christopher Placek | Staff Photographer

  • Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson on Tuesday directed a verbal onslaught at Mario Gullo, owner of George Gullo Development Corp., accusing him of being behind anti-Johnson robocalls and mailers. Gullo has denied the charge.

      Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson on Tuesday directed a verbal onslaught at Mario Gullo, owner of George Gullo Development Corp., accusing him of being behind anti-Johnson robocalls and mailers. Gullo has denied the charge. Christopher Placek | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/29/2020 8:52 AM

Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson on Tuesday lashed out at a local developer and other political opponents, accusing them of being behind a series of anonymous robocalls and campaign-style mailers ahead of a March 17 term limits referendum that could remove him from office.

It's not the first time the mayor has spoken from the village board dais about Mario Gullo of George Gullo Development Corp., but his public statements during a board meeting Tuesday night were his most direct and extensive about Gullo and others to date.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Enough is enough," Johnson said about a mailer attacking him received over the weekend. "Tonight, I'm gonna start naming names. This is gonna stop. This is not Elk Grove Village. This is not our community."

Johnson then launched into a half-hour speech contesting a recent robocall about his political consultant, Kitty Weiner, and her Entertainment Management Group, which books the village's summer concerts, and mailers that question campaign contributions and village contracts.

But perhaps his most pointed remarks were reserved for Gullo, whom the mayor accused of being behind the anonymous smear campaign.

Gullo, through his attorney Kim Walberg, has previously denied the charge.

Late Tuesday night, she said she wasn't in a position to respond to the mayor's comments point by point, not having seen video of the meeting. But she did provide a copy of a Jan. 15 cease-and-desist letter sent to village officials in which she threatened legal action should the mayor "continue to defame ... Mr. Gullo by falsely asserting that he is responsible for mailers, robocalls, the term limits referendum, or other similar activities."

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By the end of the verbal onslaught, Johnson took inspiration from "It's a Wonderful Life," comparing himself to main character George Bailey and Gullo to antagonist Henry Potter.

"It didn't become Pottersville. It stayed Bedford Falls," Johnson said. "I'm waiting for Clarence to come down. It's not gonna become Gulloville. It's gonna stay Elk Grove Village."

"Elk Grove Village, keep the faith. We're gonna get through this."

Gullo filed suit against the village nearly a year ago to block a forcible annexation of unincorporated properties he owns along Higgins Avenue. Johnson on Tuesday insinuated that the developer's motivations were financial, because Gullo's gravel lots -- which would be against village codes -- are used for leased truck parking.

"Truck parking is a cash business," Johnson said. "It must be a hell of a lot of cash."

The mayor claims Gullo put up Jeff Ziemann to run for village board in 2019 and accused one of Ziemann's campaign workers of printing and paying for anti-Johnson mailers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Johnson on Tuesday also took aim at Ziemann himself, mentioning Ziemann's recent Jan. 14 arrest in Elk Grove on a charge of battery of a woman, and a Dec. 3 arrest in Mount Prospect on a charge of obstructing/resisting a peace officer.

Ziemann didn't respond to a request for comment Tuesday night.

The mayor's remarks came a day after a Cook County judge ordered the village clerk to certify resident Tim Burns' term limits question, which will ask voters whether the mayor and trustees should be able to serve no more than two consecutive 4-year terms. Johnson is finishing his sixth straight term.

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