Proteja sus ojos. Tápate los oídos. Esto acaba de llegar … El presidente de la junta directiva, Antonio Milazzo, presentó una demanda en contra de otro propietario. Afirma “acoso electrónico.” Pero es un SLAPP. SANTO DIOS! Eso es un gran problema!
Translation: Shield your eyes. Cover your ears. This just in… 111 East Chestnut Condo board president, Anthony Milazzo, just filed a SLAPP lawsuit against a unit owner. In an attempt to shush the owner up, on June 11 Milazzo filed a Complaint with the State’s Attorney claiming “electronic harassment.” Uh-Oh!
Before anyone panics, let’s first get our bearings: What’s a SLAPP suit? And what exactly constitutes “electronic harassment”?
A SLAPP is a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. According to Wikipedia:
“It’s a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. The typical SLAPP plaintiff does not normally expect to win the lawsuit. The plaintiff’s goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism. A SLAPP may also intimidate others from participating in the debate.”
That said, what really puts “strategic” in SLAPP is finding an angle just amorphous enough to avoid the charge of “frivolous litigation.”
What’s a weapon of choice? Electronic harassment. Illinois statute define it as:
“The use of an electronic communications devise to: (1) Make any comment, request, suggestion or proposal which is obscene with an intent to offend; (2) Interrupt, with the intent to harass, the telephone service or the electronic communication service of any person; (3) Transmit to any person, with the intent to harass any file, document, or other communication which prevents that person from using his or her telephone service or electronic communications device; and (4) Threaten injury to the person or to the property of the person to whom an electronic communication is directed or to any of his or her family or household members.”
That’s perfect. Just amorphous enough to be semi believable and rise a hair above blatantly in-your-face frivolous. In the case of Milazzo, he doesn’t claim to having been actually harassed personally, but by proxy, i.e. in the vicinity kinda sorta maybe. Not that that scenario is restricted by the actual law or at all reconciled with the First Amendment, the Condo Act, and normal condominium government politics; but what the Hell.
More regarding the alleged SLAPP: According to Connolly, as he presently has two lawsuits against Milazzo, he’s had no contact with Milazzo whatsoever. Connolly said, “Tony’s just pissed about the 111EastChestnut.org blog as it’s out of his control. He did something similar to me last year with his fining me a grand for talking to fellow homeowners about the rules. There, too, he created a ruse and used it as a weapon. There, too, he abused the process to try to intimidate me and others into shutting up.”
So much for the drama. What’s really at issue here? In a word, “governance.”
Fundamentally, there are three legs of condo governance and homeowner relief. Regrettably, most often the first 2 are radically dysfunctional. You can: 1. Petition the board; 2. Petition the owners, i.e. proxy battles, publicity campaigns, shareholder resolutions; and as a last resort, 3. Petition watchdogs, i.e. outside forums with oversight authority such as courts, or City and State Regulatory bodies.
For over two years now, we at 111 have been dead in the water as to 1 and 2. And now, insult to injury, our board president wants to use a State Regulatory body to ensure his control over 2. Translation: there will be no talking, discussion or debate while Milazzo and the board spend your money and put YOU further into debt.
Nah. Don’t you believe it for a second. There’s hope. In Illinois, we have the Citizen Participation Act.
“Pursuant to the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of government, it is declared to be the public policy of the State of Illinois that the constitutional rights of citizens and organizations to be involved and participate freely in the process of government must be encouraged and safeguarded with great diligence. The information, reports, opinions, claims, arguments, and other expressions provided by citizens are vital to effective law enforcement, the operation of government, the making of public policy and decisions, and the continuation of representative democracy. The laws, courts, and other agencies of this State must provide the utmost protection for the free exercise of these rights of petition, speech, association, and government participation.”
Ay. Gracias a Dios. 111 East Chestnut Condominio estaba empezando a sentirse como Cuba.
STORY UPDATE 8/25: State dismissed the charges Nolle Prosequi. Latin for “we shall no longer prosecute,” nolle prosequi is a declaration made to the judge by a prosecutor in a criminal case (or by a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit) either before or during trial, meaning the case against the defendant is being dropped. The statement is an admission that the charges cannot be proved, that evidence has demonstrated either innocence or a fatal flaw in the prosecution’s claim or the district attorney has become convinced the accused is innocent.