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April 15, 2024

OPPL’s Bridget Bittman’s “SLAPP” lawsuit update –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On April 12, 2015

Orland Park, Illinois (ECWd) –

Bridget Bittman, the public information officer and self-styled “crisis manager” of the Orland Park Public Library (OPPL), filed what we refer to as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) last October against several outspoken critics of the library and its Board of Trustees. This suit is meritless and is clearly intended to scare away critics of public library boards and prevent them from speaking out against illegal activity committed by library staffers and board members. Read our other articles on this lawsuit (HERE).

It feels like a line in the sand has been drawn, and public libraries in our state are afraid that if the critics of the OPPL are not utterly destroyed then the spotlight of scrutiny will fall on other libraries…since none of them want to be next, they all wish to obliterate the OPPL’s critics.

This week, Bittman’s attorney, Meghan Nugent of the Mudd law firm in Chicago, filed for another extension to delay responding to Motions to Dismiss the suit under Illinois’ anti-SLAPP legislation. Bittman’s meritless SLAPP lawsuit appears to be designed to silence critics who have shined a spotlight on the fact that the OPPL allowed child porn to be accessed in the library and never called the police (as they were required to do, not only under federal and state law but also according to their own internal written policies).

The OPPL has publicly admitted that child porn was accessed in March of 2011 and that staff chose not to call the police. The man who accessed the child porn got away, even when he came back to the library a second time (and staff spotted him, but again, chose not to call the police). No explanation was ever given for why Library Director Mary Weimar decided to keep the child porn incident under wraps and allow this man to get away, but in August 2014 OPPL Trustee (and attorney) Diane Irene Jennings gave a speech at a board meeting where she confirmed that the child porn had been accessed and staff did not respond properly. You can watch that admission here.

Bittman herself also admitted that the child porn had been accessed and that other illegal acts and disturbing sexual incidents had occurred in the OPPL through the years. Almost none of these incidents were ever reported to police by library staff. There have been more incidents like this at the OPPL than at any other library in the area because staff at the OPPL appear to have deliberately looked the other way when these things were happening. Bittman admits to the child porn on Dan Proft and Bruce Wolf’s radio show (HERE).

When Jennings and Bittman go out in public together, they behave reprehensibly (HERE).

Bittman’s ongoing SLAPP suit is important to keep an eye on for several reasons, most importantly because the OPPL proves that public libraries across our state are currently covering up incidents of child porn access, public masturbation, stalking, and other sex acts that occur in libraries, and library boards don’t want critics shining a light on what is happening.

Most people can’t imagine a public library doing anything illegal, but clearly it’s time we start shining a spotlight on these library boards in every county.

The American Library Association and the Illinois Library Association give seminars to library employees on how to evade our state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Open Meetings Act laws and we have been told this also includes how to use the police and media as weapons against citizens who complain about illegal activities happening in libraries. The goal is to scare away critics and to create a chilling effect in Illinois where people at large are terrified of speaking out against government bodies, even public libraries and their boards.

Megan Fox and Kevin DuJan, two conservative writers in Chicago, used FOIA requests to uncover incident reports completed by OPPL employees in recent years that showed child porn was accessed in the library and that other crimes were committed and covered up. They also discovered evidence of thousands of dollars of wasteful spending at the OPPL, including board members improperly using public funds to take themselves out to expensive dinners and buy food for themselves for board meetings (which is prohibited under state law).

Bittman, acting as the OPPL’s spokesperson to the media, lied about the events occurring in the library and tried to discredit Fox & DuJan and turn the public against them. She’s continued to lie in press releases and interviews since. Laughably, local media never fact-checks her…but anyone following the story and watching the determinations made by the Attorney General regarding the OPPL’s actions can see this board has been in the wrong at every step.

This nonstop lying to the media has been part of the OPPL’s crisis management strategy to scare away Fox & DuJan as critics. When they wouldn’t be scared away, the OPPL used the Orland Park Police as a weapon against them and kept escalating things in a pattern and practice of intimidation tactics. Because Fox & DuJan have held their ground and the OPPL has refused to own up to and remedy its wrongdoing, the OPPL’s “crisis management” efforts of attack have reached epic proportions.

