Chuks Onyezia and Brandon Loggins have much in common: They’re both University of Illinois graduates, both lawyers and both candidates for alderman in the Southwest Side’s 18th Ward.
But when Onyezia was reading Loggins’ responses last week to a recent Chicago Sun-Times editorial board questionnaire, he saw something he didn’t expect: The two men had, in some cases, identical thoughts on how to handle city and ward issues.
Onyezia, who is making his second try for the office, says Loggins lifted chunks of Onyezia’s words from a Chicago Tribune questionnaire Onyezia filled out when he ran for the same office — in 2011.
“I was enraged,” Onyezia said Monday. “I was like, ‘What’s going on? How dare someone use my words in the same race against me?’,”
Onyezia said he has also noticed the same problem with a questionnaire Loggins filled out for the Tribune — there were similarities between Loggins’ Tribune questionnaire he submitted this year and the one Onyezia submitted four years ago to the Tribune.
Loggins could not immediately be reached for further comment, but when Sun-Times editorial writer Thomas Frisbie reached him earlier on Monday, Loggins blamed a “communications error.”
In one answer to a Sun-Times’ question dealing with city pensions, Loggins begins: “I believe that once an employee starts paying into a pension program, the benefits should be clear and concrete.”
Onyezia’s response from 2011: “I believe that once an employee starts paying into a pension program, the benefits should be clear and concrete.”
The remainder of the paragraph for both is virtually the same, with some minor word changes.
In a 2015 answer to Tribune’s question about City Hall finances, Loggins replied: “I have lived in the 18th Ward for many years, and in speaking with my fellow residents, the consensus is nobody is willing to suffer from a further reduction of the services that many of these residents depend on.”
And Onyezia’s response to the Tribune four years earlier: “I have lived in the 18th Ward for many years, and in speaking with my fellow residents, the consensus is nobody is willing to suffer from a further reduction of the services that many of these residents depend on.”
In a statement, Editorial Page Editor Tom McNamee said: “Late on Friday, the Sun-Times editorial board received information that a candidate for alderman in the 18th Ward, Brandon Loggins, may have included plagiarized answers on his Sun-Times questionnaire. We checked out the allegation and confirmed that Loggins’ responses included two almost identical passages, totaling 288 words, from another candidate’s 2011 Chicago Tribune questionnaire. It also repeated two other sentences. We have taken Loggins’ questionnaire down from our website.”
Reached Monday, Tribune Editorial Page Editor Bruce Dold said: “It’s clear that entire paragraphs were copied from the survey that Chuks Onyezia submitted to the Tribune in 2011. We have decided to include an editor’s note on the questionnaire so readers can make their own comparison.”
Onyezia said he called Loggins the day after he read his opponent’s written responses to the Sun-Times editorial board. Loggins also told Onyezia the answers were a result of a “communications problem,” Onyezia said.
“I don’t know what to believe,” Onyezia said.
Onyezia said he ended the conversation this way: “You run the race the way you want to run it.”
Onyezia said his anger has cooled and he’s moving on. He’s also looking on the bright side.
“Imitation is the best form of flattery,” Onyezia said.