Gerard apologizes to store owner for acts of campaign volunteer

Gerard apologizes to store owner for acts of campaign volunteer

CHAMPAIGN — An overzealous volunteer with Champaign Mayor Don Gerard's campaign committee, posing as a city liquor official, allegedly threatened to get a liquor store's license "canceled" after the son of the store owner removed Gerard campaign signs.

Gerard met with store owners Vijay and Manish Puri on Friday and apologized for the incident, which occurred Thursday night at Hollywood Liquors, 512 S. Neil St.

Gerard also called Champaign police to the store Friday afternoon. They reviewed security camera video of the incident and interviewed Manish Puri, who was at the store when the alleged threat was made.

"At first, I thought it might be someone trying to sabotage my campaign but now I just think it was someone who was misguided," Gerard said. "I'm sorry it happened."

Gerard said the man is a volunteer with his campaign. On one website, the man identifies himself as a campaign coordinator for Gerard.

"If it's the guy who we think it is, he's been around. I know who he is. He's one of my 5,000 Facebook friends," Gerard said. "He shows up and is very eager but you don't get to know people very well when you're in a campaign."

Matt Duco, a Gerard adviser, was with the mayor at the liquor store Friday.

"I went back there and watched the video and tried to ID him," he said. "I just think it's outrageous what he was doing. Some people who have never been involved in politics might not realize how wrong it is to say you're representing a public official and ordering someone to do something politically."

Manish Puri explained that the saga began when the Gerard volunteer asked to put up campaign signs at the family's Discount Gas store on Mattis Avenue.

"This guy went in and he told one of my employees that he's from the liquor commissioner's office and they wanted to put signs outside. My employee just heard 'liquor commissioner' and he said, 'Go ahead, go ahead.'

"Then I came in and said that we do not support any political campaigns whatsoever. I took the signs down and I put them in the back room. He came in later and asked what happened to the sign. He was told that we took them down and he could take them. He then said he wanted to speak to the owner and they told him to come (to Hollywood Liquors). He came over here and he actually threatened me."

The man said that he worked "directly under the liquor commissioner and checks on liquor compliance and stuff," Manish Puri said.

"I said OK. Then he asked if my liquor license was posted. I said it's right there on the wall. I pointed at the wall and showed it to him. Then he walked down this aisle and he said, 'You've got a lot of liquor here and I'll make sure you get in trouble. I'll get your license canceled.'

"I said, 'For what? What have I done?' I've got maybe 30 letters saying that we do a good job and we card everybody and we follow the rules. What are you saying?'

"And he just says, 'No, no. I'm not going to talk to you now.' And then he just walked out."

Manish Puri said the incident gnawed at him all night Thursday.

"I was just not happy. He kept me stressed. I kept debating all night if I should call the police and file a complaint or what should I do?" he said.

Puri, who said his family has lived in Champaign for four years and has owned the liquor store for three years, said he wasn't supporting any of the four mayoral contenders.

"I'm not toward any party, but I look at the candidates and decide who I'm going to vote for. He just helped me make my decision," he said.

But that was a few hours before Gerard came in to apologize.

"I'm very happy that (Gerard) showed up, and apparently he doesn't know the guy very well, I guess," Manish Puri said. "But he is not supportive of what he did. That, I think, squares up things.

"But if someone tries to step on your freedom, on your liberties granted by the Constitution, I'm not taking that (expletive). That's what he tried to do. He tried to stomp on my self-respect."

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Jam wrote on April 04, 2015 at 9:04 am

My vote will go to either Feinen or Petry. Gerard runs with an erratic group based upon news accounts over the last year.  This story pretty much confirms not much has changed.  As I recall he was supported by Mr Craig Walker last election who later became his antagonist which really caused much more turmoil at city council meetings than necessary.  I think Mr. Walker supports Foster this year basing that info on a older NG story.  If true she (Foster) does not get my vote consideration. 

Mqqneyes wrote on April 04, 2015 at 9:04 am

  Jam...I'm not a big fan of the Mayor either, but I do realize that basing any kind of judgement of the Mayor based on the News Gazette is probably not a good idea.

