Ethics complaint filed against Barrington Hills slate

A slate of Barrington Hills village board candidates and a purported financial backer are facing claims they violated recently enacted campaign disclosure laws.

A closed hearing on the complaint against the “Save 5 Acres” candidates — incumbent Joseph Messer, current Village Clerk Karen Selman and Patty Meroni — will be heard before the State Board of Elections in Chicago Friday morning.

The complaint, which also names village resident Benjamin B. LeCompte III as a respondent, was filed by former trustee and village president candidate George Schueppert.

Its basis is an affidavit in which Barrington Hills Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Jonathan Knight describes a telephone conversation between himself and John Rosene, a campaign worker for the Save 5 Acres slate.

According to the affidavit, Rosene told Knight that LeCompte had donated $5,000 each to Messer, Selman and Meroni.

In the affidavit, Knight goes on to state that in checking the State Board of Elections website, he found individual $5,000 donations to the Save 5 Acres committee from Messer, Selman and Meroni themselves, but no mention of LeCompte’s contribution.

Attorney Richard K. Means, who is representing Schueppert, said the situation described in the affidavit represents violations by both LeCompte and the candidates.

New campaign contribution laws that took effect Jan. 1 would limit LeCompte to making a single $5,000 contribution to the entire campaign committee, Means said. And if the candidates disclosed the money as contributions from themselves, not LeCompte, it would also represent a violation, he said.

Means believes the complaint may be the first filed to allege violations of the new law.

The State Board of Elections has the authority to impose fines, order the return of the money or refer the case to the Cook County State’s Attorney for further investigation, Means said. But the first step will be to determine whether there’s cause to hold an open hearing on the claims.

Meroni said she could not comment on the allegations, but added that the Save 5 Acres candidates are consulting with an attorney. Messer, Selman and LeCompte could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Knight would not comment beyond confirming the authenticity of his signature on the affidavit. He denied an accusation he said Rosene made Monday night calling him a shill for the rival Common Sense Party of Diane “Dede” Wamberg, Steve D’Amore and incumbent Beth Mallen, or independent candidate David Stieper. Knight is endorsing Stieper in the April 5 election.

Wamberg said she was surprised about the complaint and denied any involvement by her slate.

“If this is true, I’m very disappointed,” Wamberg said. “If this is true, it’s an indication of some of the things that are going wrong in this community.”

Village President Robert Abboud, who is supporting the Save 5 Acres slate, said he’s been trying to stay out of the campaign apart from providing factual information about village operations that doesn’t necessarily help any side.

Rosene and Stieper could not be reached for comment Tuesday.