Orland Park, IL. (ECWd) –
Orland Park Library’s Bridget Bittman Sued A Second Time
In November 2015, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was made to the Orland Park Public Library (OPPL) asking for all documents related to any employee invoking the Library’s Indemnification Policy. This is a policy that the Board of Trustees passed back in May 2014 that allows any current or former OPPL employee to ask the Library to pay for attorneys if the employee is sued. The policy then allows the Library to go to one of its two insurance carriers, The Hanover Insurance Group (Hanover) or ACE Limited (ACE), and obtain complimentary legal services for the employee under the Library’s “Public Officials Insuring Agreement.”
The OPPL finally responded to the FOIA request (after some delay) on 12/03/15. It produced a 500-page packet of documents that primarily concerned Bridget Bittman and the various legal troubles she is currently in.
Until July of 2015, Bittman was the Public Information Officer (essentially the spokesman) for the OPPL, but has since left the OPPL and now reportedly does not work in a library or anywhere involved with libraries. Her Linked-In profile states that she works at “a great nonprofit” but gives no more specifics. Documents produced by the OPPL responsive to the FOIA request show that the Library’s insurance carriers continue to pay for Bittman’s attorneys in two matters, even though Bittman is no longer an OPPL employee.
No doubt, these expenses for Bittman’s legal defense in these two lawsuits will end up costing taxpayers a pretty penny as they factor into increased future premiums that the Library will have to pay as a result of Bittman invoking the Indemnification Policy to foist the cost of her attorneys onto the Library’s insurers (and ultimately taxpayers). The Library does not automatically file an insurance claim when an employee is sued: their policy is very specific in that the employee must choose to ask the Library to file an insurance claim to provide the employee with complimentary attorneys that are paid for under the Library’s insurance policy.
The first lawsuit filed against Bridget Bittman that we knew about was where Bittman invoked the Indemnification Policy in June 2015 and asked the Library to pay for her attorneys after she was sued by Megan Fox in federal court for defamation. Fox’s complaint contends that Bittman made false and defamatory statements to the media to damage Fox’s reputation, lied to reporters by saying that Fox’s youngsters were not with her in the Library on a day when Fox reported a bad experience with an OPPL employee, and cost Fox employment when Bittman knowingly and maliciously lied to one media member in particular (and permanently ruined a professional relationship Fox had with a prospective employer).
In this instance, Bittman invoked the Indemnification Policy so that the Library would provide her with complimentary attorneys in the matter of Fox’s defamation lawsuit…and the OPPL asked its insurance company, Hanover, to pay for those attorneys. Hanover approved this claim then hired the firm Gordon Rees to defend Bittman in the defamation lawsuit. Gordon Rees remains her attorneys to this day (at no cost to Bittman).
No mention of this is made on Bittman’s GoFundMe page, where she continues to solicit money from gullible strangers, supposedly for her “legal costs,” when Hanover as the Library’s insurer is actually defending Bittman at no cost to her in this defamation suit. It is also important to note that Bittman is the granddaughter of Dorothy Comiskey Rigney, the former owner of the Chicago White Sox, and that she took a Spring Break vacation to sunny Florida in the middle of pleading poverty on the GoFundMe site this past spring, as reported here: http://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/2015/04/orland-park-librarys-bridget-bittman-begs-on-gofundme-vacations-in-florida/
It turns out that Fox’s defamation suit was not the only lawsuit that has been filed against Bridget Bittman regarding her conduct as the OPPL’s Public Information Officer.
The FOIA request filed in November turned up pages and pages of correspondence between the OPPL’s Business Manager, Scott Remmenga, and various entities at both Hanover and ACE after Bittman was sued in federal court by a man named Chris Sevier, an anti-pornography activist who named Bittman as a defendant in a lawsuit he filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Sevier’s lawsuit alleges product liability, violation of the RICO Act, violations of good faith, failure to operate as expected, breach of duty, threat to public, failure to disclose, fraud, misrepresentation, negligence, violation of state Consumer Protection standards, violation of the Lanham Act, false advertising, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, outrageous conduct, and conspiracy.
After Bittman invoked the Indemnification Policy, the Library asked Hanover to provide Bittman with attorneys to defend her in Sevier’s suit. Hanover, however, refused to provide coverage and rejected the Library’s claim for defense and indemnity to Bittman in the matter of Sevier v. Bittman, et al.
The OPPL then turned to its second insurance company and asked ACE to provide Bittman with attorneys under its Public Entity Liability Policy. ACE complied by assigning a man named Keith Bergin as the adjuster for this claim and hiring James Brown (presumably not the deceased Godfather of Soul, but another man by the same name) and James Kahn of the firm Margolis Edelstein to represent Bittman in the matter with Sevier.
So, in two separate lawsuits, Bittman obtained complimentary legal representation paid for by the Library’s two separate insurance carriers by stating that she is a public official and invoking a public official’s indemnity provisions.
This is problematic for Bittman, because when she sued Megan Fox, Kevin DuJan, Dan Kleinman, and other outspoken critics of the Orland Park Public Library, Bittman claimed she is not a public official. If she had not made that claim, her lawsuit would not have been allowed to go forward because of our state’s Citizen Protection Act (which protects the free speech of watchdogs who criticize public employees for bad behavior). To get around that, Bittman had to say she was a private citizen for purposes of that lawsuit. Yet, when Bittman was sued by Fox for defamation (and also, we now learn, sued by Sevier as well), Bittman claimed she was a public official after all. That was because when she was sued, Bittman wanted the Library to have to pay for her attorneys so she would not have to pay for them herself. So, she essentially says whatever she needs to say in the moment to get what she wants at that time.
The documents obtained via FOIA show that the OPPL was copied extensively on every filing in Bittman’s lawsuit against Fox, DuJan, Kleinman et al and that OPPL staff seem to be monitoring that case very closely, despite Bittman claiming she is not a public official for the purposes of that lawsuit that she filed. The Library’s continued involvement in that suit is what makes us believe it to be a SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) that was filed by Bittman with the support and encouragement of the Library, most notably Trustee Diane Jennings who called for Bittman to file the suit during an open public meeting that we attended in August 2014. It is common for a SLAPP to be filed by a public employee acting as a proxy for a public body and for the public employee to claim not to be a public official when filing the SLAPP. What’s unusual is to see Bittman do a 180 and later claim she is a public official when doing that suits her in some other moment.
It is a strange and dishonest game that Bittman plays where in one document she claims she is not a public official, but in another she claims she is in fact a public official. When Bittman sues people, she says she is not a public official so she can file her lawsuit. But when Bittman gets sued (even by people she herself just sued!), she howls that she is indeed a public official who should have immunity and indemnity and all the perks of having a public entity and its insurers pay for her attorneys.
The GoFundMe begging continues unabated no matter what hat or mask Bittman decides to wake up in the morning and wear that day.