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Article updated: 2/10/2013 2:12 PM

Island Lake records detail activists' financial ties

By Russell Lissau

One of the Island Lake residents trying to knock Charles Amrich out of the town's mayoral race billed the town for nearly $59,000 in services in 2012, village records show.

Two companies owned by Daniel Field -- Kodiak Technology Group and Kodiak Collision Specialists -- received payments from the village last year, according to documents reviewed by the Daily Herald under the Freedom of Information Act.

The man Field teamed with to challenge Amrich's candidacy, former village Trustee Louis Sharp, also has significant financial ties to village hall.

His Sharp Towing is the first company local police will call if a vehicle needs to be removed from an accident, crime scene or DUI stop, Chief William McCorkle told the Daily Herald. In the last 13 months, the company handled more than 200 tows for the department, McCorkle said.

The bills for those services weren't available under the Freedom of Information Act because the firm bills the vehicle owner, not the department. According to a pricing sheet on display at the police station, basic towing for police impound or after an accident is $150, with storage and other services an additional cost.

Amrich was ruled ineligible to run last week by a three-member electoral board that convened because of the duo's objections, which focused on debts he may have owed the village. A temporary restraining order has been issued in the case, pending a court appeal.

If Amrich's appeal fails, incumbent Debbie Herrmann will be the lone mayoral candidate on April 9.

Amrich questioned Field's and Sharp's motives.

"It's evident to me that their self-interests outweigh their actual objections," Amrich said in an email to the Daily Herald.

Many residents -- all critics of Herrmann -- also have questioned why Field and Sharp got involved in the race, bringing up their business with the village at recent public meetings. Herrmann has acknowledged the financial ties, but the details haven't been publicized until now.

When asked about his involvement and the revenue his company gets from its police-related towing services, Sharp declined to comment.

Field said he filed the objection because of his friendships with Herrmann and other village officials. He denied he got involved to protect his contract.

"Some of these people dislike Debbie so much that they must think that the only way she would get support is if there is money involved," Field said in an email.

Political history

Island Lake's mayor from 1985 to 2005, Amrich had been running as part of the "For the People" slate with trustee hopefuls Mark Beeson, Keith Johns and Tony Sciarrone and clerk candidate Teresa Ponio.

Field and Sharp sought to get Sciarrone kicked off the ballot, too, but they withdrew their objection after winning their case against Amrich.

Herrmann, who was elected in 2009 and has had four turbulent years in office, leads the "United for Progress" slate. She's joined by incumbent Clerk Connie Mascillino and first-time trustee hopefuls Josh Rohde, Ken Nitz and Ed McGinty.

None of the trustee incumbents is running for re-election. All the seats carry 4-year terms.

Sharp's recent public political activity has been limited to the objections against Amrich and Sciarrone. Field has been busier.

He created a website critical of Herrmann's political foes, targeting residents and candidates in the April election. He took it down last month after an article about the site was published by the Daily Herald.

Last fall, Field tried to remove from the ballot a grass-roots referendum that had been pushed by Herrmann's critics. He withdrew his objection before the case could be heard by an election board.

Amrich wasn't so lucky.

With a 2-1 vote, the electoral board ruled Amrich hadn't promptly paid a $174 garbage bill by the time he signed his statement of candidacy in December 2012. Under state law, people with debts to municipalities are ineligible to run for office.

That debt and others were at the heart of the objection Field and Sharp submitted.

Amrich has appealed to Lake County court. A hearing is set for Feb. 19.

Pending the court's decision, Amrich's name will remain on Island Lake's ballots. If he's again ruled ineligible, any votes for him won't be counted, Lake County Clerk Willard Helander said.

The money trail

Field's Kodiak Technology Group was hired by the village board in December 2011 to provide consulting, training, website support and information technology support, Finance Director John Little said.

The contract calls for the firm to be paid $1,600 a month for those services. But it billed the village more than $58,103 for services in 2012, records show.

The bills reviewed by the Daily Herald indicate the company charged separately for computer software, batteries, work stations, cables and other purchases.

Field defended his work at village hall, saying the computer system was "in shambles" before he took the job.

Additionally, Kodiak Collision Specialists billed the village a total of more than $450 following repairs to a pair of police cars, records show.

Kodiak is one of several firms the village uses for auto repairs, depending on price and availability, Little said.

As for Sharp Towing, the company was been called into action 235 times by the police department to tow vehicles in the 13 months starting Jan. 1, 2012, McCorkle said.

Fees for Sharp Towing's services vary, depending on the job, according to a pricing sheet available at the police station. Among other charges, basic towing is $150; outside storage is $50 per day; inside storage is $80 per day; accident cleanup is $35.

Additionally, Sharp Auto Body sent the village a bill last February for $223.61 for work on a village-owned sedan, records indicate. Sharp Towing also towed a police cruiser that month, but it waived an $80 fee, documents show.

David McArdle, the attorney representing Amrich during the prolonged electoral board hearings, called Field and Sharp as witnesses last week and tried to question them about their financial ties to the village. But the attorney representing the men, Anish Parikh, objected.

Keri-Lyn Krafthefer, a village attorney who helped direct the hearing, sided with Parikh and stopped the line of questioning.

In an interview, Amrich said his foes' ties to village hall are "very strong."

"It's obvious there is no coincidence," he said.

Field insisted his business with the village had nothing to do with his political activism. Kodiak Technology won't renew its village contract after 2013, he said.

"The resources of Kodiak will still be available for limited (computer) consulting at no charge to the village if needed," he said. "We will make sure that the new vendor will be set up for success."

Although Sharp declined to talk to the Daily Herald about his role in the Amrich case or his ties to village hall, he hasn't been silent on the matter.

He addressed his activity in a recent Facebook post.

"People are asking me why I have gotten involved in the politics of Island Lake," Sharp wrote. "After 20 years in the Marines, I still cannot pass up a fight that is right and just."

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