A SLAPP suit, by definition, is one designed to have a chilling effect on public participation and to make the public scared of criticizing public bodies like the OPPL. This lawsuit by Bittman also seemed designed to cut Fox & DuJan off from allies like Kleinman, Adrzejewski, and For the Good of Illinois and alienate them from their natural supporters. It seems like the OPPL wanted to cost Fox & DuJan the support they already had and keep anyone else out there from joining in the efforts to uncover what’s been going on in that place.

It’s curious how many extensions Bittman’s attorney keeps filing. You’d think that if this lawsuit had any merit that her attorney would be prepared to bring the case before the judge. Instead, she just seems to be delaying and delaying and delaying for no apparent good reason.

Here is her latest request for more time to respond to the motions to dismiss this suit. Notice of Motion and Motion for Extension.

Bittman has claimed in online postings that she is paying for her attorney out of her own pocket through a $10,000 home equity loan and that the Mudd law firm is not working on a contingency basis but is instead charging her an astronomical retainer and billing by the hour. Normally, attorneys work on contingency if they believe the case is strong and that the plaintiff is in the right. If it’s a good case, an attorney feels confident of prevailing and being paid in a judgment.

When an attorney demands a retainer and requires rolling payment for hours worked on a case, it seems like a law firm didn’t have enough faith in the merits of the case to take the work on contingency. A hefty retainer seems like a warning sign that a plaintiff’s case is meritless and that the attorney didn’t have enough faith in winning to risk a contingency agreement.

Under Illinois’ anti-SLAPP legislation, Bittman could eventually be held responsible for the attorneys fees that Fox & DuJan, et al. have incurred because of her vexatious SLAPP suit. That’s going to be a lot of money in legal bills. It could be record-setting, considering the caliber of attorneys involved on the defense team.

Fox & DuJan are represented by Kirkland & Ellis, which was recently ranked as the most prestigious law firm in Chicago by Business Insider magazine. Kleinman is represented by a top gay rights attorney downtown (because Kleinman reported on Bittman making homophobic slurs in public last year). Andrzejewski and For the Good of Illinois are represented by the Thomas More Society, which is one of the country’s most respected public-interest law firms.

The new deadline for Bittman to respond to the motions to dismiss this lawsuit is April 23rd, 2014. Then, Fox & DuJan and the others will have until May14th to rebut whatever the Mudd law firm comes up with in this next filing,  unless Bittman kicks the can down the road again and delays things some more.

Meanwhile, critics of government waste and illegal activity continue to be afraid to speak up because Fox & DuJan and the others have been SLAPPed in this high profile suit. The intended effect of a meritless and vexatious lawsuit like this is to scare away watchdogs and critics, because people in Illinois are afraid of being sued like Fox & DuJan and the others were sued.

Bittman goes off on vacation to sunny (and expensive!) Florida. Her lawyers put in for more extensions (and billable hours to eat up that retainer!). And the people of Illinois get scared of what will happen to them if they criticize their government (SLAPP!).
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  • ECWDogs
    Posted at 09:11h, 12 April

    OPPL’s Bridget Bittman’s “SLAPP” lawsuit update –

  • SafeLibraries
    Posted at 11:10h, 12 April

    RT @ECWDogs: OPPL’s Bridget Bittman’s “SLAPP” lawsuit update –

  • SafeLibraries
    Posted at 11:19h, 12 April

    I’m sued for defamation over her #lgbt #gay #h8: RT @ECWDogs: OPPL’s Bridget Bittman’s “SLAPP” lawsuit update –

  • parryaftab
    Posted at 11:20h, 12 April

    RT @SafeLibraries: I’m sued for defamation over her #lgbt #gay #h8: RT @ECWDogs: OPPL’s Bridget Bittman’s “SLAPP” lawsuit update – http://t…

  • SafeLibraries
    Posted at 11:21h, 12 April

    #OrlandPark #library @OrlandPkLibrary #teamharpy #libchat MT @ECWDogs: OPPL’s Bridget Bittman’s SLAPP suit update –

  • Mitch
    Posted at 11:24h, 12 April

    Quite a fantasy you’ve written.

