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Council QuickStory: McQuillan Asks for Update on Mayoral E-Mails

Third Ward Alderman Dean Kilburg says a city Ethics Commission is looking into Mayor Kevin Burns' use of a city e-mail account to conduct business having to do with his campaign for Kane County Board chairman.

Geneva resident and TaxFACTS member Bob McQuillan asked the city Monday for an update on its response to Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns' use of a city e-mail account for campaign business.

The citizens of Geneva "have a right to know what happened," McQuillan said during the "New Business" portion of Monday's City Council meeting. He said he had e-mailed Geneva aldermen on the matter seven days ago and received only one response.

McQuillan suggested the city conduct an independent investigation of all city cell phone and laptop use.

"It is clear that there was an abuse of city services," he said.

McQuillan's comments were in reference to a Feb. 22 press conference called by Kane County Conservative Coalition Chairman Jon Zahm at Cabooses Bar & Grill, where Zahm released 116 pages of e-mail transcripts showing that Burns sent and received campaign-related e-mails using a city of Geneva cell phone. Zahm had obtained the documents by filing a Freedom of Information Act request with the city.

Zahm is a paid political consultant for state Sen. Chris Lauzen, who is running against Burns in the Republican primary race for Kane County Board chairman.

The FOIA request was for e-mails to or from Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady, Batavia Township Chairman Ellen Nottke, St. Charles Township Chairman and Kane County Board attorney Ken Shepro, Kane County Republican Chairman and County Board member Mike Kenyon and Kane County Board Chairman and 33rd Distict state Senate candidate Karen McConnaughay.

The e-mails contained discussions of campaign tactics, a few F-bombs, some insults to U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, who endorsed Lauzen, as well as harsh digs at Lauzen's wife, Sarah, revealing what Zahm called "the vulgarities, the hatred, the manipulation, the depravity that some Republican Party insiders practice."

Burns said after Zahm's press conference that the e-mails were defaulting to his city address, and the technical glitch had been corrected.

On Monday night, Geneva 3rd Ward Alderman Dean Kilburg said the documents Zahm obtained through his FOIA request have been turned over to the city's Ethics Commission for an opinion, even though "to date, no formal complaint has been filed."

Kilburg said the issue is being expedited by the mayor and the City Council.

"This process has moved forward, it hasn’t been ignored, and I think in due course, the community will be satisfied (with the process)," Kilburg said.

Fourth Ward Alderman Ron Singer concurred that the Ethics Commission is proceeding in good faith.

"Bear in mind that this is an issue that’s very new to us, and very confusing," he said. "It was a time-consuming effort. We had to get a sense of where we were. The direction that we’ve taken, I feel comfortable with it."

Kilburg added that "there’s a lot more that’s been done than has been in the press."

And that was one of McQuillan's concerns.

"Nothing's been done publicly," McQuillan said. "I despise the tactics (Zahm) uses, but he had every right to FOIA the information. Here is a situation we need to address as an entire community."

A Scout leader who brought some Boy Scouts to the council meeting to earn a merit badge asked for an explanation the kids could understand. City Administrator Mary McKittrick tried to explain in a few sentences but said the Scouts could ask her questions after the meeting, if they liked.

McQuillan returned to the podium to protest that, as well.

"I would prefer anything discussed on this matter be discussed in public," he said.

McKittrick later explained that she meant no harm.

"I did not intend to imply that I wanted to speak with the Scouts secretly," she said.

Second Ward Alderman Richard Marks asked for a timeline regarding Ethics Commission action and got no direct answer, but 5th Ward Alderman Craig Maladra said the city would address the issue "diliberately, openly and quickly."

"My hope is, through our actions from this point forward, that the trust is renewed, restored and strengthened going forward," he said.

Justin Eggar March 08, 2012 at 02:00 AM
Karen, You are right that the ethics laws serve a purpose. I'm not defending the emails, but I am suggesting that we try and keep some perspective here. There are a few bigger issues at hand than this (believe it or not) and I'd prefer to stick to those. Illinois obviously needs to refine some things long term so we don't have to be known as the most corrupt state in the US (well, I suppose that is outside of DC). Again though, let's keep some perspective on the Burns issue in the mean time.
Justin Eggar March 08, 2012 at 02:02 AM
What offends me is that you have like 10 different usernames and run around yammering about Burns all day long. We read your first post, do you really need us to keep giving you attention?
G.Ryan March 08, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Justin, For starters I do not have 10 usernames only one. And instead of critcizing why don't you offer some solutions to the issues that I comment on? Then perhaps they would have no value in repeating them. If you were paying over $18 thousand in property taxes a year. And with a school district in debt of a tune of 325 million and them telling us taxpayers we are on the hook for this, how do you see a resolution if it is not disclosed to others within the community? And there has been allegations that these taxes in coming years will DOUBLE? I don't see the politicians addressing this issue at all. Am I the only one here that feels this is a major priority that the home assessments had dropped substantially but are property taxes have risen with no solution in sight? Who will want to buy a property with that tax liability? This is the problem created by those who won't stop SPENDING. I am sorry you feel upset by this but sometimes the truth hurts......
Justin Eggar March 08, 2012 at 04:58 AM
See, those are valid subjects that should be addressed. Not silly emails that have no impact on the future of our county. Can you agree that in light of the things that you posted there that we can probably focus on some larger issues than the email drama?
Jon Zahm December 30, 2012 at 05:02 AM
By the way, for the record, I am not Charles Emout and do not know for sure who it is.

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