The political campaign for a candidate seeking a seat on the board of commissioners overseeing sewage treatment and stormwater management in Chicago and most of Cook County has been hit with a class action lawsuit, alleging the campaign violated federal law when it placed pre-recorded robocalls to cell phones.
On March 3, plaintiff Cary Wolovick filed suit in Chicago federal court against Andrew Seo, a candidate for commissioner for the board of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, and Seo’s political committee, Citizens for Seo.
Wolovick is being represented in the action by attorneys with the firm of Siprut P.C., of Chicago.
According to Wolovick’s complaint, Seo’s campaign placed at least three separate calls to Wolovick’s mobile phone from Jan. 10-Feb. 29. Upon answering two of the calls, Wolovick said Seo’s voice could be heard saying, “Hi, I am Andrew Seo, a candidate for Water Reclamation District. I have a plan for government consolidation.”
On Feb. 29, the message also featured a reminder that early voting had begun, the complaint said.
At no point had Wolovick ever inquired about Seo’s candidacy, donated to his campaign or otherwise provided Seo with that mobile phone number, the complaint said.
The complaint said Seo’s robocalls to other mobile phones have been the subject of online reports from “numerous individuals,” who purportedly noted in their reports that “it is very illegal” to place automated calls to mobile phones, and that some of them intended to vote against him because of the calls.
As Citizens for Seo is “the only registered poltical committee that supports Seo’s candidacy,” the complaint said the organization, as well as Seo himself, should be held liable for the calls, which allegedly violated federal telecommunications law forbidding campaigns from using automated call devices to contact potential voters on their mobile phones, without their written consent.
“In the capacity of Seo’s official registered campaign committee, CFS (Citizens for Seo) determined a campaign strategy agreed upon by both Seo and CFS, which includes … autodialing,” the complaint said.
The complaint alleged the calls have likely been made “en masse to a list of thousands of wireless telephone numbers or randomly generated phone numbers,” the owners of which “did not provide prior express consent to CFS to call their wireless phones.”
As such, Wolovick also asked the court to certify a class of additional plaintiffs who received the automated calls from Seo and his campaign on their mobile phones at any time in the last four years.
The complaint asked the court to award actual or statutory damages, which can range from $500-$1,500 per illegally placed call.
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District covers 883 square miles, including the city of Chicago and 125 suburban communities. It operates seven sewage treatment plants, and maintains the regional Tunnel and Reservoir Plan, known commonly as the Deep Tunnel Project which provides flood protection to the region.
The District is governed by a nine-member board of commissioners, including a president and vice president, elected to six-year terms. There are three spots on the board up for election in 2016, according to information posted by the Cook County Clerk's office.