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updated: 3/7/2012 1:49 AM

Geneva looks into whether Burns violated any ethics law in use of email

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  • Kevin Burns

      Kevin Burns

  • Chris Lauzen

      Chris Lauzen

  • Bob McQuillan

      Bob McQuillan


The city of Geneva is looking into whether Mayor Kevin Burns violated city ethics laws after he was accused of using his city email address for political campaign correspondence.

Bob McQuillan, founder of the Geneva TaxFACTS group, said at Monday's city council meeting he emailed the council and Burns Feb. 27 regarding the allegations, but had only heard back from one person, so decided to raise the matter at the council meeting.

Burns is seeking the Republican nomination for Kane County Board chairman. Jon Zahm, a consultant for opponent state Sen. Chris Lauzen's campaign, requested release of the mayor's emails from mid-August to mid-January. Zahm then disseminated the emails to the media.

Some of the emails were sent between Burns, campaign worker Ellen Nottke, state Republican chairman Pat Brady and others. They discussed, among other issues, arranging for supporters to publish letters to the editor, campaign office plans, campaign contributions, how to get others to join in criticizing Lauzen, and Congressman Randy Hultgren's endorsement of Lauzen.

Geneva prohibits officials and employees from intentionally using city resources for personal use, including political campaigns.

Burns has said it was an "inadvertent overlap" of his email addresses, in his effort to respond to all who call or write to him. In addition to his city email address, he has a campaign email address and a personal email address.

The city's attorney is the ethics adviser, and he has delegated the power to City Administrator Mary McKittrick, who is consulting with an outside attorney. Monday night, Burns directed McQuillan's questions about procedure to McKittrick. She could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

No one has filed an official complaint with the city. Geneva code says the Ethics Commission can only investigate a signed, notarized, written complaint, and may not act on its own prerogative.

The allegations "certainly have been taken seriously by the council and the city staff," Alderman Dean Kilburg said.

McQuillan asked that the investigation be conducted publicly.

"The good people of Geneva have been used as pawns in a political game that is getting dirtier by the minute," he said.

McQuillan said he didn't think Zahm should have released the emails publicly, but instead should have pursued an official investigation. "I know Jon Zahm and I despise the tactics he uses in many political campaigns," McQuillan said. McQuillan also said he thought Burns "has done a great job as the city's mayor."

McQuillan had recently criticized the mayor for not interviewing him for the 2nd Ward alderman vacancy in December.

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