787 wrote on April 04, 2015 at 10:04 am

Does it seem like Gerard doesn't mind if his name in the news, be it good or bad?   A bit of narcissism?

And the Champaign Police have enough to deal with already.  They don't need to be called out by the mayor, to deal with an overzealous campaign worker who made a series of stunningly bad decisions.   Their time would be much better spent investigating all of these shootings, and figuring out who is behind them.  Chief Cobb and Troy Daniels seem to have plenty to deal with, but there are too few arrests.

And could the Gerard campaign please be a little more selective on who they have representing the campaign, and who they provide campaign materials to?  Please?   That could have avoided this whole issue completely.  

When the campaign worker for Gerard started harassing the store owner, Puri should have asked for a name and to see some identification.  That would have ended it right there.

MaroaForsyth wrote on April 04, 2015 at 10:04 am

On one website he appears as campaign coordinator?  How about Gerard's own website...

An overzealous volunteer?  He claims on facebook to be 'coordinating all aspects of Re-Election efforts.  Duties include but are not limited to in person appearances, photo/video shoots, and management of social media content...'

This is more than someone who 'shows up' to help with a campaign and reflects on the candidate's character as well.  Chicago politics at its finest.  Nice Job Don.



ericbussell wrote on April 04, 2015 at 1:04 pm


The individual in the photo was removed from the Don Gerard campaign website after you posted this.  This situation is just disturbing.      

Jsmith68 wrote on April 04, 2015 at 10:04 am
Ruralman wrote on April 04, 2015 at 11:04 am

So who is this punk? Any criminal charges filed yet? Typical bunch of thugs Duco and the young Dems!

Beem wrote on April 04, 2015 at 11:04 am

So how did Gerard find out about the incident? Did I miss where that is answered?

Importantlocalopinion wrote on April 04, 2015 at 12:04 pm

From the picture and a bit of googling of campaign coordinator, it looks like it is this guy....


The bully is going to have a hard time getting his law licence now...



Importantlocalopinion wrote on April 04, 2015 at 12:04 pm

From the picture and a bit of googling of campaign coordinator, it looks like it is this guy....


The bully is going to have a hard time getting his law licence now...



Marti Wilkinson wrote on April 04, 2015 at 3:04 pm

Gerards campaign may have removed him from their website, but he still shows up in a Google search. I got a screenshot of a web search, and it's disgusting that Don is trying to pass this off as a random volunteer. There needs to be a criminal investigation.

ericbussell wrote on April 05, 2015 at 6:04 am


Here is WCIA's 10pm news story on the subject:

I can't believe Gerard was bragging about having 5000 Facebook friends while trying to marginalize his relationship with this high ranking campaign coordinator who was prominently featured on the Gerard website as such. 

I feel Gerard deserves the benefit of the doubt in that him and his campaign manager were not directly involved in these deplorable allegations.   It's the botched cover up that is the most noteworthy aspect of this controversy.   Sorois posted blog entries on for crying out loud, yet he barely knew him?   Really?   This story has been picked up by the AP and is an unfortunate and avoidable black eye on this exceptional community. 

There are so many exceptional volunteers working on countless local races and issues across our community.   It's a shame that something like this happens just before the election.   Let's try to ignore the divisive hyper partisan rhetoric of the few and focus on the many positive things about the candidates and the community.   Ugly political shenanigans, the shameless spin, and negative propaganda based half truths have no place in local nonpartisan elections.


Local Yocal wrote on April 05, 2015 at 6:04 am
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Like Mike Ballard did for Kristin Williamson's campaign with the dishonest Jakobbson mailers, a campaign operative for Gerard manages to generate bad press moments before the election. Will it cost Gerard the election? The News-Gazette, endorsers of Feinen, will do its very best to insure that's the case.

Maybe this could be a new way to rig elections. Members of the opposite team infiltrate the opponent's campaign and do something awful to cause disrepute to the candidate. Ingenious.

Bulldogmojo wrote on April 06, 2015 at 9:04 am


A better title to this article would be "Gerard Franchising out his Anger Issues".