Korean War vet being sued by Franklin Park mayor for defamation

An 87-year-old Franklin Park resident got quite the surprise, which was a defamation lawsuit from the mayor of his village.

Mayor Barrett Pedersen is suing the man because he passed along an email containing accusations the mayor says are absolutely untrue.

Gene and Liz Piltaver were watching the White Sox game on TV Sunday afternoon when there was a knock on the door of their Franklin Park home. It was a Cook County Sheriff's Deputy with an envelope.

"She...said, ‘here, it's a summons.’ A summons for what?" Gene responded.

That’s when Gene learned he is being sued for defamation by Franklin Park Mayor Barrett Pedersen, who's demanding at least $100,000 dollars in damages.

"I really didn't expect this, never in a million years did I expect to get a summons for...just sending out an email,” Gene said.

Last March, Gene received an email from a buddy alleging Mayor Pedersen had been banned from a local bar for groping and sexually harassing women, which the mayor says is absolutely untrue.

Gene, who has battled Pedersen politically, then forwarded the email to about a dozen friends, adding "This very interesting!!! What do you think about it???"

"I'm not a lawyer. I asked other people what do you think," Gene said. "So I'm questioning it."

FOX 32: You didn't endorse it you believe?

"No, no I didn't endorse it,” Gene said.

Pedersen, who's been mayor of Franklin Park for seven years, wouldn't talk to FOX 32, but his lawyer says the lawsuit is justified: "The accusations here -- those spread by Mr. Piltaver -- are not only false and defamatory, they have absolutely no relevance to my client's role as a public official....Mr. Pedersen should not be forced to sit idle while his good name and reputation is smeared with the click of a button."

Gene, a Korean War veteran with a wall full of medals, says he can't understand why the mayor didn't just call him to set the record straight.

"Here's a guy 87 years old, just about to kick the bucket, and I'm getting sued and he wants all my savings and everything?" Gene said.

"It's very upsetting. I had a hard time sleeping last night. For all this to be happening now at our age, it's not easy,” wife Liz said.

Gene is the only person being sued by the mayor, even though he says the email was being passed all over Franklin Park. The mayor's lawyer says they'll determine through discovery whether others may be culpable as well. While that lawyer has done work for the village of Franklin Park, he says the mayor is paying for the lawsuit out of his own pocket.

FOX 32 checked with the manager of the bar from which the mayor was supposedly banned. He says nothing ever happened, and that the mayor is welcome anytime.