Creator of fake site asked to leave campaign

Series: Decision 2023 | Story 11

Hinsdale High School District 86 Board candidate Asma Akhras has asked volunteer Reid McCollum to leave her campaign following his admission that he created a Facebook page appearing to belong to Andrew Catton, another candidate in the race.

“I’m very upset,” Akhras said. “It’s been very hurtful, because I had made it very clear to anyone who has been volunteering that my commitment is to keep the highest values and not engage in any political partisan type of strategies.

“It’s been a constant message that anyone who is helping, you need to keep my values, and if you can’t keep to my values, please don’t volunteer,” she added.

McCollum said he initially denied creating the website.

“I completely lied to them and said it wasn’t me and emphasized the fact that no one needs to apologize for this, this is fine. This happens all the time,” he said.

He then admitted to it March 18 after someone else learned he was behind it and informed Akhras. He also acknowledged purchasing several domains with candidates’ names.

Catton said politics have no place in the classroom.

“I am disappointed to find out that Asma’s FB page administrator and core team member, Reid McCollum, purchased several BOE candidate website addresses, one of which was used to pose as my own,” he said. “It’s also really unfortunate that one known political activist caused so much premeditated and purposeful disruption to our local nonpartisan high school D86 BOE election.”

He added that McCollum is not focused on the best interests of the community or in furthering educational excellence.

The fake Catton website contained text from a letter Catton sent to the school board last year criticizing the district’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. McCollum said he created it to show voters Catton’s “true and espoused honest views” about DEI initiatives and racial issues. McCollum obtained Catton’s letter in a Freedom of Information Act request dated Dec. 22.

A statement McCollum posted on the D86 Straight Talk Facebook page and sent to The Hinsdalean indicates Akhras was not aware of his involvement.

“Neither Asma Akhras nor anyone on her team were in any way aware that I created this website, which I did not do on behalf of her campaign,” he wrote. “In fact, I purchased the domain and several domains for other candidates in December before I’d even met the members of Asma’s core campaign team, and I had no involvement in creating her actual website.”

McCollum said Catton’s generic website and publications like the DuPage Policy Journal prompt a need for concerned citizens to disseminate information.

Akhras encouraged voters to pay attention to her campaign, which has focused on her own message, and her qualifications and vote their conscience.

“At the end of the day, this is voting that is done by citizens,” she said. “I have continued to show my utter commitment of doing the best of my capabilities and capacity of what a campaign should run like.”

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean