Judge strikes down $20,000 fine against defunct bus service

March 21, 2020 GMT

CHICAGO (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that a defunct Champaign bus company won’t have to pay a $20,000 fine to the Illinois attorney general because of a technicality, but she also sent a warning to the company’s owner.

The fine would have been in addition to the $100,000 that Suburban Express owner Dennis Toeppen paid as part of a court-enforced agreement the two sides reached in April 2019 after then-Attorney General Lisa Madigan sued it, alleging discrimination and harassment.

That lawsuit was filed after Suburban Express said in an ad that riders “won’t feel like you’re in China when you’re on our buses.”

Eight days after the consent decree was reached last year, the attorney general’s office alleged that Toeppen immediately violated the agreement by re-uploading a webpage that attacked a customer who made negative comments online about Suburban Express.

The webpage also attacked a student of Asian origin.

But U.S. District Court Judge Andrea R. Wood wrote in a ruling last Monday that Toeppen won’t have to pay the $20,000 additional fine because the attorney general’s office should have given him 30 days to remove those webpages, as the language in the agreement allows for.

Suburban Express shut down in May 2019. But Wood wrote in Monday’s ruling that the court “warns Toeppen that its patience has worn thin and admonishes him to cease his resistance to complying with the consent decree,” The (Champaign) News-Gazette reported.