An Illinois bus company wrote this racist email and now has to pay the price
An Illinois-based bus company settled a lawsuit that accused it of discriminating against Chinese students, only to violate the terms of agreement, according to The News-Gazette.
Suburban Express and its owner Dennis Toeppen reportedly breached a consent decree by publishing a webpage that attacked an Asian customer who allegedly failed to pay her bus fare, attorney general Kwame Raoul's office said in its motion last Wednesday.
Toeppen and his company have been mired in controversy since 2017, when Suburban Express sent an emailed advertisement that boasted, "You won't feel like you're in China when you're on our buses." The jab was made at students at the University of Illinois Urban-Champaign, which the company serves and which has a large Chinese student population.
The racist remark prompted then attorney general Lisa Madigan to open an investigation to determine whether Suburban Express violated the Illinois Human Rights Act. Last year, she filed a 39-page lawsuit that included copies of the email, an internal list of banned customers, and screenshots of the company's "Page of Shame." In it, Madigan also alleged that Toeppen's shuttle service refused to accept credits cards from mostly Jewish neighborhoods and that he recorded a video that mocked Asian accents.
Following the lawsuit, Toeppen and Suburban Express reportedly agreed to a temporary restraining order that required the company to delete posts that revealed its customers' personal information and prohibited it from retaliating against those who posted negative reviews. Last week, in an effort to end the lawsuit for good, Suburban Express reached a $100,000 settlement with Madigan. Under the terms, the company was not allowed to penalize customers on the basis of their reviews.
In a motion seeking a $10,000 fine, however, assistant attorney general Jeff VanDam said last week that Toeppen and his company did not adhere to the consent decree.
"Defendants flouted this requirement immediately after entry of the Consent Decree by posting a defamatory web page that penalizes a customer through viciously attacking the customer solely for online comments about Suburban Express," VanDam wrote.
Toeppen did not respond to the News-Gazette's immediate request for comment but criticized Raoul's office for moving forward with the allegations on his website.
"Attorney General Kwame Raoul's press release on the matter is false and defamatory in the extreme, in that it claims his office proved the various false and unproven allegations," Toeppen posted.
Toeppen, who also called Raoul a "hypocritical, extortionist Illinois politician" on the company's homepage, was previously arrested in 2014 for allegedly posting lewd statements about two customers on Reddit, according to the Chicago Tribune.