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You Be the Judge

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To the Editors:

I am writing concerning Jeffrey Felshman's article about IVI-IPO ("Fighting Over Scraps," Reader, November 7, 1997). My husband, David, and I have been involved in independent politics for many years and have been members of IVI-IPO for 13 years. We have been on the organization's state board of directors for most of those years and have worked in two local chapters. Our interest in IVI-IPO grew out of a respect we once had for the organization's endorsement process, in particular with regard to judicial races. We have watched IVI-IPO go from being a place where we were proud to do our political work to what it is now--an organization that has lost all credibility and is being led by a group of people who have no respect for the principles on which IVI-IPO was founded or even for their own rules.

I want to bring readers up-to-date in regard to the lawsuit concerning bylaw 2.005, the bylaw authored by Aviva Patt that puts severe constraints on freedom of expression in IVI-IPO. The suit was brought by 13 members of IVI-IPO against the current leadership. It is indeed unfortunate that, after the article had been in the works for close to a year, Mr. Felshman's editors decided to run it on the very day that the judge was making a ruling in the case. The article ends with near south chapter leader Lois Dobry referring to the lawsuit as "harassment" and further stating her belief that the suit will be thrown out of court and that her allies will sue the plaintiffs for court costs. Yet on the afternoon of Thursday, November 6, at the very moment that the Reader hit the streets, Judge Thomas Durkin was ruling against the defendants' motion to dismiss the case. He stated that:

"The court finds that indeed there are sufficient allegations in the complaint to thrust jurisdiction upon the court. In reaching that conclusion the court finds that the plaintiffs alleged facts which, if proven, could establish the existence of fraud or collusion...which are two of the instances that permit courts to accept jurisdiction over the internal affairs of IVI-IPO....Additionally, the court finds that it may intervene because the allegations also sufficiently plead that the board violated its own rules."

David Rader and I met with Mr. Felshman for several hours to discuss the problems in IVI-IPO. I also spoke with him alone many times by phone during the year he was working on the story. We gave him a large number of documents to support our side of the story, as did Jerry Meites. Mr. Felshman told us repeatedly that IVI-IPO's leaders had given him very little: a few organizational newsletters and very few answers to his questions. Mr. Felshman must be pleased, as am I, that since the Reader article and the ruling by Judge Durkin, IVI-IPO's leaders have finally found their tongues. For a number of years, the small group of members who have been fighting for reform of the organization have challenged the leadership to become engaged in a battle of ideas over the disputed issues. Those requests have been met with deafening silence. So, despite the distortions of fact and misleading statements contained in the letters from Aviva Patt, Saul Mendelson, and Lois Dobry (Reader, November 28) and in a front-page article by Patt in the December, 1997, IVI-IPO "Action Bulletin" ("Judging Judges: The Hows and Whys of Endorsing Judges"), it is still tremendously gratifying and refreshing at long last to see some response.

Similarly, the comments from the leadership in the Reader story follow a familiar pattern. Instead of dealing with issues, they deal in personal animosity, mostly against Jerry Meites, who has been one of the leaders of our reform efforts. Why do they attack and defame Jerry? By targeting Jerry Meites they hope to shift the focus away from themselves and their own unethical activities and undemocratic policies. But people who have worked with Jerry have found him to be very different from the picture that these IVI-IPO leaders paint of him. My family and I first began working with Jerry on fund-raising and other projects to benefit IVI-IPO about ten years ago. When the organization began to stray from its historic principles and practices, we found ourselves working with Jerry and others to reform IVI-IPO. Many who began with us have left in despair and disgust. We continue on. Despite the many frustrations inherent in the struggle for reform, getting to know Jerry Meites has been a wholly positive experience.

In describing Jerry, Jeffrey Felshman says he is "intelligent." Jerry is not only intelligent but also innovative and creative. Felshman also describes Jerry as "hardworking" and "dedicated." Jerry works harder and is more dedicated than almost anyone I know. According to Felshman, Meites is both "sincere" and "committed." Jerry's strong beliefs and solid values usually point him in the right direction. When he believes he is right, he speaks his mind--and sometimes he can be self-righteous. But Jerry's sincerity and commitment stem from a clear sense of what he believes to be right and ethical. Another term Felshman uses to describe Jerry Meites is "fanatical." It is certainly true that Jerry is one of the most determined and driven people that I know. For those of us who work with Jerry, his intense determination can be exasperating and exhausting! Yet he has often been able to convince me that what seems impossible to do can be done and done well. On a more personal note, I believe that Jerry is a kind and thoughtful friend. He is generous and cares if a friend is sick or troubled. Jerry is surprisingly sentimental, is not at all handy, and has a good sense of humor. Jerry Meites is a true political independent and a true friend. Both are rare today. But the real issue in IVI-IPO is not Jerry Meites but reforming the organization and restoring it to its original principles.

When IVI-IPO's leaders are not busy trying to discredit their opponents, they are preoccupied with casting aspersions upon the people who have supported reform in various ways over the years. A perfect example is the assertion made in Saul Mendelson's letter that the prominent attorneys and others who signed the Reader ad concerning IVI-IPO's judicial endorsements in 1996 were somehow uninformed or misled. Independents for a Qualified Judiciary, the committee of which Jerry Meites is chair and David Rader is treasurer, enlisted 56 signers to the ad. Among these were former alderman Martin Oberman, former Chicago Bar Association (CBA) president Laurel Bellows, former Chicago Council of Lawyers president Barry Miller, three former IVI-IPO state chairs, and a number of other prominent attorneys and laypersons who have been active in the good-government movement for many years. For Mendelson to suggest that these signers did not know what they were signing is both laughable and insulting. And, as is usual with such assertions made by Mendelson and his allies, we do not learn the identity of any of these poor, misguided souls! Let me assure Saul and other readers that the text of the ad and IVI-IPO's official judicial evaluation policies were faxed to signers before they signed. Also, much supporting documentation was given to the Reader's publisher, Jane Levine, before she would allow the ad to run. The people who signed the ad were not confused! They were shocked and dismayed that IVI-IPO had such policies and appalled at some horrendous endorsements that were the result. Sadly, of the 15 judicial endorsements questioned in the Reader ad, 12 were of people who had submitted their credentials and were found "not qualified" by the CBA and/or the council. Three were found "not recommended" because they did not submit their credentials to these organizations. The signers on the ad thought it was very important for voters to know those facts and also that they could no longer depend on IVI-IPO's judicial ballot.

At the end of his letter, Saul Mendelson says, "We will keep on doing what we're doing." That's the shame of it.

Terry Rader

N. Paulina

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