A health fair for seniors and women sponsored by Republican state Rep. Sandy Cole triggered a dispute with her Democratic opponent in the November election for the House District 62 seat.
Avon Township Supervisor Sam Yingling accused Cole of improperly using public state money for what he contends was a political event Wednesday at the Round Lake Beach Cultural and Civic Center. He also complained that Avon Township government was purposely excluded from Cole's fair despite providing many senior services.
State law prohibits public resources from being used for political activities.
But Cole, a Grayslake resident, said she did nothing wrong because she was allowed to use state community outreach money -- provided to all senators and representatives -- for mailings to promote the Women and Senior Health and Wellness Fair.
In addition, Cole said Avon wasn't bypassed on purpose because none of the five townships in District 62 participated in her event. She said she paid for snacks, beverages and other items from her pocket, while Round Lake Beach's civic center was donated for the three hours.
"This is not an elected official kind of event," Cole said. "I have five township supervisors (in District 62) and they're not here. Nobody's been excluded for any particular reason."
Yingling, of Round Lake Beach, is making his first run at Cole, who was elected in November 2006. District 62 covers all or portions of Grayslake, Gurnee, Wildwood, Grandwood Park, Hainesville, Round Lake Beach, Round Lake Heights, Round Lake Park, Lake Villa, Libertyville, Lindenhurst, Old Mill Creek, Wadsworth and Third Lake.
He contends seniors weren't served well by Cole's fair because the townships did not participate. In Avon's case, he said, a representative could have informed visitors about emergency financial assistance available to low-income seniors for prescription drugs and affordable transportation opportunities.
"I think what we have to look at is the state is broke," Yingling said. "She appears to have been spending our tax dollars on something that's political."
Meanwhile, Yingling supporter and Springfield lobbyist Lowell Jaffe was near a table of fruit and other snacks at Wednesday's fair when he questioned Cole about spending taxpayers' money on the event. Jaffe said he attended the event on behalf of the Illinois Independent Coalition for Smaller Government.
"We're focused on making sure that our tax dollars are going for actual purposes, for real things," Jaffe said.
Retired Lake County Coroner Barbara Richardson was nearby when she approached Jaffe and dismissed the notion the health fair was improper. She praised the variety of information and services available for the seniors and women.
Chair massages, cholesterol screenings and blood pressure readings were part of the offerings, along with vendor booths including the Illinois attorney general's office, Edward Jones Investments and Cultural Care Au Pair.
"A lot of these people here are probably at a lower income level and probably they wouldn't be able to afford some of this stuff," Richardson said. "They're enjoying this. And when you're at that point in your life, something like this is really important."