The public should neither jump to conclusions about Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns' emails, nor assume there would be a conflict of interest if the state's attorney's office became involved, Kane County's top law enforcement official said Friday.
A political consultant for State Sen. Chris Lauzen accused Burns of illegal use of his city email account for campaign purposes earlier this week. Burns and Lauzen are vying for the Republican nomination in the Kane County Board chairman race. The consultant, Jon Zahm, also said Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon should recuse himself from any potential review of the emails. Ellen Nottke is one of the people Burns corresponded with in the emails in question. Nottke has served as a paid consultant for McMahon during his current re-election campaign.
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In an interview Friday, McMahon said if an investigation of the emails lands in his office, he'll consult with his staff to determine if a conflict of interest really exists.
"I have made the civil division aware of the fact that Ellen Nottke has formerly worked for my campaign," McMahon said. "She hasn't worked for my campaign since December. I haven't paid her since December. I want to be clear about that."
McMahon said nothing about the emails has come to his office, nor is it clear that an investigation will ever come to his office to review. Because of that, McMahon said he has no hard facts about the emails.
"It's a little bit of a disservice to the state's attorney's office to presuppose that there's a conflict before we know what the facts are," McMahon said. "For people to say that we can't look at it before there's even an investigation is cutting right to the end of the conclusion before anybody really knows who did what, what resources may or may not have been used and what the intent was. We need to know those facts."
And if those facts indicate a conflict of interest exists for McMahon or his office?
"I'll take the responsible action at that time," McMahon said. "The integrity of the office is paramount."
The city of Geneva also has an ethics code that addresses the intentional use of city resources for political activity. Geneva authorities could choose to pursue charges of a violation of local municipal law if they believe one exists.