Lawlor frequently used county card for personal expenses
In the months before Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor entered rehab for an undisclosed drug addiction, his county-issued "procurement card" was used to pay nearly $1,500 in hotel bills and almost $500 in ride-hailing charges through Lyft.
Documents obtained by the Daily Herald dating back to 2016 show the Vernon Hills Republican frequently used the county card for personal purchases, which is not allowed under county policy. A procurement card works like a credit card.
Lawlor contends he inadvertently used the county card for hotels, and he disputes most of the Lyft charges. Copies of three checks Lawlor issued to the county to reimburse taxpayers for those charges total $1,717, which still falls at least $300 short of what was spent between April and June of this year on Lawlor's card.
Lake County Administrator Barry Burton, whose signature has accompanied Lawlor's invoices in the past, said he hasn't signed off on Lawlor's invoices for May and June because of "missing receipts."
"Accounting couldn't reconcile them, so I couldn't sign them," he said.
Additionally, Treasurer David Stolman said he could account for only one of the three checks Lawlor submitted. Stolman said only one of Lawlor's checks -- No. 106, dated July 15, 2018, for $1,176.67 -- had been deposited, but he couldn't verify if it had cleared.
As for Lawlor's other two checks -- No. 108 dated June 30, 2018, and No. 110 dated June 12, 2018 -- county spokeswoman Jennie Vana acknowledged Wednesday the county never received them, just "pictures" that Lawlor had sent to the county board office staff.
"County staff did not receive these checks in-hand and notified Chairman Lawlor," Vana said. "He indicated that he was unable to locate them and sent new checks for the same amounts."
Vana sent the Daily Herald copies of the new checks, which were numbered 189 and 190 and dated Aug. 7, 2018, and June 30, 2018, respectively. A handwritten note accompanying the checks from Lawlor and dated Aug. 7 read: "Enclosed are the replacement checks reimbursing the county in full for inadvertent expenditures and other particular expenses for which I misplaced a receipt." It is stamped "received" with Wednesday's date.
Lawlor announced Tuesday he would not seek re-election to his county board seat. He was facing potential expulsion from the ballot due to an outstanding $15,000 fine from the Illinois Board of Elections for failing to file campaign finance disclosure reports for the past two years. Lawlor joined the county board in 2009 and has been chairman since 2012.
These recent charges aren't the first time Lawlor has had to reimburse the county for personal expenses. In July 2017, Lawlor emailed the county staff that he had "accidentally" made personal purchases with his county card because he added the card number to his "Apple Pay" account as a "matter of convenience," but Apple Pay had designated the card as his "default payment option" after his personal debit card was "compromised as part of an identity theft issue that I was the victim of in 2016." Additionally, he had used the card inadvertently because his county-issued card has "the same color scheme as my business debit cards."
In that email, he also asked the staff to take custody of his procurement card to "avoid any additional issues." It's unclear if he surrendered the card and then had it returned, as charges were made on the card at later dates.
Burton said Wednesday Lawlor's card has been "canceled."