How IPA’s Structure Lends Itself To Corruption, Special Interests

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By L. Nicole Trottie

The Illinois Press Association (IPA) was founded to serve the interests of “Illinois Newspaper Publishers”, according to a statement on the IPA website.

The Illinois Press Association is comprised of a network of more than 400 accredited newspapers, staff and 15 Board of Directors.   The board “determines the legislative and business practices that are carried out by the IPA’s staff”, according to IPA.  The IPA’s mission, according its statement, represents the “best interest” of “newspapers large and small”.

But a closer look at the Illinois Press Association Organization Chart tells a different story. What the Illinois Press Association hierarchy and associations share in common is — less the common interest of newspapers — the monopoly on Legal and Public Notice.

Don Craven, Illinois Press Association, general counsel, became the Interim Executive Director effective 2017.  Craven adds to his many titles, the “Agent” of legal record for Cook County Suburban Publisher’s, according to the Secretary of State, and counsel to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Cook County Suburban Publisher’s, in association with Chicago Accredited Newspapers, is a large vendor and advertisement placement service of Public Notice.  Both groups procure Public Notice from various Cook County government bodies, as well as the Law Bulletin.  The owner of Accredited Chicago Newspapers is a vested stock holder in the Chicago Sun Times.

Sandy McFarland, Chairman, Illinois Press Association is the Vice President and CEO of Cook County-based Law Bulletin.  The Law Bulletin is a subscription-based legal journal, which publishes Legal Notice intended to serve and make known to individuals the matter of pending legal action such as a property lien, foreclosure, probate, marriage, etc.

The three entities work closely, including IPA employee Josh Sharp, Assistant Director Government Relations, on behalf of Legal and Public Notice lobbying efforts.  Sharp has offices located in both Springfield and Chicago.  Sharp occupies a desk at the Illinois Press Association headquarters in Springfield.  The Illinois Press Association rents office space, occupied by Sharp, in the Law Bulletin Chicago office.  McFarland, Sue Walker, Cook County Suburban Publishers and Accredited Chicago Newspapers, Assistant Secretary, and IPA board member under the title Herald Newspapers, and Darrell Garth, IPA board member and owner of the Citizen Newspapers, comprise the IPA ‘legal notice subcommittee’.  The subcommittee responsibilities include but are not limited to Legal and Public Notice lobbying efforts.

Two of the six Cook County Suburban Publishers Board of Directors serve as Illinois Press Association board members, while four Cook County newspapers (see Organizational Chart) hold member positions on both the Illinois Press Association and Cook County Suburban Publisher’s board.

This isn’t only a theoretical problem of inequity. Public Notice power in particular, Cook County, concentrates itself in the hands of fewer citizen stakeholders and community newspapers.

L. Nicole Trottie is an Illinois Press Association past voluntary board member of 5-years and former card carrying member. 

The following Illinois Times article sheds light on the Illinois Press, Cook County Suburban Publishers, and Law Bulletin system abuses.

Public Notice:  ‘This isn’t the first time the IPA screwed me over’

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