A Cook County judge will decide whether Bruce Rauner, the Republican candidate for governor, and his business partners must pay fines for illegally erecting a digital billboard on a building in West Rogers Park.
Digital Greensigns — a billboard company Rauner helped start two years ago — removed the sign Monday to comply with an order from Associate Cook County Judge Mark Ballard, who had ordered the sign removed by Sept. 2.
Now, Ballard has to decide whether the company will have to pay the fines City Hall is seeking — as much as $15,000 a day, dating to Feb. 25. A hearing is set for Sept. 5.
“Our expectation is that the fines wouldn’t be a part of this,” said David Williams, president of Digital Greensigns. “We took a pretty big hit by removing the sign, and I don’t expect to pay a fine.”
The company has signs across Chicago and in some suburbs. It ran into trouble with City Hall over a 10-foot-by-10-foot sign it put up about a year ago above the corner doorway at 6958 N. Western Ave.
It got a permit from City Hall on Dec. 14, 2012, for an electric sign but didn’t also obtain a required public-use permit from the City Council, which has to sign off whenever a sign extends onto public property.
“The sign was hanging over the public way, and they didn’t have a permit,” said Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th). “It was quite a large sign, and the neighbors were complaining about it.”
Rauner is friends with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who’s backing his Democratic opponent, Gov. Pat Quinn. Emanuel’s city Law Department sued Digital Greensigns, seeking the fines, which could total more than $2 million if Ballard sides with City Hall.
Rauner is a “passive investor” in Digital Greensigns, according to Mike Schrimpf, his campaign spokesman.
The Rauner campaign has received $188,000 in free advertising from the sign company in the past five months, according to financial disclosure reports that it’s filed with the Illinois State Board of Election.
Digital Greensigns’ chief executive officer, Joseph Mancino, is the mayor of Hawthorn Woods and also is chairman of Mayors for Rauner, run by Rauner’s campaign.