Woman files lawsuit claiming that Ald. Arena pushed her, ordered her to remove campaign button; Arena claims lawsuit is politically motivated
by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI
A woman has filed a lawsuit against Alderman John Arena (45th) and the City of Chicago accusing him of striking her in September after she refused to remove a campaign button supporting John Garrido during an outdoor event at Milwaukee and Lawrence avenues.
Regina Przyby, age 55, is seeking more than $50,000 in damages, according to her attorney, Sean Baker. Garrido lost to Arena in the 2011 aldermanic race, and he is running against Arena in the ward’s race in 2015.
Baker said that he filed the suit in the Law Division instead of the Civil Division. "It’s basically a battery lawsuit," Baker said.
Baker said that the basis of the lawsuit is a battery police report that his client had filed on Sept. 1. Arena was never charged in the incident.
The lawsuit states that during a street renaming ceremony near the Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave., Arena demanded that she remove the campaign button and then "poked, pushed and struck" her and used profanity when she refused, citing freedom of speech. The lawsuit states that Przyby did not say or do anything to provoke the alderman.
The lawsuit states that as an alderman Arena is "an agent and servant" of the city.
"The claims made in this lawsuit filed by a supporter of Alderman Arena’s opponent, John Garrido, are false," Arena spokeswoman Joanna Klonsky said in a statement. "This suit is motivated by politics, as was another lawsuit dismissed just last week, which was filed by Garrido.
This effort to score cheap political points harkens back to a kind of old Chicago politics that we should all have moved forward from by now."
Garrido said in an e-mail that he is not involved in the lawsuit.
"Our campaign is focused on the issues and not the alderman’s legal troubles," Garrido said. "We have no involvement in the legal action against him nor the incident that precipitated it.
"Alderman Arena should take an introspective look into his behavior before pointing fingers at others for his alleged actions. This is not a political issue it’s one personal to him."
Arena defeated Garrido by 30 votes in the 2011 runoff for alderman.
Garrido had filed a defamation suit against Arena and several unions seeking $900,000 in damages based on alleged false advertising contained in seven mailings and one cable television ad during the 2011 campaign. A Cook County judge dismissed that lawsuit this month.
"We are responding to the judges ruling and will be asking the judge to reconsider," Garrido said. "This doesn’t change the fact that the appellate court stated that John Arena provided no evidence that the defamatory statements he made during the last election were actually true."