How Ludwig’s death led to a bitter race for Wayne village president

Election 2024
Michael O’Bryan of Campton Hills holds up signs during the Justice for Ludwig protest outside the Little Home Church by the Wayside in Wayne on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023. Inside the church a town hall meeting took place to discuss an architectural review of the village hall and police department.

Were it not for a dog named Ludwig, Eileen Phipps might be cruising unopposed to a seventh term as village president of Wayne.

But her husband’s killing of a neighbor’s pet triggered Peter Mourousias to run.

“If anything good came out of that terrible tragedy (it) is that the residents of Wayne opened their eyes to how our village is being run,” Mourousias said Thursday in an email interview with the Daily Herald.

It is the first time since 1999 that Phipps has had an opponent. But despite the vitriol she has faced the last two years, Phipps still wants the job.

“Because I think there is still more to do,” Phipps said. “You have to have that fire.”

The controversy

Phipps lives on the bank of the Fox River, along Pearson Drive. In August 2021, her neighbor Joe Petit let his two dogs out to play, accompanied by one of his friends, on the riverbank.

Hal Phipps, Eileen’s husband, said the dogs -- a pair of Dogo Argentinos -- came onto their property and blocked his way on a path. He said both large dogs were menacing him.

The encounter ended with Hal Phipps pulling out a handgun and shooting Ludwig.

Petit maintains his dogs were not on Phipps’ property. He has described them as “gentle as kittens,” even though he received two tickets in June 2021 after the dogs allegedly came onto the Phipps’ property and bit Hal Phipps’ leg.

An uproar ensued after the shooting, with Mourousias and his wife among those behind a “Justice for Ludwig” campaign. Some called for Eileen Phipps to resign. Others questioned why Hal Phipps was not cited with an ordinance violation for firing a handgun within village limits.

Some speculated there was no prosecution because Eileen Phipps is the village president.

After an investigation by the Kane County sheriff’s office, State’s Attorney Jamie Mosser declined to file any criminal charges, saying Hal Phipps was justified in his fear of the dogs and there was not evidence to prove he recklessly discharged the firearm.

That did not persuade those who continued to call for Eileen Phipps to step down.

“I think she should have resigned because -- not only did multiple residents call for her resignation in public meetings -- I feel she embarrassed the community by not enforcing village ordinances and giving interviews to media outlets defending the behavior of her husband,” Mourousias said. “Not only did she show no empathy or compassion to her next-door neighbor, she refused to discuss this matter in Wayne public meetings, only allowing (Trustee) Pete Connolly to act as her shield.”

Eileen Phipps sees the matter in a different light.

“The Ludwig issue has been investigated to the Nth degree,” she said. “These are not little puppies. These are 130-pound dogs that are banned in seven countries.”

Phipps said the dogs often wandered the neighborhood and other neighbors were afraid of them. She pointed out her husband was cleared after a five-week investigation. Yet, she said, people harassed her son, Hal Phipps Jr., and posted pictures of her granddaughter online.

“There’s certain people who believe this should just keep being brought up,” Eileen Phipps said.

“It should be put to rest.”

Other issues

Mourousias said he never intended to run for office but started meeting with residents in July 2020 to discuss an increase in crashes at Powis and Army Trail roads.

Now he heads the Residents for Wayne slate. It has four candidates for trustee seats: Anna Cunanan, Ron Bower, Daniel Beach and Jessica Ewald.

Phipps is allied with Connolly and Ed Hull, who are seeking reelection as trustees, and write-in candidate Gaetano Bevente, as Preserve and Protect Wayne.

Voters will choose three trustees.

Mourousias began attending village board and various commission meetings after Ludwig’s shooting.

“Once I started attending all of the meetings, the dysfunction of our tiny government became obvious,” he said, citing a lack of meeting minutes and other records on the village’s website, as well as how the board communicates with residents.

Phipps’ list of village board accomplishments over the years includes recently getting back to round-the-clock police service and plans to renovate or replace the village hall/police station with the use of a $500,000 grant.

“We were able to work with state and federal agencies to get the Stearns Road bridge as a regional (Fox River crossing) solution,” Phipps added.

She also is proud of getting jurisdiction over much of Army Trail Road to prevent any other agency from widening the two-lane stretch that runs through the heart of the village, preserving its quiet, semirural nature.

As for communication, “we have comments at the beginning of our (village board) meetings,” she said. “They shout at us. They call us names. They make inappropriate allegations.

“We listen to them politely.”

Mourousias believes nobody should be in office for as long as Phipps, and he would seek to impose term limits.

Phipps said limits are not necessary.

“Term limits are set by your residents and your voters,” Phipps said. “So, time will tell.”