Woodland District 50 school board member must pay accused parents' attorney fees, judge rules
A Lake County judge has ordered Woodland Elementary District 50 school board member Renae Amen to pay attorney fees and costs to three parents she accused of threatening her during the spring's intense debates over remote learning in the Gurnee-based district.
Associate Judge James Simonian found there was no evidence to support Amen's filings seeking protective orders against Deb Attiah, Heather Rand and Shari Green, and ruled the filings were done "for the improper purpose of harassment of political enemies and for political gain."
"(Attah, Rand and Green) were doing the most encouraged of American activities: getting involved in their communities," Simonian wrote in his 22-page order.
Meanwhile, Amen used her status as a public official to "intimidate ordinary citizens," Simonian wrote.
"It's obvious to the court that (Amen) wished to show them the consequences of public disagreement with her and quash their campaign and criticism of her," he said.
Amen declined Tuesday to comment Simonian's remarks.
"It is what it is, but the case is definitely not over," she said. "I don't have anything to say because the case is still pending."
In early April, Amen told the Daily Herald she began receiving racist messages after a Jan. 28 school board meeting, during which plans for a return to in-person learning was discussed. At that meeting, Amen voiced concern that District 50 was rushing students back into classrooms during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Amen said online messages she received after that meeting including threats from people who said they knew where she lived.
In late March, eight days before the April 6 school board election, Amen filed petitions for orders of protection against the three parents, alleging they had targeted her for online abuse. She was reelected to the school board and on June 9 dismissed her petitions for orders of protection against the three parents.
However, Attah, Rand and Green then filed motions seeking sanctions against Amen, alleging her claims were not grounded in fact.
After hearing testimony from the parents, Simonian said he found each to be credible and earnest.
"Each one of the three respondents appeared surprised to be in a courtroom and genuinely hurt by (Amen's) inflammatory accusations directed at each one of them," he wrote in his ruling.
The women can file additional or amended affidavits regarding fees and costs with supporting documentation by Dec. 9. A date for a hearing on the appropriate fees and costs will be set on Dec. 14. Amen can file responses or objections by Dec. 20.