State representative sues Evanston challenger for making defamatory claims

Paige Leskin, City Editor

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State Rep. Scott Drury (D-Highwood) is suing his opponent in the upcoming election — an Evanston doctor — and others, claiming they advertised and published defamatory and false information about him to the public.

Dr. Mark Neerhof and his campaign team distributed a television commercial and mailed out advertisements that misrepresented Drury’s stance on political issues, the state assemblyman said.

“We filed a lawsuit to make sure that right is done in this situation,” Drury told The Daily. “We know ads like this damage people’s reputations. That’s why you’re not allowed to do it.”

The suit, filed Sept. 6 with the clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, comes less than a month before the general election on Nov. 4 when voters will choose if Drury will return to his spot in the Illinois General Assembly.

In the lawsuit, Drury calls for injunctive relief not only against Neerhof and his campaign, Neerhof for Illinois, but also against Liberty Principles PAC, the group who sponsored the mailer, and the company’s chairman Dan Proft (Weinberg ’94). The suit also names Comcast Corporation as a defendant for its role in allowing the advertisement to air on television.

Drury alleges in the suit that the defendants wrongfully stated his position on an Illinois Senate bill, known as the School Funding Reform Act of 2014, that would cut state funding to the public schools in his voting district.

“With defendant Neerhof trailing in the polls and supporting views unpopular with voters in the legislative district defendant Neerhof seeks to represent, defendants … disseminated false information about plaintiff and sitting State Representative Scott R. Drury,” the lawsuit says.

The suit accuses Neerhof of circulating advertisements that have statements that are defamatory and present Drury in a false light. Neerhof and his campaign used Comcast’s cable network to televise the commercials and used the Liberty Principles PAC, ran by radio personality Dan Proft, to sponsor advertisements that Neerhof distributed in the mail to prospective voters, according to the lawsuit.

Neerhof’s campaign manager Mick Paskiewicz released a statement accusing Drury of responding with a lawsuit anytime he is challenged.

“Scott Drury filed this lawsuit because he knows he’s an embattled incumbent,” Paskiewicz said. “Our campaign will carry on with our positive message that has gained traction throughout the district, and we do not and will not tell outside groups what to do and not to do.”

Neerhof’s advertisements state that Drury has plans to enact legislation that would take $7 million in state funding away from local schools, which Drury claims as false. He says in the suit that Neerhof’s false portrayal of his position makes the sitting representative look immoral and unfit for office.

Recently, Comcast pulled the advertisement down from its network — a slight victory, Drury said. To mitigate any hit that his reputation may have suffered from the false claims, Drury said his campaign has been reaching out to voters through social media and door-to-door service.

However, the November election is not the end-all to the lawsuit, Drury said. The suit against Neerhof is more about holding people accountable for criminal behavior and seeking damages, he said.

Twitter: @paigeleskin