The councilman acquitted of battery against a Naperville police officer wants the city to pay for his legal fees and reimburse him for his failed state Senate bid.
Councilman Richard Furstenau is seeking $129,529 in the wake of the May court verdict in his favor.
"I have been advised my civil rights have been violated," Furstenau said. "This is a very reasonable request on my part."
When charged with pushing the officer in January 2006, Furstenau was running against Randy Hultgren for a state Senate seat. Furstenau said the resulting legal troubles caused him to lose the race, and he wants the city to cover the cost of that ill-fated campaign.
Furstenau sent the letter demanding reimbursement Aug. 24, but it was made public only on Friday. City Manager Peter Burchard also released a statement denying the request.
"According to city attorney Margo Ely, Furstenau's arrest was based on probable cause and there was no civil rights violation," Burchard said in the release.
Furstenau is threatening to sue the city if his request is denied.
"It would all go away if they would respond to this," he said in a phone interview Friday from Utah. "If there is a lawsuit, the price of poker goes up."
Furstenau's pre-lawsuit settlement offer covers his $6,250 legal bill, $10,000 compensation for damages, $47,000 in personal campaign contributions, and $66,279 for individual cash donors to his state Senate campaign.
"The first thing I want foremost is an apology from the city," he said. "They should have worried about the impact on me when they pulled the stunt they pulled."
Furstenau was charged in connection with a shoving incident hours before the city's 175th anniversary parade on Jan. 1, 2006, that involved police officer Mike Hull. He wasn't charged with a crime until more than two weeks later.
The judge who acquitted Furstenau called the incident "embarrassing and inappropriate," but not criminal. No witnesses testified that they saw Furstenau touch the officer. Furstenau maintained throughout the case that he never struck the officer. Hull did not appear in court during the short bench trial.
Russell Ainsworth is an associate at Loevy & Loevy in Chicago specializing in civil rights cases. He said Furstenau's case appears valid.
"It's a process that certainly doesn't take two weeks to figure out, which raises questions of whether it was politically motivated," he said. "The brief, innocuous contact between the councilman and officer, along with the two-week lag, as well as running for political office all at the same time suggests his rights might have very well been violated."
As for Furstenau's request for campaign contribution reimbursement, that's something that likely would get incorporated into punitive damages if a lawsuit is filed.
"In a settlement demand, you can demand anything you like," Ainsworth said. "There may be some regulations on asking for contributions back anyway. That's so heavily regulated."
Ely said she's never heard of a case where campaign contributions have been reimbursed after someone lost an election. She said if Furstenau sues the city, she'd have to analyze his decision-making role "on a case-by-case basis" regarding litigation against the city.
Furstenau said he believes the donors to his campaign were cheated out of a fair race because of the criminal charges against him and wants them reimbursed as well. But some donors don't seem to be in a hurry to get their money back, including some fellow councilmen who contributed.
"I'm not looking for any return compensation from his campaign," Councilman James Boyajian said. "If it were to happen, I'd probably give it to charity."
Councilman Darlene Senger also said she isn't seeking reimbursement of the $200 she and her husband donated to Furstenau's campaign.
"Who can say if the charge caused him to lose that election?" she said. "That's a question that will probably never be answered."
Naperville resident Michael Krol said he believes the criminal charges hurt Furstenau's campaign, but he'd prefer the councilman keep any reimbursement that may come along to use toward a future campaign. He donated $1,000.
"I want him to win. I really don't want my money back," he said. "If he has to give it back, I'd give it to some charitable cause."
This is the letter Naperville Councilman Richard Furstenau wrote to City Manager Peter Burchard. It is dated Aug. 24 but was not made public until Friday:
Approximately three months have passed since the verdict of not guilty was returned regarding the charges that were pressed against me by the Naperville City Police Department. The entire epic of false charges and innuendo concerning the alleged altercation with Officer (Mike) Hull lasted an entire year and seven months. My family and I have suffered greatly because some Naperville Police Department employees decided it would be a good idea to falsely accuse me of wrongdoing. The incident not only tarnished my good name, which took decades to build, but also caused daily anguish and embarrassment to my family, particularly to my wife. Legal counsel has advised me that my civil rights have been violated.
Since the demand for disciplining Officer Hull and others in the chain of command for the disruption in my life was utterly disregarded, I feel that I have no other choice than to take the following course of action. I am seeking reimbursement for my incurred expenses as well as compensation for time that was personally put forth in this ordeal. I feel justified in seeking compensation for not only personal dollars that I committed to my campaign for state Senate, but also for the dollars from supporters and well-wishers who thought I would do an excellent job in Springfield representing our state Senate district. The sad truth is that these false charges ruined my chances to win that election.
I am making this request after much consideration and do not make this request lightly. This request is my hope to end this matter as amicably as possible and put it behind both me and the city. However, please understand that if we cannot resolve this here, and if the city will not acknowledge its mistake, then I will ask a federal court to confirm the city's mistake.
Although my request may replace the dollars I and others have spent on my state Senate campaign, it will in no way bring back the unblemished reputation I had prior to the false allegations and scurrilous charges placed upon me due to the lack of leadership in the Naperville Police Department. In view of this, I am seeking the following compensations from the city of Naperville. I would consider the following fair and just and would thus forgo all further legal options:
A. First and foremost, I want the city to apologize to me and my family. The city's prosecution of me should never have happened and my family and I should never have been put through this ordeal.
B. Compensation for all state Senate campaign contributions: $66,279.10 (to be returned to all donors).
C. Compensation for personal contributions: $47,000 (the amounts of line items B and C can be verified online by viewing the D-2s filed with the state of Illinois).
D. Compensation for time and effort in dealing with this aberration to my life: $10,000.
E. Compensation for all legal expenses: $6,250.
Total amount sought: $129,529.10.
I am requesting a written response no later than 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21, 2007; otherwise I will be forced to proceed with other action.
This is the statement released by Burchard in response to Furstenau's letter. It is dated Sept. 7 but was not released until Friday:
City Manager Peter Burchard has confirmed today that the city of Naperville has received a letter from Naperville Councilman Richard Furstenau in which he alleges that his civil rights were violated when he was arrested for battery in January 2006. According to city attorney Margo Ely, Furstenau's arrest was based on probable cause and there was no civil rights violation. The city will vigorously defend any lawsuit that may be brought, according to Burchard.