A fraternal order of police lodge that says its membership includes Lake County sheriff's personnel and Sheriff Mark Curran has endorsed his Democratic challenger on the November election ballot.
Jason Patt, 36, of Zion picked up the endorsement during a fundraiser in Lake Forest one week ago. In a news release issued by Patt's campaign this week, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 66 said it determined Patt was the clear choice for sheriff because the office needs new leadership.
"Our constituents want change now and need a new leader who will restore efficiency to the sheriff's office," FOP Lodge 66 President Darryl Lewallen is quoted in the news release. "They want to proudly do their jobs, to the absolute best of their abilities, under a sheriff who wholeheartedly supports their mission to protect our county."
In response, Curran said the endorsement is not from the majority of sheriff's officers, he hasn't been an FOP Lodge 66 member since 2012 and he was never given a chance to seek the endorsement.
Patt, a U.S. Navy veteran and a Lake County coroner's office investigator, said he was honored to receive the endorsement.
"The backing of FOP Lodge 66, representing fellow officers in the Lake County sheriff's office, further underscores the urgent need to clean up the reputation and competence of this county's chief law enforcement entity," he said. "The costly lawsuits and embarrassing headlines, which demonstrate the current sheriff's lack of responsible leadership, prompt the need for immediate change."
While Lewallen said Curran is a member of Lodge 66 and has dues paid through October 2014, Curran disagreed. The Libertyville Republican said he has not been a dues-paying member or attended activities since the lodge split into two organizations in 2012. Curran said he joined FOP 66 in 2006.
Curran said he is a member of the Lake County Sheriff's Association, an organization that includes some former FOP Lodge 66 members.
"This (FOP Lodge 66) is a fraternal order of police, an organization that hosts social gatherings for members," he said. "This is not the rank and file of the Lake County sheriff's office."
Curran said Lewallen made an appointment to meet him at his office in October 2013, gave him a Lodge 66 membership form to fill out, then handed him a membership card.
He said he filled out the form but doesn't recall writing a check or giving money required to become a member. He said he thought the membership was honorary.
He added he has been asked to and has joined "dozens and dozens" of similar organizations since being elected sheriff. He estimated he is a member of 50 similar organizations.
Curran also said members of Lodge 66 never contacted him for an opportunity to seek their endorsement before giving the nod to Patt.
Lewallen said the organization contacted Curran regarding the endorsement, but he never responded.
Lewallen said Lodge 66 has 40 active members, mostly from the sheriff's office and the Great Lakes Police Department. Before 2012, Lewallen said, the organization had about 200 members.