Under investigation for county credit card use, Lawlor formally ends re-election bid

  • Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor

    Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor

 
 
Updated 8/10/2018 2:28 PM

Facing accusations of financial misbehavior and a law enforcement investigation, Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor has formally ended his re-election bid.

The county clerk's office received Lawlor's notarized withdrawal from the 18th District race by mail Friday.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Lawlor, a Vernon Hills Republican, hasn't stepped down as chairman or as the 18th District representative. His term ends after the Nov. 6 election.

Republican leaders have until Aug. 23 to submit a new candidate's name to the clerk's office for inclusion on the ballot. Julie Simpson of Vernon Hills is the Democrat running.

Lawlor announced this week he would end his campaign. He couldn't be reached for additional comment.

Lawlor is taking a leave of absence from county business while undergoing treatment for an unspecified drug addiction. He's served on the board since 2009 and has been chairman since 2012.

In emails to board members and the media, he said the addiction "has damaged my life and personal finances."

Documents reviewed by the Daily Herald show Lawlor repeatedly used a county credit card for personal purchases dating back to 2016 in violation of county policy.

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Lawlor said he inadvertently used the county card for some of the charges and he disputed others. He reimbursed the county for some charges.

Lawlor's card has since been deactivated.

The Daily Herald also reported Lawlor faces a $15,000 fine from the Illinois State Board of Elections for "delinquent filing of required reports." His campaign committee hasn't filed any fiscal reports with the state since November 2016, according to the election board's website.

Prompted by the revelations, county officials this week said they intend to change procedures and improve oversight of county credit card usage.

The state's attorney's office has contacted an independent law enforcement agency to investigate Lawlor's use of the county credit card. State's Attorney Michael Nerheim hasn't identified the agency but said he went to an outside department to ensure impartiality.

The state's attorney represents the county board and the chairman in legal matters.

County Vice Chairwoman Carol Calabresa, a Libertyville Republican, is filling in as the board's leader.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

During a public meeting Wednesday, several county board members asked if they have the power to remove Lawlor as chairman.

"A person under that kind of investigation should not be leading the county board," said Michael Danforth, a Fox River Grove Republican.

Officials said no such procedure exists.

Commissioner Sandy Hart, a Lake Bluff Democrat, called for a systematic audit of the county board members' credit card usage.

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