A part-time political consultant for State Sen. Chris Lauzen raised allegations Tuesday that Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns has used taxpayer dollars to run his campaign for Kane County Board chairman.
Records show Jon Zahm filed a recent Freedom of Information Act request with Geneva officials to obtain emails sent by Burns using his firstname.lastname@example.org account. That account is owned and operated by Geneva via local tax dollars.
A copy of Zahm's information request was obtained by the Daily Herald. The records show more than 100 pages of emails connected to that account, stemming from August when Burns first announced his candidacy until the beginning of February.
The discussions in those emails involve exchanges between Burns and various supporters and campaign employees. Topics include soliciting campaign contributions, organizing letters to newspapers from campaign supporters, and fretting over the endorsement Congressman Randy Hultgren recently gave to Lauzen. Burns and Lauzen are battling for the Republican nomination in the Kane County chairman race.
Zahm said he decided to check Burns' city emails after the recent arrest of Geneva's streets superintendent. Steve LeMaire faces charges of theft and official misconduct for making $24,000 of unauthorized purchases with a city credit card.
"I figured if he wasn't watching the staff that I should probably take a look at him," Zahm said. He believes the emails are proof Burns is "so obsessed with power that he's lost sight of what's right and wrong" and unethically and illegally used taxpayer resources to operate his campaign for county board chairman.
In an interview, Lauzen said he was aware of the emails, and he agrees they appear to show illegal actions by Burns. But Burns said he never intentionally used his city email account or computers for his campaign.
"In my attempt to be responsive to anyone and everyone who calls or writes to me I am certain that there will be an inadvertent overlap of email addresses, no question," Burns said. "I don't deny that at all. Is it intentional? Of course not. Obviously, I need to do a better job of monitoring."
Burns does have a campaign email address through Gmail he's used in correspondence with the Daily Herald. He pointed to that free email address as evidence there's no need for him to intentionally use a taxpayer-funded email address for his campaign.
That intent may be key. Geneva's ethics ordinance says "no officer or employee shall intentionally use any property or resources of the city of Geneva in connection with any prohibited political activity."
State election officials were unreachable for comment late Tuesday. Any criminal charges would be at the discretion of the Kane County state's attorney's office.
Zahm will raise additional concerns about the people Burns had correspondence with and the topics discussed in the emails at a news conference Wednesday afternoon in Geneva.