Tirio's lawyer files proposed defamation suit with discovery petition
Joe Tirio’s lawyer attached a proposed defamation lawsuit to a court petition that seeks to reveal who was behind three political mailers attacking Tirio during his Republican primary campaign for McHenry County clerk.
Woodstock lawyer Phil Prossnitz told the McHenry Times that he attached the proposed suit so the judge could see where they were going with interrogatories -- questions they had for two parties who might know who paid for the mailers: the Chicago-based printer Breaker Press, which printed the mailers, and Janice Dalton, Tirio’s opponent in the primary.
A group calling itself the Illinois Integrity Fund funded the mailers, but research by Tirio and others uncovered no names of individuals associated with the group. The group, moreover, failed to register with the Illinois State Board of elections as required by law.
The mailers accused Tirio, who won the primary, and other Republican candidates, of being “crooked, sleazy and filled with racist hate-filled ideas.” They also accused Tirio of keeping a “secret taxpayer-funded slush fund to take trips” and “pad his payroll with patronage workers.”
The mailers were sent to homes in the weeks before the March 20 primary.
Prossnitz said that in politics a certain amount of “mudslinging” is to be expected, but when malice is behind the lies it goes too far.
“We all have freedom of speech but at the same time you can’t yell ‘fire!’ in a crowded movie theater if there isn’t a fire,” Prossnitz said. “When there is malice behind the lies even in political speech then it’s defamation.”
In making a case to question Dalton, the petition cited robocalls from Dalton during the campaign where she used some of the same language contained in the mailers: “My opponent, Joe Tirio, has been overcharging customers and using a secret taxpayer-financed slush fund to take trips and pad his payroll with patronage workers. I will put an end to Tirio's overcharging the taxpayers and stop his shady practice of covert patronage hires.”
“The operative phrase, ‘secret taxpayer-funded slush fund,’" the petition says, “is word-for-word the same phrase used by the unknown entity of the Illinois Integrity Fund.”
The proposed defamation suit would seek compensatory damages in an amount in excess of $50,000, punitive damages in an amount as determined to be appropriate, an award of reasonable costs in bringing the instant action, and such other amounts as this court deems just and appropriate.
In January, the Northwest Herald published a report that Dalton filed for bankruptcy the same day she filed to run for Clerk. It was a month after her husband accused her of misappropriating more than $30,000 from his annuity fund, the report said.
If elected in November, Tirio, now the McHenry County recorder, says he will work to combine the two offices to save the taxpayers money.