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updated: 3/1/2012 11:10 AM

Surges accuses McConnaughay of pay-to-play

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  • Karen McConnaughay

    Karen McConnaughay

  • Cliff Surges

    Cliff Surges


A candidate in the Republican primary for the 33rd Senate District race says the "cozy relationships" between his opponent's political friends are the types of connections that are destroying the public's trust in elected officials in Illinois.

Cliff Surges, 48, of Gilberts, says contracts involving supporters and relatives of Karen McConnaughay are examples of political paybacks and payoffs that the state is trying to purge.

A news release Surges sent out recently suggests McConnaughay exchanged endorsements from Republican leaders for payments and appointments to county positions.

The central issue of his release, though, was an agreement between Geneva Township Highway Commissioner Mark Wissing and McConnaughay Properties for a garage on Roosevelt Road in West Chicago that the township highway commission rents to store two large pieces of road equipment. Surges says since August 2009, the taxpayers have been on the hook for the $1,650 a month it costs to rent the garage, a total of $46,200.

McConnaughay Properties is the commercial real estate business owned by Karen McConnaughay's mother-in-law.

"Unfortunately political cronyism, and pay-to-play, is alive and well in Karen McConnaughay's Kane County and this is why we can't afford to send her to Springfield," Surges said in a news release.

But McConnaughay, who has faced similar allegations in the past, said her opponent is engaging in mudslinging to divert attention away from her accomplishments.

"When you have nothing else to talk about and you need to draw a contrast, this is just a cheap political shot to say, 'I think she's engaged in pay to play,'" McConnaughay said. "If you think that's the case, why aren't you in the state's attorney's office? These people have an obligation to turn that into the authorities. But you need to demonstrate that there is actually evidence that something is going on there."

Surges said Wissing, who is a former Geneva Township Republican Chairman, had worked on McConnaughay's campaign for county board chairman in 2004 and 2008, while McConnaughay supported Wissing in his bid to defeat Geneva Township Road Commissioner John Carlson in 2009.

"It's a really cozy family and friends plan that does not seem to be available for everyone," Surges said. "In Illinois, that's a problem we have."

Although Surges raised questions in a news release about competitive bids, alternate locations and prices, Wissing said Surges never contacted his office to find out answers.

"I know every commercial property there is in the township," Wissing said. "We have large trucks and needed a 12 by 12 (foot) overhead door. There were very few options within the township. There is nothing nefarious going on here. If he would have called, I would have been happy to provide answers."

Wissing said the township previously rented a similarly-sized space in Batavia Township and paid about $4,250 per month.

Meanwhile, McConnaughay, the current chairman of the Kane County Board, said she has no hand in the arrangement or business dealings of McConnaughay Properties.

"My mother-in-law does not consult me when she enters into a contract," McConnaughay said. "It has nothing to do with the county, it has nothing to do with me. I receive no remuneration for that and there is no benefit on any level that I derive from that."

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