A day after accusing Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns of illegal use of public resources for his campaign, a consultant for state Sen. Chris Lauzen said Burns and a host of local political operatives should resign their posts.
"This is the kind of thing that makes people cynical about politics -- this gamesmanship, behind the scenes, that we are now shedding a light on," said Jon Zahm, a part-time consultant for Lauzen's campaign against Burns. Lauzen and Burns are both vying to become Kane County Board chairman.
Zahm referenced copies of about a dozen email conversations Burns had with political supporters from August to the beginning of February in making his charges.
Zahm said the documents show Burns knowingly used his city email account, by forwarding messages to his city email from his campaign email. He also pointed to about 20 instances of conversations and campaign tactics Zahm believes are below the standards of someone worthy to serve in public office. Examples Zahm referenced in the emails include:
• Batavia Township Republican Party Chairman Ellen Nottke referring to Congressman Randy Hultgren as "that weasel" after Hultgren's endorsement of Lauzen.
• Nottke and Burns referring to Lauzen's wife as "that beast" and joking about her wardrobe.
• Burns joking about Hultgren's appearance at a prayer dinner by saying, "Won't he be surprised when he learns there is no God."
• A discussion between Nottke and Burns about the possibility of getting Sue Klinkhamer, a Democrat in the chairman race, to "take some shots" at Lauzen.
Zahm said he hopes the emails inspire an ethics investigation into Burns' use of city email and a widespread call for Burns, Nottke and Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady to bow out of public life. A couple of the emails involve Burns and Brady discussing potential ways to attack Lauzen in the campaign.
Neither Nottke nor Brady responded to interview requests Wednesday. But Burns said Zahm's sharing of emails never meant for the public eye shows Zahm is more guilty than anyone when it comes to "personal intimidation and threats" in a campaign.
"Lauzen should be ashamed for associating with a man as disgusting, despicable and devoid of ethics as Mr. Zahm," Burns said. "For Mr. Zahm to talk about ethics is like (Philadelphia Eagles quarterback) Michael Vick talking about humane treatment of animals. For Mr. Zahm to claim he did this as a volunteer without Chris Lauzen's knowledge is an unabashed lie."
Burns said he has no intention of resigning from the chairman race or his post as mayor. He said a technical glitch resulted in campaign emails being sent from or through his city email. The glitch is now fixed. And, for the record, Burns said he does believe in God.
"I know there is a God," Burns said. "The question is whether or not he believes in Chris Lauzen."
Whether or not the content of the emails results in more than an inside look at the sausage making of a political campaign would normally fall on the shoulders of the Kane County state's attorney's office. But a potential conflict of interest may bump a decision about any legal breach in the emails to a different venue. Nottke is a paid consultant working on Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon's re-election campaign.
Ken Menzel, deputy general counsel for the Illinois State Board of Elections, said the use of city email for campaign purposes is a confusing area of the law. Menzel said state law says no public funds can be used for campaign purposes. However, translating email from a public account into a quantifiable use of taxpayer dollars is difficult.
"Back before we had all this electronic stuff this sort of thing was easier," Menzel said. "The cost of a stamp or city letterhead is what it is. I'm not entirely sure the law has caught up with this topic."
Menzel said a prosecutor would also have to decide if the value of the taxpayer resources used is worth the price of a prosecution. Menzel said a prosecutor may decide even actions with minor impact to actual tax dollars could be worth bringing charges is the value of sending a public message about that type of activity was deemed worth it by the prosecutor.