DuPage election officials defend using law firm that donated to candidate

 
 
Updated 4/28/2016 7:15 PM
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The Wheaton law firm that represents the DuPage County Election Commission has donated more than $6,300 since 2003 to Republican Recorder Fred Bucholz, state campaign records show.

But election officials say they're confident attorneys from Bond, Dickson & Associates gave them impartial legal advice when Moon Khan -- the Democrat challenging Bucholz in the November general election -- called for a recount of last month's primary results that initially showed him without enough votes to win his party's nomination.

"I have never witnessed a single incident where I believed the legal advice the election commission received was swayed by a personal political belief held by any of our attorneys," Cathy Ficker Terrill, chairwoman of the election board, said in a statement.

Last week, Khan was declared the winner of the March 15 Democratic primary after a court-ordered recount found he received enough write-in votes.

Now Jean Kaczmarek, a Glen Ellyn Democrat and a longtime critic of the election commission, says she's "disappointed" that Bond, Dickson & Associates never publicly disclosed the contributions it made to Bucholz.

The firm's most recent contribution to Bucholz was for $500 in November.

"In my opinion, legal counsel should have voluntarily recused themselves from making any recommendations to the commission and further representation regarding any issues of Mr. Khan," Kaczmarek wrote this week in a letter to Ficker Terrill.

In response, Ficker Terrill said she's willing to ask board members if they want a county ethics officer to review the matter. But she said she doesn't believe there was a conflict of interest.

"The fact that Mr. Khan was a write-in candidate on the Democratic ballot -- and the firm may support a different candidate for the position -- played no role in the legal advice we received," she said.

The commission has been represented by attorney Pat Bond since 1996.

On Thursday, Bond declined to comment about Kaczmarek's letter because it was sent to Ficker Terrill. However, he said there was nothing improper about the contributions his office made.

"There's nothing in the code of professional responsibility that prohibits it," Bond said. "In fact, the First Amendment allows for anybody to make contributions, whether it's an attorney or anyone else."

Kaczmarek said attorneys for the Illinois State Board of Elections are banned from participating in politics. Outside attorneys working for the Chicago Board of Elections voluntarily refuse to participate in politics, she said.

"It is not a violation of outside legal counsel's First Amendment rights to be directed in a contract to not participate in politics," Kaczmarek said.

Meanwhile, Ficker Terrill is working with county board Chairman Dan Cronin and county Clerk Paul Hinds to develop plans to consolidate the election commission and the clerk's office. One issue they are exploring is whether the proposed merger would allow the commission to get legal advice from the state's attorney's office. It currently must use outside legal counsel.

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