Orland Park robocall adds controversy to local races
Mar 22, 2013 (Chicago Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A campaign robocall heated up elections in the southwest suburbs this week when it detailed the arrest record of a community college candidate while also trying to taint a top Metra official.
The robocall, addressed to Orland Park residents Wednesday, detailed four misdemeanor complaints, including two for domestic battery, against Palos Park resident John G. Schiera, a first-time candidate running for the Moraine Valley Community College board of trustees in Palos Hills. All four complaints were thrown out after the complaining witnesses failed to appear in court, records show.
The call also tried to tie Schiera's arrest record to Brad O'Halloran, Metra's appointed chairman and an Orland Park trustee running for re-election. O'Halloran endorsed Schiera before the public revelations of his arrest record and called the attempts at connecting him to Schiera's arrests "dirty."
Schiera was accused by police in 2007 and 2009 of domestic battery against his former girlfriend.
In the first case, Schiera was accused of grabbing the woman by the throat and pushing her to the ground. In the second he was accused of pushing her through a glass door and striking her twice in the face with a closed fist.
Palos Park police reports obtained by the Tribune say officers called to the house found the alleged victim "covered in blood and crying" with a "very bloody and swollen" face.
Schiera said Wednesday that the accusations by police and the girlfriend were not true. In particular, in the 2009 case, he said he left his ex-girlfriend locked out of his Palos Park home because she was angry and unreasonable. When he returned a few hours later, he said, multiple windows in his home were broken, including a glass pane in a door. When he called police to report the damage, he said he learned that his ex-girlfriend had filed a report of domestic battery against him.
"I did not commit domestic battery either time," he said. "If they were true, I would be convicted."
Schiera was also arrested in 1999 after being accused of theft and battery. He said the theft complaint involved a dispute over tools and furniture inside a home he sold to the Archdiocese of Chicago but that they were able to settle the issue. The battery, he said, came from a road rage incident when Schiera poked an off-duty police officer who tailgated him to his home and then began yelling at him.
A copy of the robocall obtained by the Tribune did not identify who had paid for it. A woman's voice on the call asked voters to demand that O'Halloran and Schiera withdraw from their races.
O'Halloran said he received the message at his home, as did others the Tribune spoke with.
"To basically tie my name to any kind of violence against women or domestic violence on such an absurd tie-in is just ridiculous," he said.
O'Halloran said he was unaware of Schiera's arrests. A trustee since 1993, he is running for re-election with a slate of incumbents. Those supporters said they didn't know who was responsible for the robocall. The lone challenger on the ballot, John Fotopoulos, said he had no knowledge of who was responsible for the robocall.
Schiera is one of seven candidates running for three six-year terms on the Moraine Valley board.
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