CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — The Illinois Attorney General is now battling a business owner, accusing him of violating a consent decree.
The saga continues with Suburban Express bus company. Owner Dennis Toeppen is being taken to court for not following the rules of an agreement made with the Attorney General Kwame Raoul. The agreement was made just last week. Toeppen is facing a fine of $10,000 for the violations.
There is a long list of incidents leading up to this, but Toeppen maintains his belief the settlement “does not contain an admission of wrongdoing.”
What started with a controversial advertisement, has spiraled into a whirlwind of backlash for Suburban Express. In 2017, it released an ad stating, “You won’t feel like you’re in China when you’re on our buses.” It landed the company with a lawsuit filed by former Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
It shocked a lot of customers, including one who wanted to remain anonymous.
She says, “He obviously has some serious racism issues. This guy must be crazy. I guess it’s too crazy, I’m basically speechless.”
To settle the case, Toeppen agreed to pay $100,000 to refund certain customers. He was ordered to post a non-discrimination statement on the website. Raoul says Toeppen failed to do that. Plus, the consent decree required the company “not to penalize customers based solely on online comments about any defendant, including reviews.”
Instead of following that, Toeppen brought back a “Page of Shame” on the website, exposing customers’ phone numbers, addresses and emails. The page accuses them of not paying and lists people banned from the service.
One woman on the “Page of Shame” didn’t want to go on camera but said she left a negative online review months ago after a bad experience with Suburban Express. She’s a banned customer and a UI student originally from China.
She says, “I think he’s just running out of ideas to say things about people he obviously has zero idea of who they are.”
The website accuses her of being “a danger to herself and others.”
Bridgette Jasinksi is also a banned customer who filed a complaint with the A.G. against Toeppen.
She says, “He obviously doesn’t care about his customers and he can’t take ownership for wrongdoing. It’s all problematic behavior.”
Earlier this year, Jasinski’s story was reported. The company apologized to her after refusing to let her on the bus even though she paid for a ticket. But after a personal confrontation, Toeppen later sent her an email calling her an “insane spoiled psychopath.”
Jasinski says, “The fact that he hurt students, banned them, referring to them on his ‘Page of Shame,’ these are unacceptable forms of behavior, particularly for a business owner. I really think he should be apologetic and thankful for the opportunity to continue conducting his business.”
On the Suburban Express website, Toeppen states the settlement was a path out of litigation. He says the lawsuit “contained numerous false, unproven, and legally inconsequential allegations.” It also states Suburban Express feels it was being extorted by the state.
That non-discrimination statement is now posted on other parts of the company’s website. It also says Suburban Express is considering legal action against Attorney General Kwame Raoul.
A hearing is scheduled for next week. The court will decide if Toeppen has to pay the $10,000 fine and remove the web pages within 24 hours.