As Lawlor's absence continues, Calabresa named interim chair of Lake County Board

More than a month after Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor began an ongoing leave of absence to seek drug treatment, Carol Calabresa formally was named the panel's interim chairwoman Tuesday.

Calabresa, a Libertyville Republican, unofficially has served as the group's leader since Lawlor's departure in late July. The board made it official with a vote during its meeting in Waukegan.

She will serve as interim chairman until Lawlor returns or until the board chooses a new leader after the Nov. 6 election. Commissioners select a chairman every other December.

Although the board's vice chairman automatically leads the panel whenever the chairman is absent, Calabresa said the formal appointment was needed so she could sign a document for a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant.

Calabresa has been the board's vice chairwoman since 2012. Her $43,018 salary will not change with the added responsibilities.

Board member Paul Frank, a Highland Park Democrat, thanked Calabresa for her service before the vote.

"This is not a role that you sought," Frank said. "You're leading us admirably."

Lawlor continues serving as the representative for the board's 18th District and remains on the county payroll as chairman even though he stepped away from his political responsibilities.

The Vernon Hills Republican has been collecting his $100,391 annual salary and benefits during his absence, county spokeswoman Jennie Vana said.

Lawlor has not responded to interview requests and has deleted his social media accounts.

Vana said she and County Administrator Barry Burton have spoken with Lawlor a few times since his leave began. The conversations have not concerned county business or Lawlor's health, Vana said.

In an August email to the board and the media, Lawlor said he would be gone "until further notice." Vana said she doesn't know if Lawlor plans to rejoin the board before his term ends in December.

In an earlier email to the board, Lawlor admitted his unspecified addiction damaged his personal finances.

Documents subsequently reviewed by the Daily Herald showed Lawlor - the board's chairman since 2012 - repeatedly violated county policy by using a county credit card for personal purchases. Prompted by the revelations, county officials said they intend to change procedures for credit card usage.

Additionally, state officials say Lawlor's campaign committee, of which he is the sole officer, broke election law by not filing any reports for nearly two years.

Illinois State Police are investigating Lawlor's use of public funds and other aspects of his finances.

Lawlor isn't seeking re-election to the 18th District seat in November. Republican Karimar "Kari" Brown is running against Democrat Julie Simpson. Both women are from Vernon Hills.

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  Lake County Board Interim Chairwoman Carol Calabresa, right, listens to Commissioner Mike Rummel talk in August about how county-issued credit cards are used. County Administrator Barry Burton is at left. Russell Lissau/
Aaron Lawlor
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