Wesley Township, IL. (ECWd) -
Wesley Township used a forged and notarized affidavit in Court filings/proceedings while attempting to defend a Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") lawsuit.
Yesterday, the former Wesley Township Clerk, Sarah Norton, appeared for a several hour Deposition related to an FOIA lawsuit brought by Cindy Brzana against Wesley Township and the Road District. The lawsuit alleges several violations of the Freedom of Information Act by the township.
The FOIA suit was also met with a counter-suit by the Township and a Township Trustee, Leonard McCubbin, who is the same trustee that previously settled his FOIA lawsuit against the township for payment of his attorney fees. In their counter-suit the township alleges fraud, and Trustee McCubbin alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress, and anxiety.
During the course of this FOIA lawsuit, Plaintiff's attorney secured a sworn affidavit signed by the former township clerk where she admitted to violating FOIA by not responding to lawful FOIA requests, based on political belief and willful denials.
Then, after learning of this initial affidavit, a second affidavit was purportedly executed by the former township clerk, and presented to Wesley Township's attorney, which alleged that the former clerk was harassed, coerced, and bullied into signing the first affidavit and that first affidavit was false.
This second affidavit was presented to the Court in later court filings as factual and authentic, by the Township's attorney - he even went so far as to file a complaint against Plaintiff's attorney with the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission ("ARDC") based on the information contained in the second affidavit.
Wesley Township's Attorney made no effort to verify the legitimacy of the second affidavit, and took it at face value when it was allegedly presented to him by John Norton, the former township clerk's father.
Snippit from the Deposition:
Plaintiff's Q: AND THE NAME THAT APPEARS TO BE SIGNED ABOVE YOUR NAME READS DAN. AND, I MEAN, ANY CANDID OBSERVER LOOKING AT THESE TWO SIGNATURES SIDE BY SIDE HAS TO QUESTION THE VERACITY OF THE SECOND ONE. AND THE REASON I QUESTION THIS IS BECAUSE IT APPEARS TO READ DAN AS OPPOSED TO SARAH NORTON, AND THAT IS COMPLETELY INCONSISTENT WITH EVERY OTHER SIGNATURE I HAVE HAD, I HAVE READ, OR I SEEN OF YOURS. CAN YOU EXPLAIN THAT TO ME?
Former Township Clerk's A: I DIDN'T SIGN THAT.
Q: SO AS YOU SIT HERE TODAY, YOU ARE CONFIDENT THAT'S NOT YOUR SIGNATURE. CORRECT?
A: NO, IT IS NOT.
Q: DO YOU KNOW ANYBODY NAMED LISA BUTLER?
Q: OKAY. LET'S GIVE THAT BACK TO THE --
A: WAIT. THE SIGNATURE ON THE BOTTOM, MY FATHER DID, SORRY. I DIDN'T REALIZE MY FATHER DID.
Q: YOUR FATHER PREPARED THE DOCUMENT AND HE SIGNED THE DOCUMENT?
A: HE PREPARED IT, I READ IT BUT I DID NOT SIGN IT.
Q: OKAY. DO YOU KNOW HOW MR. DICIANNI GOT AHOLD OF THIS DOCUMENT?
A: YES, MY FATHER GAVE IT TO HIM.
Township's Q: I JUST WANT TO TURN BACK TO THIS EXHIBIT 3 HERE FOR A SECOND. SO THIS SIGNATURE ON EXHIBIT 3 ABOVE SARAH NORTON, YOU BELIEVE THAT'S A FORGERY?
Former Township Clerk's A: YES. THAT IS NOT MY SIGNATURE.
Q: ANY IDEA WHO -- JUST DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHO MIGHT HAVE FORGED YOUR SIGNATURE?
A: BECAUSE HE WANTED THIS DONE SO BAD THAT HE -- I WOULDN'T PUT IT PAST HIM TO SIGN IT HONESTLY. THERE IS NOTHING MY FATHER WON'T DO TO GET WHAT HE WANTS, PLAIN AND SIMPLE, WHETHER ITS THROWING ME UNDER THE BUS OR MAKING MY LIFE HELL, HE WILL DO WHATEVER HE HAS TO GET WHAT HE WANTS OUT OF PEOPLE. IT DOESN'T MATTER WHO YOU ARE. IT DOESN'T MATTER WHO HE DESTROYS TO GET THERE.
Q; SO HE IS WILLING TO FORGE YOUR SIGNATURE --
A: YEP, AS LONG AS IT GETS HIM WHAT HE WANTS AND THAT'S SAD TO SAY BUT IT'S TRUE. YEP, BUT THAT'S THE PERSON MY FATHER IS, ALWAYS HAS BEEN, FROM WHAT I UNDERSTAND. AND TO BE CLEAR, I AM NOTHING LIKE HIM, NOR DO I WANT TO BE. I'M A BETTER PERSON THAN HE IS. I HAVE MORE RESPECT FOR PEOPLE.
FOIA lawsuits are not uncommon, however, we have never witnessed a public body take one this far in their defense. FOIA lawsuits are what reporters (and citizens) do when faced with public bodies who flaunt open records laws. Some examples are the Chicago Tribune who won their FOIA lawsuit against the College of DuPage and its Foundation, costing the college and foundation $500,000.00 for the Tribune's attorney fees and had to produce a Subpoena. In Washington, the News-Tribune won a FOIA lawsuit taking more than 6 years and costing the Pearce County taxpayers more than $1,500,000.00 trying to keep nine text messages of the county prosecutor's office from seeing the light of day. City of Carlinville settled our FOIA lawsuit against them by paying our attorney $90,000.00 and producing the requested records.
Wesley Township appears to be on track to have their name added to the list of government bodies who would rather fight the requester's rights to information than provide documents as required under the law.