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updated: 8/25/2014 5:04 AM

Sexual abuse allegations against Bannockburn mayor shock suburb

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  • The small Lake County village of Bannockburn was shocked by the sudden resignation of two-term Mayor James Barkemeyer after it was learned he had been investigated on sex abuse claims. "This is something you never see coming," one village official said.

       The small Lake County village of Bannockburn was shocked by the sudden resignation of two-term Mayor James Barkemeyer after it was learned he had been investigated on sex abuse claims. "This is something you never see coming," one village official said.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

 

Shock barely describes Bannockburn's reaction to the abrupt resignation of Mayor James Barkemeyer last week amid reports he had been investigated for sexually abusing minors, a village official said Sunday.

"This is something you never see coming," said David Korer, a village trustee. "When we heard it, to say it took your breath away was an understatement."

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The village announced the resignation of Barkemeyer, who led the small Lake County village since 2007, after an emergency village board meeting Friday. Trustees appointed Frank "Bud" Rothing to complete the remainder of Barkemeyer's term, set to expire in May 2015.

Korer described Barkemeyer as a positive force in the village and a family man whose son had gone to school with Korer's own youngest son.

"He was a remarkable village president," Korer said. "He was just a very involved and knowledgeable person."

According to police reports, a former employee of Barkemeyer's True Value Hardware store in Wilmette alleged he was sexually abused by the former mayor when he was 14 to 18 years old in the 1990s. Police also interviewed a former employee who alleged Barkemeyer sexually abused him when he was a teen, according to the report.

On Aug. 18, Barkemeyer told investigators he had sexual contact with two boys he estimated to be between 15 to 17 years old who worked at the hardware store, according to the police report.

After consulting with the Cook County state's attorney's felony review unit, police did not pursue charges against Barkemeyer because the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution has expired.

Barkemeyer, who also served as a village trustee from 1999 to 2007, could not be reached for comment Sunday.

"This is a tragedy for the victims" as well as Barkemeyer and his family, Korer said.

Korer said Barkemeyer played a role in several recent accomplishments in Bannockburn, an affluent community of about 1,500 that's been home to sports figures like Phil Jackson, Mike Ditka, Ron Santo and Joakim Noah. Among the successes are the widening of Route 22, a Heinen's Fine Foods grocery replacing the old Dominick's store in the Bannockburn Green, the repaving of Telegraph Road and Wilmot Road, and green initiatives, he said.

Although he said Barkemeyer's leadership will be missed, Korer said he confident the village will not miss a beat.

"Monday morning we will go about our business as we always go about our business," he said.

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