In a Leader editorial, dated May 29, the Leader states, "... our
readers have the important civic duty to find out about the
candidates and issues and vote."
In the same Leader issue, Editor of the Leader, Paul Laursen,
refused to run Board Candidate Stewart Lilker's answers to questions
submitted to him by the paper.
In a phone conversation held on Tuesday, May 27, Laursen told
Lilker that he wanted to edit out certain phrases from his answers.
When Lilker asked him why, Laursen explained that the Leader's
"libel" attorney told him he could. When Lilker asked to speak to
this attorney, Laursen claimed, "He won't speak to you."
Laursen said the following phrases from Lilker's answers to the
Leader questions were libelous:
• In one of the most irresponsible actions ever, the Board,
under the leadership of Sunday Coward, and Superintendent
Eversley, reduced the teaching staff by 13 and increased the
administrative staff by 11.
• It appears no one in the district knows that the board hired
a Harvard chum of the Superintendent for $2,000 dollars a day.
• The school junkets, wherein the Board and the Superintendent
squander the district's money, willy-nilly, is something a board
member must guard the public against.
• As the District has demonstrated in the past, it is
impossible to trust their numbers, as many of them are clearly
Lilker told Laursen, "My answers were based upon my observations,
my careful and detailed analysis of the budget, and my sources. The
information contained in my answers is readily available in the
budget and from the district."
When asked why he didn't check with the district, Laursen said
that he left a message with the district, but the superintendents
wouldn't return his calls.
Lilker told Laursen, "You sent me the questions and I answered
them. I take full responsibility for them. They are my answers. If
you edit them and take things out, without my permission, then they
become your answers."
Lilker continued, "You are asking me to misrepresent myself. I
will not do that. You are asking me to be dishonest and purport
answers that are not mine, to be mine. I will not do that. You are
asking me to be dishonest with the residents of Freeport. I will not
do that. You are asking me to be a party, with you, in interfering
with the constitutional process in Freeport and be a party to
violating my own First Amendment rights. I will not do that.
Finally, you are asking me to help you become the School District's
water boy. I will not to that."
Laursen remained intractable, telling Lilker he had the right to
edit his answers.
When it appeared that Laursen believed that he could edit
whatever he wanted, without permission, explanation or reason,
Lilker, exasperated, told him, "You have my permission to print my
answers to your questions, as written. You do not have my permission
to edit them in any way, without my prior approval. I remind you,
they are my words and I take full responsibility for them. I am
running for the Board of Education, the Leader is not. Should these
conditions not be agreeable to you, I withdraw my answers.
Not only did Laursen not print Lilker's answers in the Leader's
election issue, the paper removed his biography and photo.
In print, almost impossible to notice, at the bottom his
opponent's answers to the Leader's questions, Laursen wrote, "School
board candidate Stewart Lilker has withdrawn his answers to the