We have talked about District 86’s educational leadership in previous posts, about transparency, and about suppressing information. Now: an observation on identifying the loom for this pattern, and the weavers that may be at work.
This site has been criticized for maintaining its authors’ anonymity (as well as that of commenters who choose to remain anonymous), and we responded with a brief note about the history of anonymity in America. We closed that note with a reminder that the major criticism is that anonymity fosters untruths, but that there are remedies for that potential drawback in other, existing laws – such as defamation tort law. Another set of laws relates to campaign contribution disclosure.
One commenter to Joe O’Donnell’s Patch article about the District 86 attack on our website was candid enough to admit that she actually judges the veracity of a factual proposition by its proponent. Similarly, campaign disclosure law qualifies assertions of political opinion/endorsement by requiring identification of its proponent(s). Would it then surprise you to know that the major proponent of attacks on this site, was himself found liable for campaign disclosure violations?
After several administrative hearings were held, an Election Board hearing officer issued a written report on October 5, 2001, finding, inter alia, that the [pro-incumbent political] committee and plaintiff [District 86 Board of Education President Dennis Brennan] failed to report contributions to the committee in excess of $500 within two business days; plaintiff failed to turn over to the acting committee chairman financial receipts and proofs of transactions to the committee; plaintiff filed a false D-1 statement of organization naming David Zapata as chairman and treasurer when, in fact, plaintiff was the committee’s de facto chairman and treasurer; plaintiff allowed the committee to accept and expend funds at a time when the committee had vacancies in the offices of chairman and treasurer; plaintiff filed a false D-1 and amended D-1 by failing to list his name as a sponsoring entity; and plaintiff’s actions were performed with the intent to violate the Election Code. Brennan, 336 Ill. App. 3d at 758.
Brennan v. Kadner, no. 1-03-1476 (emphasis added).
The hearing officer forwarded his report to the Election Board, which
. . . adopted the hearing officer’s findings of fact and conclusions of law. The order directed plaintiff, the committee, and David Zapata, to cease and desist from the conduct complained of in the complaint; it levied a fine against the committee in the amount of $4,200, which was stayed until further order of the Election Board, and it directed the Election Board’s general counsel to send a copy of the order to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office and to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. [Brennan v. Kadner]
Brennan is an attorney, and in fact maintains a website listing practice areas including “election law [and] municipal bond issues”. His work has included serving as legal counsel for School District 229 (in Oak Lawn, Illinois); in fact, “[i]t was established that if the four candidates [Brennan opposed] were elected to the school board, plaintiff would lose his contract as counsel for the school district.” Brennan v. Kadner
Brennan personally financed the production of some 7000 videotapes attacking the threat to his revenue stream, which were distributed to registered District 229 voters. Interestingly, Brennan’s website proclaims a college major in “Mass Communications”. Also interesting is that Brennan claims to have the advice of District 86’s attorneys that this site is violating District policy; interesting because: the two conservatively leaning members of the Board of Education have voted against paying that firm’s legal bills on a number of occasions, and have suggested placing the no-bid legal services contract up for competitive bid.
What has changed in the year since initial attacks on this site’s validity were put soundly to rest? Well, the only readily identifiable change is the passage of time: Board elections are 12 months closer.
Concern for the truth? The Court opinion from which we have quoted extensively herein resulted from a defamation suit Brennan filed against the Daily Southtown newspaper when it persisted in reporting Brennan’s run-in with election law. The result of the suit: Dismissal (thrown out – Brennan failed to state a case worthy of trial), affirmed by the Appellate Court. Brennan v. Kadner. We have to wonder, however, whether Brennan’s goal was to establish truth – or to impose a financial burden/penalty on media critical of Brennan.
Take care to understand the point of this post: We are not pots calling the kettle black. We have no knowledge that Brennan lied about his political opponents, or that his campaign strategy was immoral. The point is that Brennan attacks us for violating a policy designed to ensure no one will be confused into thinking we speak officially for the District – while he demonstrated great enthusiasm (to the very verge of criminal conduct) for disguising his own politicking.
Brennan has made no attempt to outline a sound legal theory for threatening suit against this website (the argument would have to be that either (or both) “Hinsdale” or “high school” is a proprietary term). But we do see a consistent pattern: mass communication is sometimes the art of sacrificing truth to the molding of opinion. As Winston Churchill said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”