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Article posted: 7/13/2013 8:00 AM

Husband of Island Lake mayor's campaign treasurer getting $20,000 from village

By Russell Lissau

The Island Lake man who stands to receive a $20,000 payout from the village for settling a politically tinged libel lawsuit is married to the new treasurer of Mayor Charles Amrich's campaign committee, state records show.

Greg Jenkins and his wife, Debra, contributed significantly to Amrich's For the People slate ahead of the April election and in the weeks that followed. Their donations -- including cash, services and goods -- totaled nearly $20,997, the largest sum any donor gave to the group during the campaign.

The slate's latest organizational paperwork with the Illinois state board of elections lists Debra Jenkins as the group's treasurer.

She replaced Wayne Schnell, a McHenry County resident who gave up the job last month after he was rehired as a part-time Island Lake police officer.

In a telephone interview Friday, Greg Jenkins said his settlement had nothing to do with his wife's role with the For the People campaign or their political contributions.

"Debra's not even involved in the lawsuit," Jenkins said.

The settlement raised questions for the leader of a Chicago-based political watchdog group, however.

David Morrison, acting director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, wondered if the board would be so quick to settle the case if Jenkins hadn't opened his wallet so wide during the election.

"What would different people do if they didn't have those connections?" Morrison asked. "Anytime you have one donor bigfoot an election in that way, it raises questions about whose priorities are driving the conversation."

Debra Jenkins said her role as treasurer is limited to filing quarterly disclosure reports.

"I felt honored to be trusted with such an important job," she said.

As for the lawsuit settlement, Debra Jenkins said she only wants "the cloud to be lifted off of this village."

Greg Jenkins sued the village in Lake County circuit court days before the election, which saw Amrich overwhelmingly defeat incumbent Debbie Herrmann. Political activists Daniel Field and Louis Sharp were named in the suit, too.

The complaint centered on a political website Field created. The site targeted Amrich, the candidates who ran with him and several of their supporters, including Jenkins.

The site contained a variety of allegations. It also reprinted police reports and other official documents, including some about Jenkins and his teenage son from a prior marriage.

Jenkins accused Field, Sharp and village officials of defamation, libel, invasion of privacy and other acts.

"I didn't ask that my son be put on there," Jenkins said Friday. "I didn't ask to be a political target."

The village board voted 4-0 Thursday night to settle with Greg Jenkins. Debra Jenkins is not named in the lawsuit or the settlement.

Three of the "yes" votes came from trustees who ran with Amrich in April: Mark Beeson, Keith Johns and Anthony Sciarrone.

The fourth vote was cast by Chuck Cermak, who wasn't up for election this year. Trustees Shannon Fox and Thea Morris were absent.

Beeson said he doesn't see Debra Jenkins' status as his slate's treasurer as a conflict of interest where the settlement is concerned. The slate is preparing to dissolve as a political organization, he said, so her service should end soon.

As part of the settlement, Jenkins had to persuade another local resident suing the village, Mike Johnson, to drop his federal lawsuit against the town. Johnson did so Wednesday.

Johnson, the owner of Mike's Towing, also sued the village shortly before the election, claiming the police department's choice of a rival firm to tow cars violated his civil rights.

Mike's Towing now is the police department's primary towing company.

Johnson donated $500 to Amrich's slate this year, records show.

The financial disclosure reports are available for public review online at elections.state.il.us.

According to the settlement, Greg Jenkins will receive the $20,000 in three payments.

Jenkins said the cash won't cover all the money he spent on the case, including the hiring of investigators who tried to determine how Field got the documents.

His wife wanted him to drop the case without a payoff, Jenkins said. He wanted to recoup some of his costs.

If Herrmann won the election, Jenkins said, he would have taken the case to court.

Linked: Mayor's campaign committee expected to dissolve soon

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