Suburban Express vacates Campustown office; destination unknown

Suburban Express vacates Campustown office; destination unknown

CHAMPAIGN — As settlement discussions with the Illinois attorney general continue, Suburban Express is moving out of its Campustown location.

The bus company says on its website that it is moving from 714 S. Sixth St., C, but doesn't give a destination.

Its owner, Dennis Toeppen, declined to comment.

"I really don't have much respect for you as a reporter," he said. "Please don't call me or email me again."

On Wednesday morning, workers moving into Suburban Express' former location said they were with Landmark Properties, a student housing company based in Georgia.

Landmark plans to turn the former water-treatment plant at 601 N. Lincoln Ave., U, into a townhouse-style development scheduled to open in the fall of 2019.

"The office on South Sixth Street will be used as our leasing office for The Retreat at Illinois while the property is being developed," said Cody Nichelson, a spokesman for Landmark Properties. "Once the community is complete, we will re-locate our leasing office there."

Meanwhile, Toeppen's legal troubles continue.

After Attorney General Lisa Madigan sued him and his company in April for alleged discrimination and harassment of his customers, one of the company's insurers filed a lawsuit asking for a judgment on whether it correctly denied coverage for claims resulting from Madigan's lawsuit.

A judge ruled in favor of the insurance company after Toeppen's lawyer filed a motion to withdraw and Toeppen failed to respond to the insurer's complaint.

Toeppen asked the judge this week to vacate the ruling, saying he "inadvertently failed to file an answer" to the complaint because Madigan's lawsuit "has consumed much of Defendant's time and energy."

He also filed a motion to move the insurance case from Chicago to Urbana, citing the "convenience of parties and witnesses."

Toeppen's lawyer, Savoy-based James Long, asked to withdraw last month, citing a strategic impasse and unpaid fees. His request is yet to be resolved.

In the main case against Toeppen by Madigan, the two parties are continuing to negotiate a settlement.

However, the attorney general's office said in a recent filing that it sent settlement terms to Toeppen on July 9 and hasn't received a counterproposal.

Despite this, "the State remains willing to discuss settlement," Madigan's office wrote.

With her lawsuit, Madigan said she is trying to force Suburban Express to comply with the law or go out of business.

She's seeking $50,000 per deceptive act or unfair practice, an additional $50,000 per deceptive act or unfair practice committed with the intent to defraud, $10,000 for offenses against people older than 65 and up to $10,000 per defendant for each unlawful act of discrimination.

The lawsuit stems from an email advertisement Suburban Express sent in December saying its benefits included "Passengers like you. You won't feel like you're in China when you're on our buses."

That led to a swift backlash, apologies and a subpoena from Madigan's office to determine whether Suburban Express had violated the Illinois Human Rights Act.

Since the lawsuit was filed, Suburban Express and Toeppen have been complying with a temporary restraining order requiring the company to remove personally identifying information from its website, stop retaliating against customers for negative reviews and remove language from its contract prohibiting negative reviews.