May 11, 2012 10:00 AM
Why The Hassle?
Opponents of a Stone Park strip club that's slated to open next to a convent say village officials have been harassing them in an attempt to quell dissent.
People in west suburban Stone Park trying to stop a strip club from opening next to a convent say they're getting harassed by village officials.
The club, called "Get It," isn't open yet. But its website is up, complete with job postings for dancers. And crews are putting the finishing touches on the massive building that sits next to the St. Charles Borromeo convent in Melrose Park.
But those nuns, along with hundreds of Stone Park and nearby residents, are trying to stop the strip club from opening with petitions, a rally and legal action. And though village leaders have said publicly they don't want the club either, they're sure not acting that way.
"To be very clear and blunt about it, the whole thing stinks to high heaven," said Thomas Brejcha of the Thomas More Society, a Catholic legal group helping the nuns fight the club.
Brejcha said the nuns have been getting harassing phone calls from Stone Park Mayor Ben Mazzulla.
They've now sent cease and desist letters to the Village of Stone Park and the club's owner. Lawsuits should be following any day. Brejcha believes the club violates state law because it's too close to a place of worship and schools.
And he believes Stone Park police are violating the rights of residents by following them as they carry anti-strip club petitions door to door.
He said Mazzulla himself has called the nuns, trying to bully them into dropping their protest.
"The mayor's very angry," Brejcha said. "He said he would cooperate with us. He's done everything but cooperate with us. He's hassled the nuns. He's made illegal threats. He's failing to abide by state law, and we think the case is very clear."
A robocall from village officials to Stone Park residents accused protesters of spreading "false and inaccurate information." The call was recorded in Spanish, since Stone Park is 80 percent Latino. The call also said "please don't let yourself be fooled by attacks from the media."
The village also sent out a letter in English blaming residents for not showing up to protest before the club was built.
Mazzulla didn't return phone calls. But the Stone Park village attorney, Dean Krone, denied that officials were doing anything untoward, including having cops follow petition passers. In fact, he said a meeting between the two sides was "thoughtful and respectful."
This story was written and reported by Robert Herguth of the BGA and Dane Placko of FOX Chicago News. To contact them, call (312) 821-9030 or email email@example.com.