Fake blood, a beheaded duck and a looming defamation lawsuit are at the center of a peculiar spat between a McHenry County judicial candidate and a group of anonymous blog commenters.
In a petition for an order of protection filed Friday, McHenry County Risk Management Coordinator Lisa Shamhart lodged a pair of bizarre accusations against former McHenry County Clerk Mary McClellan. Shamhart said that McClellan and her husband, Ed Gil, are responsible for throwing fake blood at Shamhart’s door and leaving a beheaded duck on the woman’s doorstep.
McClellan has denied the accusations and called them retaliation for a separate civil petition the former clerk filed Oct. 10. McClellan’s petition seeks information related to a blog comment that revealed privileged details about her husband’s workers’ compensation claim. McClellan, who earlier this year announced her bid for a McHenry County circuit judge seat, said the allegations are an attempt to interfere with McClellan’s chance at being elected.
“If it was imminent harm [Shamhart] was trying to protect herself from, then why wait?” McClellan said.
Shamhart could not be reached for comment.
‘It turned out to be fake blood’
The quarrel began Oct. 3 when McClellan asked the county’s human resources department to investigate a comment that was posted on Cal Skinner’s blog the night before.
“On Oct. 3, Mary contacted my employer making false accusations against me, which resulted in a two-day suspension,” Shamhart wrote in an order of protection she filed Friday in McHenry County circuit court.
Shamhart went on to describe a startling discovery she made while babysitting her young grandchildren Oct. 5.
“We heard something hit the front door. It turned out to be fake blood,” Shamhart wrote. “On Tuesday, Oct. 15, we found a beheaded duck on the front porch. Mary and her husband, Ed Gil, are well-known bird hunters.”
Emergency orders of protection such as Shamhart’s generally are based on the alleged victim’s testimony about recent abusive behavior and a detailed timeline of events. A hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 14, when Shamhart’s order of protection could be renewed or dismissed.
Reached by phone Thursday, McClellan denied the allegations, and said she doesn’t know where Shamhart lives. At least one of the statements in Shamhart’s petition was true, however. McClellan does hunt, but she wouldn’t have left a duck on the woman’s porch, she said.
“I don’t hunt ducks. I hunt pheasants,” McClellan said.
On Oct. 2, a private conversation took place with the Illinois Department of Employment Security regarding Gil’s workers’ compensation claim. McHenry County Administrator Peter Austin declined to say who was included in the private conversation, but McClellan has said Shamhart had access to Gil’s claim through her role as county risk management coordinator. The office is responsible for maintaining insurance coverage, including workers’ compensation claims.
At 6:40 p.m. Oct. 2, a comment posted on McHenry County Blog by someone with the user name “Nunya,” accused McClellan’s husband of trying to collect $11,000 in unemployment while he also was receiving workers’ compensation.
“Oh Mary, Mary. Will you ever learn? Your deception and lies are all starting to come out. Nice try attempting to lie to IDES, claiming to be his lawyer,” the commenter wrote. “Guess he is going to have to pay back the 11 grand he got for unemployment. Attempting to collect unemployment benefits while receiving WC benefits is fraud and the both of you just got caught!!...”
Gil previously worked under McClellan as an election analyst during her stint in the county clerk’s office from December 2014 to November 2018. McClellan believes Shamhart is tied to the accusatory blog comment and the private information it contained.
“She’s violated her authority of the county, and she’s violated many things that she was entrusted to do as a risk manager for McHenry County,” McClellan said.
Austin has called the matter a “personnel issue” and said the county’s internal investigation is near completion. Although the investigation could lead to disciplinary action, it’s unlikely to result in criminal charges, Austin said.
On Oct. 10, McClellan filed a petition seeking specific information that could lead to a defamation lawsuit against the county and several unknown defendants. McClellan claims she and her husband are the victims of defamation, libel and slander related to the release of private information tied to that Oct. 2 IDES meeting.
McClellan is seeking a court order that would require the blogger, Skinner, to reveal information that would identify the commenters on his website. Those people then could be named as defendants in a defamation lawsuit McClellan hopes to file.
The comments in question were posted in response to a number of blog items discussing McClellan’s decision to run for judge.
Commenters with usernames including “Nunya,” “Kitchenmilitia,” “Confederate Air Force” and “Ms. Trumpion” referred to McClellan as diabolical and satanic. One user referred to McClellan as “Freddie Kruger,” while another alleged the judicial candidate had a “devil tattoo.”
Others accused McClellan of using taxpayer money to “buy trinkets” and suggested she had information about a crime.
Still, McClellan was caught off guard when she heard about Shamhart’s order of protection, she said. McClellan never was questioned by police and has not been served with the order, she said.
Woodstock police confirmed Thursday that they never took a report from Shamhart about fake blood or a beheaded duck.
Now, McClellan is seeking the internet service provider and IP addresses of any of the blog’s anonymous posters, as well as the names, addresses, employers, job titles and phone numbers of all employees who spoke with IDES staff Oct. 2. The ISP and IP data could link the posters to specific locations, tracking back to individuals.
She’s additionally requesting incoming and outgoing email and phone records of those people both during and after the Oct. 2 meeting and her Oct. 3 request for investigation.
“Not only am I denying [the allegations], but I’ve hired an attorney that is going to go after Miss Shamhart for the false accusations that she has established in this affidavit,” McClellan said. “There’s a whistleblower’s act for false claims, and she’s violated many of them.”