Suits Filed Over Anonymous Letters

May 2, 2012

Responding to a series of anonymous letters Northcenter Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Garrett FitzGerald, Timothy Gibbons, and Tim’s Snowplowing, Inc. have filed suit against former aldermanic candidate Tom O’Donnell and four other persons who are not yet named.

Their suit accuses O’Donnell and the four other unnamed persons of publishing false and defamatory statements about FitzGerald and Gibbons. The suit says the actions of O’Donnell and the four others injured FitzGerald’s and Gibbons’ business relationships.

The suit seeks damages of $90,000.

The suit comes on the heals of a separate suit filed by the Northcenter Chamber of Commerce against former president Rob Engel. That suit, while not legally related, claims Engel made false and defamatory statements about the chamber and FitzGerald which caused the chamber to lose credibility.

Those statements interfered with chamber efforts to negotiate management contracts for SSAs outside the North Center area the suit alleges.

The suit seeks $100,000 in damages.

Both suits share allegations that there were actions that interfered with business relationships and also false and defamatory statements.

In most courts defamatory statements can be defended if they are true.

The Northcenter Chamber of Commerce issued a letter of support Wednesday for FitzGerald. The letter says:

A recent series of anonymous letters made vicious and disgusting attacks against Northcenter Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Garrett FitzGerald. The Northcenter Chamber board of directors would like to take this opportunity to publicly state it remains fully committed to Mr. FitzGerald. He has an excellent seven-year track record of successful management of our organization, growing it far beyond previous capacity. His patience, thoughtfulness and business acumen have proven to be very valuable assets. He is largely responsible for growing our annual neighborhood event, Ribfest Chicago, into the most successful fundraiser in the history of our organization. Because of this success, the chamber has been able to grow by increasing programs and hiring staff despite city budget cuts. We are deeply grateful for Mr. FitzGerald’s service to Northcenter businesses and the community. We believe no one should be subject to the vicious and awful attacks that Mr. FitzGerald has borne and we are confident he is the right leader for the Northcenter Chamber of Commerce today and into the future.

The FitzGerald, Gibbons, TSI suit also names six respondents in discovery including the Ravenswood Community Council. As noted by the Bulldog in a recent story, O’Donnell was reelected to serve as president of the RCC.

Respondents in discovery is a legal term meaning the plaintiffs are seeking the court to order the respondents to cooperate in discovery proceedings. It does not mean the respondents are defendants.

The Welles Park Bulldog is a member of the Northcenter Chamber of Commerce. It provided financial support for the event “Bells of Ravenswood” which event was sponsored by the Northcenter Chamber and the Ravenswood Community Council. The current business manager of the Bulldog is a former employee of the Ravenswood Community Council.

Calls to the respondents, plaintiffs and defendants requesting comment were declined or not returned.

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