Hearing coming on B. Hills ethics complaint

Updated 3/21/2011 6:30 PM

The State Board of Elections has decided to hold a public hearing on a complaint alleging that a slate of Barrington Hills village board candidates violated a new campaign disclosure law.

Monday's decision was based on the recommendation of a hearing officer, who took five hours of testimony in a closed hearing last Friday. The decision means that there is due cause to consider the evidence, said attorney Richard Means, who is representing the complainant, former Barrington Hills trustee George Schueppert. A date hasn't been set for the hearing.


The complaint alleges that candidates of the Save 5 Acres party -- incumbent Joseph Messer, current Village Clerk Karen Selman and Patty Meroni -- failed to properly identify resident Benjamin B. LeCompte III as the original source of $5,000 donations they each reported making themselves to their slate's campaign committee.

Neither the candidates nor LeCompte deny the donations were made. Messer said it was an oversight on the part of the candidates while LeCompte maintains that proper disclosure was the candidates' obligation. "I have no reporting obligation at all," he said Monday.

Under new campaign contribution laws that took effect Jan. 1, a single donor can contribute only $5,000 to a particular campaign committee.

Messer said the candidates have taken steps to fix the error by creating individual campaign funds and naming LeCompte as the source of their $5,000 donations.

But Means argued that such steps are too late to erase the violation.

The basis of the complaint is an affidavit in which Barrington Hills Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Jonathan Knight describes a phone conversation in which Save 5 Acres campaign worker John Rosene told him of LeCompte's donation to the three candidates.

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Knight is working for the campaign of independent candidate and Plan Commission Chairman David Stieper, but said there was no political motive behind his affidavit.

In fact, LeCompte said he first donated $5,000 to Stieper, which is properly recorded in Stieper's campaign disclosure. However, LeCompte said he disagreed with Stieper's "bullet voting" strategy in which he urges voters to cast only one vote -- for him -- though three 4-year seats are open.

That led LeCompte to seek out other candidates to support, and eventually, to the Save 5 Acres slate, he said. He wanted to support the candidates as individuals and so gave $5,000 to each, he said.

Means said that if the State Board of Elections determines that there was a violation of the law, it can impose a fine, demand the return of the money to LeCompte or refer the case to the Cook County State's Attorney's office for a further criminal investigation.

Also running are Common Sense Party candidates Diane "Dede" Wamberg, Steve D'Amor e and incumbent Beth Mallen. Harold "Skip" Gianopulos, another member of the Common Sense Party, is running unopposed for the single 2-year term on the board.