'No Evidence Suggesting Village Email System Was Breached To Distribute Political Literature'
Trustee Tom Phelan (Dist. 6) denies being behind recent anonymous email blasts circulating campaign mailer from mayoral challenger in upcoming April 2013 election.
Oak Lawn’s top cop said there is no evidence that the village email system has been corrupted or invaded to cull email addresses to distribute political literature critical of the mayor.
Mayor Dave Heilmann dropped the bombshell at the end of the Nov. 13 Oak Lawn Village Board meeting that village email systems might have been used to compile addresses for two anonymous email blasts circulating political literature by his opponent in the upcoming April 2013 election, Sandra Bury.
The attachment was similar to the 11-page political piece that Bury's campaign mailed to thousands of area residents over the summer, claiming the mayor had undermined a 3-year investigation into the village’s skyrocketing legal fees beginning in 2009, and that his ties to the former village attorneys may have cost Oak Lawn taxpayers $10 million.
The email blasts originated from gmail accounts registered to “P Franek” and “David Zabricki,” which were sent to residents' and village employees’ personal and workplace email accounts in October and November, the mayor said.
Both email blasts contained such subject lines as “did you see this stuff about dave Heilman????” and “Political Corruption in Oak Lawn."
The mayor said the village started receiving complaints from residents who had received the second emailing around Nov. 7. Many expressed concerns that personal identifying information they had disclosed to the village to pay bills and sign up for the emergency notification system may have been breached.
“Multiple people have contacted me regarding this email,” Heilmann said. “As the complaints started coming in they were reported to the Oak Lawn police chief. Most troubling was [the employees and residents] never gave out their email addresses to Oak Lawn government to then be taken and used for a political mailing.”
The mayor said that people tried to respond to the senders but did not get a response.
“It became clear these are phony email accounts. This a fraud, a deceptive act of whomever is doing this to protect their identity,” Heilmann continued. “The police chief has been told of this and is investigating.”
Heilmann proceeded to read excerpts from some of the complaints he had received:
“I’m a resident of Oak Lawn. I received this email today at my work place. This is not acceptable. I do follow the board meetings on TV and I know there are some tensions between board members …. Was this a security breach of my information registered with the emergency notification system? If so this should be reported. This is only place in the city of Oak Lawn that has my information.”
Another resident who had received the emails said that she had "reasonable concerns as to what other personal identifying information [the senders] were privy too.”
Heilmann said the attached political piece also had “identifying properties” indicating that the document wasn't scanned off of political materials that had been mailed this summer, because the original document was attached.
Document properties identify the creator of Bury’s political piece as “Tphelan,” presumably Dist. 6 Trustee Tom Phelan, one of the mayor's most vocal critics.
“The police are investigating this further,” the mayor said. “If you have received of these emails, I would imagine most people would delete these, if you have received them please forward them to the Oak Lawn Police Department. It’s going to be investigated by [the police chief] as well as other legal authorities.”
Asked if he was behind the anonymous emails and fake gmail accounts, Phelan said he had emailed Bury's campaign piece to various people who emailed it to other people.
The trustee's term is also up next spring, but Phelan hasn't announced whether he will seek reelection as the Dist. 6 trustee.
Bury said the writing of her campaign piece was a “group effort” and that neither she nor Phelan could take complete credit.
“A lot of it is from the Odelson Report,” Bury said, referring to the first of two legal audits conducted on the former Oak Lawn village attorneys. “I reach out to people who I think can help me with what’s important. You need someone there to give you insight.”
The mayor responded to some of the claims Bury raises with his own campaign piece, which he passed out to voters during the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Oak Lawn Police Chief Bill Villanova said in an email to Patch that his department could find no indication that the village email system had been breached.
“We have not found any evidence that any village email (Everbridge, water or village vehicle tag system, etc.) has been entered to obtain email addresses that were used in that political email,” the police chief wrote.
Villanova said he could not comment any further “as this is still an active investigation.”
Oak Lawn Village Board members are sceduled to meet for their regular monthly board meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 27), and again for a special budget hearing on Wednesday (Nov. 28).
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