Tenants of Illinois, Divide! | Letters | Chicago Reader

To the editors:

Due to the factual inaccuracies and biased opinions in your reporter's April 1 story on Michael Pensack ["Tenants of Chicago Unite"], we are enclosing a press release that tells the truth in order to set the record straight:


Rumors of our demise are greatly exaggerated. These rumors began in the April 1, 1988 issue of the Reader in an article about Michael Pensack, TOE's ex-Executive Director. The Board of Directors removed Mr. Pensack from the leadership of TOE/TOI in October 1986 due to his refusal to cooperate and communicate essential information with us. Since then, although TOE/TOI has been less visible than in the past (which is about to change), we have been helping 75-100 tenants every week.

According to the Reader's article, "Pensack has also been warring with his former employers . . ." and Mr. Pensack claims that all's fair in love and war. We are not warring with him. We do not wish to waste our time or our supporters' money fighting with a discharged employee. We spend our time working to ensure that tenants receive decent, safe, up-to-code apartments and fair treatment from their landlords. If Mr. Pensack chooses to spend his time warring with us, perhaps tenants' rights supporters should carefully consider where they spend their money.

We wish to point out that Mr. Pensack's first fundraising letter to Evanston tenants is on TOI letterhead, in which Mr. Pensack identifies himself as Executive Director. He is NOT our Executive Director. He is NOT our employee. He is NOT our representative. He is soliciting memberships through a deceptive fundraising letter and should return any money he receives from it to the misled contributors. Mr. Pensack is clearly more concerned about using tenants as pawns in his self-proclaimed war against us than he is in improving living conditions for tenants.

The TOE/TOI Board discovered that, upon his departure, Mr. Pensack left virtually no money in our accounts, and we spent some time reassessing the direction of the organizations. We continued helping tenants throughout this period. Now we are ready to expand our improved services to tenants in order to meet our goals of ensuring that Evanston's housing stock meets City code and that landlords respect the rights of their tenants. Our new direction includes continuing educational and advisory services to tenants about their rights; improving communications with the City to follow up on enforcement of the Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance; and working with landlords who do not know their legal obligations or who are not aware of problems in their buildings (ie: when a janitor fails to respond to tenant complaints and the tenants call us next). We have already helped one major landlord by making him aware of numerous tenant complaints about an employee, enabling that landlord to change personnel and serve his tenants better. Additional goals include extending the services we offer outside of Evanston through TOI, and hiring a full-time Executive Director.

Yes, the Tenants Organization of Evanston and the Tenants Organization of Illinois are alive and well. Call us at 864-RENT!

The Boards of Directors

Tenants Organization of Evanston and Tenants Organization of Illinois

Vicki Quade replies:

I think it's unfair to say that Michael Pensack is waging a war with the Tenants Organization of Evanston. He has something much larger in mind--creating a statewide network of tenants--and his feud with TOE is in his past.

Michael Pensack incorporated the Tenants Organization of Illinois in 1984 and operated his business under that name until recently. His group is now called the Illinois Tenants Union.

He changed the name to resolve another feud with TOE. In April of 1987, the board members for TOE filed the proper papers with the secretary of state and listed themselves as the board for TOI, only days before Pensack was ready to file his annual papers--the same papers he'd been filing since 1984.

Pensack acknowledges that he continued to use the name of TOI in his solicitation for members after April 1987. He says he felt he still owned the name and that TOE had only taken over as his board of directors.

This is a feud that Pensack feels is finally over. The best that can be said is that tenants throughout Illinois have never had so many people haggling over the right to represent them.

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