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December 3, 2023

Video: Wheeling’s vicious attack on citizens puts James V. Ferolo (Klein Thorpe Jenkins Law Offices) in the hotseat –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On September 19, 2017


Last night’s Village of Wheeling’s Board of Trustees meeting is one that will surely be forever remembered.

During the public comment of the liquor commission, speakers talked about what they believed to be bad advice given to the board by their attorney, James V. Ferolo, of Klein Thorpe Jenkins Law Offices, and the vicious attacks on a citizen for her comments.  Ferolo immediately went on the offensive and started interrupting and attacking the speakers.

This type of behavior on behalf of the village board and the village attorney is inexcusable. Recent weeks have been met with attempts at censoring the public. Ferolo appears to be leading the village down a path of incurring billable hours as a result of his advice.

We recently wrote about the insulting letter sent to a citizen and how it was filled with purported rules which violate the law (here). We assume he had a part in writing those rules and advising the board of what they can get by with. Which, by the way, will surely result in more billable hours for his law firm.

Other articles covering this out-of-control village board include:

  • Trustee Mary Kreuger saying the First Amendment doesn’t cover offending speech that she doesn’t like (here)
  • Trustee Ken Brady telling disabled woman to “Shut up” (here)
  • Village President Horcher praising the Constitution, then trampling all over the First Amendment (here)
  • Village coming up with their definition of what a public record is (here)
  • Endorsing thru enabling former Mayor Argiris’ illegal use of public credit and public vehicles for his personal business purposes – and still have not asked for his prosecution – even though they know laws were violated
  • Authorized a liquor license for the funeral home where the now-former Mayor Argiris was employed
  • Allegations that they committed criminal intimidation thru crafting and endorsing an attack letter, and sending it to over 100 people.
  • Public Comment Rules that violate law (here)

Several weeks ago, the Village Board published a letter viciously attacking a citizen for her public comments at board meetings. They wrote a several page letter and sent it to all of the surrounding communities and local media. This letter was a clear-cut case of intimidation against a citizen, with the power of government behind them.

In our opinion, the letter met the definition of criminal intimidation and should be charged as such (definition here).

Video from the Wheeling Liquor Commission:

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  • Mike
    Posted at 15:18h, 19 September

    Boards can’t limit the topic of a public comment?

    Is there specific boilerplate language a public commenter can use when encountering such a situation?

    • Kevin duJan
      Posted at 20:30h, 19 September

      The public may address any public body in any open public meeting on any topic that the member of the public chooses. This is provided for in the First Amendment as part of everyone’s Right to Petition a public body for redress of grievances; it is a violation of your constitutionally protected civil rights for a public body to attempt to censor or dictate what you can or cannot speak about.

      If you want a specific determination that the Attorney General’s office cites, then use one that was employed against the Orland Park Public Library back in 2014. At a January meeting, the Library did not want to be criticized for staff allowing child pornography to be accessed on library computers…and the Board was confronted with the fact that its employees were deliberately looking the other way and not calling the police when the Orland Park Public Library’s computers were being used to view child pornography. The Library’s own incident reports documented that this had happened.

      At the January 20th 2014 meeting, Board President Nancy Wendt Healy stated that no one could talk about computers or the Internet any more “because the Board didn’t want to hear about those problems no more.” (sic)

      A Request for Review was filed with the Attorney General’s Office because no board can restrict the content of what the public can talk about at an open public meeting; a public meeting is the opportunity for the public to petition a public body about anything it chooses. A public body may only restrict the amount of time available to speak, the part of the agenda where the public will be heard, and the maximum time allotted for the public as a whole to address the board. No public body can dictate what topics are off limits or what you can or cannot say.

      The PAC investigated and issued a determination stating that the Orland Park Public Library indeed violated the Open Meetings Act when Board President Healy would not allow people to talk about the Library’s computer problems at that January meeting. There is a video of this Board doing this and being busted on it here:

      • Mike
        Posted at 11:26h, 20 September

        To be sure I’m understanding this, here is a scenario.

        The board has two items on its agenda for public comments, one near the beginning of the agenda, and one near the end of the agenda.

        In the first public comment agenda item, near the beginning of the agenda, comments are only accepted for agenda items to be discussed at the meeting.

        In the second public comment agenda item, near the end of the agenda, any comments are permissible.

        In that scenario, is any comment permissible during the first public comment agenda item?

        • jmkraft
          Posted at 11:36h, 20 September

          It was two separate meetings. The Liquor Commission, which is the one in the video, and later the Village Board meeting, which will be in a later article.

          • Mike
            Posted at 15:16h, 20 September

            I was referring to another governmental body that has two items on one agenda for public comments.

            The first public comment agenda item (beginning of the agenda) is limited to only items on the agenda.

            The second public comment agenda (end of the agenda) allows any comment.

            But from Kevin’s comments, it seems this other governmental body cannot limit any public comment.

            It seems if one is challenged for speaking about what the government body deems off topic during that first public comment period, the answer is the First Amendment (to the US Constitution?) allows one to speak about anything they desire during any public comment.

            The government is not allowed to limit the topic of public comments period, no exceptions.

            That’s my understanding from this article and thread.

        • Kevin duJan
          Posted at 11:47h, 20 September

          Your First Amendment right to petition the government means you can speak about anything you want during public comment. You need to step out of the mindset that these people are overlords who can decide your topics for you or choose what you are allowed to say. That is not true. They lie when they say they can do that. They know they are lying.

          The truth is that they have to listen to the public. No matter what the public wants to say. Any public meeting must have public comment on the agenda. During public comment, the public may talk about anything. You can get up there and talk about how ugly you think the board’s outfits are. You can talk about your favorite Joan Crawford movie (mine is Sudden Fear). You can read your favorite recipes (I have a great one for watermelon feta and arugula salad).

          They are not allowed to tell you that you can’t talk about anything you want.

  • Ted Hartke
    Posted at 18:44h, 19 September

    What about the regular board meeting that started after this liquor commission meeting? Can you post those public comments, also??

  • Bob Judd
    Posted at 19:30h, 19 September

    Great video. I like the tenacity the (2) Citizens showed when they were confronted by the Mayor and the Attorney.. A Board member should sit back and realize that they will always look [foolish] when they attempt to intimidate or silence a Citizen expressing their Opinion during Public Comments..
    It is what I deem as an -Etch A Sketch- moment, because the blatant abuse by a Board member towards a Citizen will be ”Etched” into peoples memory and make the person commenting more legitimate. i.e. A -confrontation- will be remembered longer by the public than simply letting them speak..

    • Kevin duJan
      Posted at 21:01h, 19 September

      I love that term “Etch-a-Sketch” moment. I’ve always called it a “Before And After,” where life is never the same “after” whatever happened. I like your take better. When they behave like this, I think it deservedly haunts them forever. No one will forget their tantrums in public.

    Posted at 20:18h, 19 September

    Wow! A board chair, by deeds and actions asserts Americans no longer have the right to free speech; but of course we’re entitled to his brand of censorship.

    And he’s followed; and then led by his out of order assistant…apparently an unscrupulous product from the Illinois Bar….whom interrupts with impunity and without consequence; bullying citizens at his whim.

    Then, all of this is at a public meeting and video taped for all the world to see. Ignorance of the law and our constitution on display. Incredible. Only in a state with a 15 billion dollar deficit can this happen. Illinois.

    Wouldn’t these buys be better suited for and have better luck controlling public opinion in a third world country, cuz it seems like that’s the play book they’re on.

    When and where is the next meeting?

  • Roger
    Posted at 10:30h, 20 September

    These videos make me hungry for popcorn. I bet a vendor could make money at these meetings.