State’s attorney investigating robocall targeting Island Lake candidate

The Lake County state’s attorney’s office is investigating a robocall made Saturday to Island Lake residents about mayoral candidate Charles Amrich.

The recording, from a man claiming to be an Island Lake police officer, has been disavowed by all four candidates running for election with Island Lake Mayor Debbie Herrmann — Amrich’s opponent in Tuesday’s election.

Herrmann’s allies also criticized a campaign mailer targeting Amrich that was sent to some Island Lake homes last week, saying they knew nothing about it before it arrived in mailboxes, even though it was marked as being paid for by the slate. Two called Amrich to apologize for the piece.

But it was Saturday’s telephone recording that got the attention of Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim.

“We are looking into this,” Nerheim told the Daily Herald in an email.

Nerheim said he spoke with Island Lake Police Chief William McCorkle about the recording. McCorkle insisted his department wasn’t responsible for the call, Nerheim said.

On Monday, McCorkle said he has spoken with his staff and insisted no one in the department was responsible for the recording.

“I was not happy (about the call), I can tell you that,” he said. “That was over the line.”

Both the mailer — sent to some homes in the village last week — and Saturday’s phone call emphasized the criminal misconduct charges Amrich faced a few years ago. A Lake County jury found him not guilty in 2011 — but you wouldn’t know that from the roughly 40-second recording.

After identifying himself as a police officer, the speaker tells people that Amrich — the town’s mayor from 1985 to 2005 — has been indicted and informs them that Amrich is knocking on doors as part of his campaign. The caller then says people have the right to ask Amrich to leave their property, and it invites people to call police.

The caller says nothing about Amrich’s acquittal.

Amrich called the recording “disgusting.”

“I have seen a lot of elections and I’ve seen some pretty dirty ones, but never anything this low and despicable,” Amrich said. “We are going to get to the bottom of this.”

Amrich is leading the For the People slate of candidates. Herrmann is leading the United for Progress slate.

Four members of the United for Progress team — trustee candidates Ed McGinty, Josh Rohde, Ken Nitz and incumbent Village Clerk Connie Mascillino — denounced the robocall and the flier.

McGinty was particularly incensed, calling the message and the flier “just plain wrong.”

“These antics are beyond awful,” McGinty said in an email. “I want to make it clear I do not support this type of behavior.”

Mascillino, a longtime Herrmann ally, also was critical of the campaign tactics.

“I want it to be known that I had no input in the content of the recent mailer regarding Charlie Amrich, nor did I know that it had been mailed,” Mascillino told the Daily Herald in an email. “I also want it to be known that I had no knowledge of the content or that a robot-call was being made to residents. I find these ‘dirty politics’ tactics disgusting and do not condone them.”

Nitz said he didn’t learn about the piece until it arrived in his mailbox. He called the robocall “reprehensible.”

“I never agreed to nor do I condone anything of that nature,” Nitz said in an email. “I joined this race because I want to bridge gaps in the community, not burn bridges.”

Rohde called the mailer and the robocall “a couple dirty acts of questionable moral standard.”

Hermann did not answer specific questions about the robocall or flier. Instead, she issued a brief statement via email.

“The United For Progress team did not pay for nor did they endorse the robocall many Island Lake residents received today,” the statement reads. “On Tuesday, when deciding which candidates they want leading their village for the next four years, I would hope that the voters look at the years of community service, education and commitment level of each candidate, not the massive amount of misinformation being conveyed during this campaign.”

Amrich said he received more than a dozen phone calls Saturday from people outraged about the robocall and the mailer. Many filed complaints at the police department about the phone call, he said.

“(It’s) garbage, gutter politics,” Amrich said.

The campaign has been ugly for months. Two Herrmann supporters twice tried to get Amrich kicked off the ballot, but last month a judge ordered he be allowed to run.

Additionally, one of those supporters has used a website to attack Amrich and his allies.

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