The race for mayor in Lake Villa has taken a last-minute twist with candidate Mona Mustafa saying a local youth baseball league broke the law by endorsing her opponent and his slate.
Late last week, Mustafa filed a complaint with the Illinois State Board of Elections and contacted the Internal Revenue Service regarding an email sent March 23 to 1,100 recipients by the Lake Villa Township Baseball League.
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The two-paragraph message from the group's board thanked Mayor Frank Loffredo and village trustees for their support over the years to develop a baseball and softball program, and it said it supported them in the upcoming election. Recipients also were asked to support Loffredo and the Lake Villa 1st party's commitment to the village on April 9, which is Election Day. Loffredo and three trustees are seeking re-election as the Lake Villa 1st party.
Loffredo said the league acted on its own without the party's knowledge. He said the organization made a "mistake" but owned up to it and recanted the message.
"It seems really excessive," he said of Mustafa's actions. "This is just so personal and hurtful to people. I don't understand it."
He said the baseball league had been playing in various locations before the village bought property and raised money to build Lake Villa Baseball Park. The league gets exclusive use in exchange for field maintenance, he added.
In the complaint filed with state election authorities, Mustafa also named Lake Villa 1st as receiving the benefit of the "illegal communication" and the Lake Villa Township Republican Club as being involved. She said she also delivered the information to the Lake County state's attorney's office.
Any allegations of wrongdoing or illegal activities regarding the Lake Villa Township Republican Club are "false and without merit," according to club president Dominic Marturano.
Mustafa says a tax-exempt organization can't endorse candidates for public office and the league's action was electioneering that violated state and federal law.
"I'm saying they broke the law because 501(c) 3 organizations are prohibited from using their resources for political purposes," she said.
"They represented our funds would be used for baseball. They were used to support a political candidate," added Mustafa, who said her family has been active in youth sports, including the baseball league.
Before the complaint was filed, Pete Archacki, president of the baseball league board, said the message was miscommunicated.
"We never intended to sound like we support one person or party," he said.
The message was replaced later in the day with one that said the original was not meant as an endorsement and apologized for any inconvenience or miscommunication. Archacki declined to comment after the complaint was filed.
In a March 24 response to the league's board, Mustafa contended the action was meant to influence its members.
"Early voting begins tomorrow, and I believe you have intentionally and unlawfully impacted the election," she wrote. "The damage is done."
In another letter to the board, Mustafa questioned the use of the registration fees and email addresses.
"Who else is being provided our email addresses, for what purpose, and what other activities are our fees being used for?" she said.
Throughout the campaign Mustafa has said her goal is to combat voter apathy and she wants to get voters to the polls.
"I think people are ready for change because I can't be bought," she said recently. "The burden falls on the voters. If they stay at home, they get what they didn't vote for."