Lorraine Swanson, the political blogger for Patch Media, has become embroiled in another controversy this time denigrating the independence of women while playing the political smear game with a story linking a Village Trustee and the Oak Lawn Leaf to a man accused of theft in Will County over three years ago.
Swanson, who is no stranger to media controversy, with her own arrest in 2011, an “inadvertent” publication of an ax photo resulting in a police investigation and a reputation as being “good friends” with Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury, is once again coming under fire for ignoring village related issues while attempting to destroy Bury’s competition, Trustee Robert Streit, through a string of flimsy smear stories regarding innocuous “associations”.
Streit’s campaign committee, Friends of Bob Streit, employs Shannon Fox to provide constituent services in Streit’s Third District Office. Yesterday, allegedly after receiving repeated calls and emails from former Trustee Tom Phelan, Swanson wrote a story linking Streit to Shannon Fox’s estranged husband, Brian Fox, who was charged in Will County with retail theft of the drink Red Bull over three years ago. Shannon Fox had nothing to do with the actions of her estranged husband who reportedly suffers from an unknown addiction. According to Shannon Fox, the couple was separated at the time the alleged theft took place. Swanson left out the fact that the alleged theft was over three years ago, according to Shannon Fox.
Nonetheless, Swanson wrote an attack piece on the blog operated from her apartment, in which she tied Shannon Fox’s employer to her estranged husband through Shannon Fox’s position with Streit’s office.
Lorraine Swanson, Oak Lawn Patch’s political blogger, also became embroiled in controversy in Hinsdale Township High School District No. 86 recently where she blogged about collective bargaining negotiations between the teachers and school board. Swanson posted a “blog” along with an alarming online photograph showing an ax lodged in a car window. The teachers association inadvertently uploaded the story to its website causing Board members to complain that the use of the axe through a car window accompanied by what one board member called “disturbing comments” was a threat of violence against the board members.
Swanson, after posting the story and allowing it to remain on the site for a long period without comment, admitted that she and the Patch posted the axe photo by linking her story through social media. She admitted that her action was a “mistake” although she didn’t explain if it was a mistake of bad judgment to interject herself in a political debate or whether the mistake was caused by her own incompetence.
Swanson’s journalistic integrity has been questioned in the past with her own arrest in 2011. The Daily Southtown reported at the time that Swanson was “charged with driving on a suspended license” after a traffic stop in the village. In Illinois, drivers can have their license suspended for a variety of offenses, including driving under the influence, failure to pay fines, and failing to maintain insurance. Luckily, the Patch does not have a policy requiring suspensions of its employees for such actions. In contrast, the Oak Lawn Leaf Company has a zero tolerance policy that terminates the employment of any reporter convicted of any criminal offense.
Political consultants and political junkies have stated that Swanson played a prominent role in the election of Mayor Sandra Bury, often writing stories praising Bury and attacking former Mayor Dave Heilmann. During that time, she continuously wrote stories extolling the virtue of transparency but has ignored every story regarding Mayor Sandra Bury’s refusal to provide records to the public, problems with 911 dispatching services, union issues with the fire department, millions in no bid contracts, and five million dollars in give aways to developers.
Instead, allies of Oak Lawn Trustee Robert Streit are noting that Swanson seems fixated on writing stories trying to connect Streit to individuals who are not even connected to him. The most recent attempt also saw Swanson wrongly connect the Oak Lawn Leaf Co to Fox’s home address. The Oak Lawn Leaf’s office is in Hinsdale while the Patch’s office is in New York. The information is found on the Illinois Secretary of State’s website and the Oak Lawn Leaf’s website.
Swanson’s blog is the latest attempt to dirty up Streit before his re-election campaign. His opponent recently sent several mailings under fictitious names making the exact same allegations contained in Swanson’s blogs. The timing of Swanson’s blog makes it appear that she is working with Streit’s opponent, just as she was alleged to be doing in the Mayoral race between Bury and Dave Heilmann.
Streit said that it is “unfortunate” that his opponents have sought to connect innocent individuals such as Shannon Fox to crimes allegedly committed by others in another county over three years ago. “Shannon Fox does a great job of serving the residents of the Third District from my office and she should be judged on her own record and not attacked for the sins of another,” said Streit.
Swanson has gained a reputation for political blogging that connects tenuous associations to make it appear that a public official is connected to someone accused of wrongdoing. Swanson tried to link Streit to alleged crimes by former Cook County Commissioner Mario Moreno even though Streit didn’t know Moreno at the time the government alleges Moreno violated the law. When Moreno was indicted she mistakenly thought the person indicted was Streit’s business partner, Dennis Brennan.
Swanson was also prominent in reporting about the former Mayor’s childhood friendship with a member of the previous law firm that was accused by Bury allies of over billing. While that attorney never billed the village, the innuendo was that the contract was an inside deal. In contrast, the Patch has failed to write about insider deals with the current attorneys working for the village that have relationships with Mayor Bury or some of the Trustees.
Streit said that Swanson’s political blogging crosses the line. “Next she’ll report that I went to St. Catherine’s with someone in third grade that later was convicted of robbery forty years later,” said Streit. He said that it was “unfortunate that Shannon is dragged through the political mud.”
Streit said that the people of Oak Lawn deserve better from news sites covering the village. He noted that the people of Oak Lawn want real solutions regarding their own public safety, the lack of transparency in the Bury administration, and the fact that the average homeowner deals with a crushing tax burden living here in Oak Lawn. “The media, including blogs like the Patch, should hold elected officials accountable but do so with facts not smears,” said Streit.
Under the ownership of AOL, the Patch was never able to prosper financially. It laid off 2/3 of its editorial staff and reduced its national presence by one third. In January 2014, Hale Global partnered with AOL Inc in an effort to save the blog.
(Editor’s note: Shannon Fox provided services to Oak Lawn Leaf Co. regarding social media messages from her home address. The address is not used in any other fashion by the Oak Lawn Leaf despite assertions by Ms. Swanson who failed to contact Shannon Fox, the Oak Lawn Leaf or Robert Streit for comments for her blog.)