  • SafeLibraries
    Posted at 16:19h, 12 April

    I’m “represented by a top #gay rights attorney” #lgbt #lgbtq #libchat #TeamHarpy @EvilEsq @GeorgeTakei MT @ECWDogs:

  • Dana
    Posted at 17:56h, 12 April

    I saw on video (think it was the August 2014 board meeting) where Diane Jennings and the board encouraged Bittman to file this lawsuit. So that is a public body telling one of its employees to sue critics of the public body during an open public meeting that was recorded on video. I don’t see how the library is not responsible for all of this in the end. Won’t the library have to pay all these legal bills because Bittman is indemnified? It is my understanding that in May 2014, not long before this lawsuit was filed, the library passed a new policy that indemnifies its employees and board members. That means that the library is going to pick up the tab for all of this when the dust settles. We are talking hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

    • jmkraft
      Posted at 17:59h, 12 April

      No, this was a private action by Bittman – not as an employee, otherwise the Library would be an additional Plaintiff.

      • Socrate's ghost
        Posted at 18:23h, 12 April

        Is this really a “private action” though? If a sitting board member during an open public meeting told an employee of the public body to sue critics of the public body, how can that be a true “private action”? Isn’t this instead just a public body slapping at its critics and using an employee as a tool to do that?

  • vonea
    Posted at 18:19h, 12 April

    RT @SafeLibraries: I’m “represented by a top #gay rights attorney” #lgbt #lgbtq #libchat #TeamHarpy @EvilEsq @GeorgeTakei MT @ECWDogs: http…

  • StoryTimeDigita
    Posted at 18:27h, 12 April

    @EvilEsq SLAPP suit in Chicago

  • SafeLibraries
    Posted at 20:36h, 12 April

    Yes. I am indeed waiting for this lawsuit to reach a conclusion before I say what I really want to say. So the lawsuit is indeed stifling free speech, including mine.

    The repeated extensions, I’m guessing, are to extend the period of time people cannot speak freely about the child porn that the library makes available and covers up by any means necessary, hence the huge legal bills and the false claims that Megan and Kevin are the cause of the high bills.

    By the way, I have never taken my child to Disney on vacation because I cannot afford it. Perhaps I should start a GoFundMe project to spread a fake story to promote a false narrative, and while I’m at it, to raise funding for me due to her suing me, then take flight to Florida for a week.

    My opinion, of course.

    • Mitch
      Posted at 21:44h, 12 April

      If everything you say is true, you have no worries. This comment makes one realize you are saying untrue thing.

      • SafeLibraries
        Posted at 23:27h, 12 April

        Then I have no worries. YOU may realize anything you wish but as you never address issues and only make ad hominem argument, I’m not surprised you have misled yourself.

      • Blaine
        Posted at 23:43h, 12 April

        The big problem with this lawsuit is that for the moment it encourages other public employees to lash out at critics and file SLAPP suits. Ms. Bittman has even been the featured speaker at events where public employee attendees were trained on tactics to scare away critics. One such tactic is filing nuisance defamation lawsuits. What’s really important here is that Ms. Bittman ultimately have to pay all the legal bills (hers as well as the people she sued) for this. Until public employees are personally held financially responsible for tactics like this, they will see no reason not to do something like this. Right now there are public employees looking at this suit and thinking they too can get rid of critics by suing them for defamation. They think they won’t have a consequence for that. It feels like all the extensions that are filed are to drag this out so that possibly public employees stop paying attention and don’t see this tactic Ms. Bittman has employed is not a good one.

        • Mitch
          Posted at 19:06h, 13 April

          I understand there’s a rash of public employees filing lawsuits against critics.

          • jmkraft
            Posted at 21:31h, 13 April

            Yes, there is. I had one file a motion against me for sanctions because I sued them for violating the open meetings act – claiming I was just harassing them – like I twisted their arms and made them violate the law or something…

            Ford-Iroquois Health Department sent us a letter threatening to sue if we didn’t quit writing about their theft, grant fraud, and other law-breaking – so we wrote an article about their threat and they never bothered to sue us – because they knew we were right.

  • SafeLibraries
    Posted at 13:26h, 14 April

    #nlwd15 #nlw15 #nlw2015 RT @ECWDogs: OPPL’s Bridget Bittman’s “SLAPP” lawsuit update –