Did Lauren Turelli Lie About Her Education?
State representative candidate under fire for citing a degree from Cambridge she never received.
A Republican candidate for the seat now held by retiring state Rep. Karen May (D-Highland Park) is catching flak for claiming a degree in her academic background she never received.
Lauren Turelli, who is running against Dr. Mark Neerhof in the March 20 Republican primary to represent the 58th District, has listed in campaign materials, on Facebook and LinkedIn that she received an advanced degree in International Relations from England's University of Cambridge in 1994.
According to a letter from Cambridge's records department obtained by Patch, Turelli (then unmarried and with the last name Grabowski) "was unsuccessful in her studies and withdrew in February 1995 without gaining any qualification from this institution."
Turelli, a Lake Forest resident, did not answer phone calls or emails from Patch about this story. She emailed Illinois Review on Feb. 21 with an academic timeline that mentioned coursework at Cambridge, but not a degree.
"Some biographical notes on websites not under the control of my campaign…may inaccurately reflect my post-graduate work at University of Cambridge," Turelli said in a statement posted on Team America's 10th District Blog. "I am working now to ensure those sites have the proper information."
In an interview with Patch, Turelli's campaign manager Mark Shaw indicated Turelli did not realize she had not received her degree when she listed it in her materials. He said that, unlike most universities, Cambridge does not give out degrees even to those that successfully qualify for them.
"It was her understanding that she completed the requirements for a degree," Shaw said. "There's no diploma you hang on your wall."
According to the University of Cambridge, however, graduates receive degree certificates once they have completed their qualifying coursework. Cambridge's communications head Tim Holt told Patch Thursday that Turelli was "unsuccessful" at Cambridge and therefore did not receive a degree.
Turelli "has not got a Cambridge qualification," Holt said.
Turelli's Facebook pages no longer states that she received a degree from Cambridge and her LinkedIn page is down. Screenshots of Turelli's LinkedIn page sent to Patch by Neerhof's campaign reveal that the degree was listed as recently as January of this year.
According to Neerhof's campaign manager Brad Goodman, Turelli's page changed shortly after his office sent out a news release that pointed out the discrepancy.
"I have a copy of her LinkedIn page, and as soon as I sent out the release they took the page down," Goodman said.
Copies of the release were passed around to attendees at the League of Women Voters' candidate forum held in Highland Park last Sunday. Turelli was slated to participate, but did not attend. She texted the League's Highland Park co-president Margie Weiss during the event to let her know she wouldn't be there.
"It was not specific, but said something had happened and she couldn't be there," Weiss said. "I haven't heard a word from her since."
Shaw Tried to Let the League Know About Turelli’s Absence
Shaw sent an email to one of the event's organizers hours before the event to let the League know Turelli wouldn't attend. Her father is receiving treatment for leukemia at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and Turelli went to visit him.
The organizer Shaw emailed was out of town, however, so the email went unread.
Shaw said he would have called someone at the League, but he didn't have a phone number. He tried to call Neerhof on Saturday evening to tell him Turelli wouldn't be at the forum.
"He didn't need to notify us," Goodman said. "He needed to notify the League of Women Voters."
Weiss was surprised that Turelli didn't make more of an effort to ensure the League knew she would not attend the forum. Weiss said she would have "triple-checked" to make sure the League knew if she were the candidate unable to attend a forum. She also pointed out that someone from Turelli's campaign should have attended to hand out literature, even if Turelli herself could not be there.
"Her campaign manager should have been there," Weiss said.
Goodman believes Turelli skipped the forum because of his news release about her Cambridge degree.
"They got busted and they didn't want to talk about it," Goodman said.
Turelli Was Accused of Fabrications in 2009 Campaign
This isn't the first time Turelli has come under fire for false claims while on the campaign trail. When Turelli ran against current 29th District State Senate candidate Julie Morrison in 2009 for West Deerfield Township supervisor, she retracted an endorsement she fabricated receiving from Secretary of State Jesse White.
"It did appear that statements were made about endorsements that turned out not to be true," Morrison said.
Shaw, who wrote the mailer that came under fire during that campaign, calls that "another misunderstanding."
While Shaw would like to see the discourse of the primary season return to issues like Medicaid, Goodman said these topics are important because they reveal that Turelli is an "unelectable candidate" in the general election.
"I'm more than happy for make believe stories to be on the record issues," Goodman said.