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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.

Charles Emout March 06, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Regarding the "timeline" that Alderman Richard Marks asked about, the Geneva Ethics Ordinance (http://www.geneva.il.us/ethicsord.htm) is pretty clear about the answer to this question in: 1-9-6: Ethics Commission, Section E(7) -- which states as follows: "If a complaint is filed during the 60 days preceding the date of any election at which the respondent is a candidate, the Commission shall render its decision as required under subsection (5) within seven days after the complaint is filed, and during the seven days preceding that election, the Commission shall render such decision before the date of that election, if possible." Given this directive, and the acknowledgement by Alderman Dean Kilburg that the commission is already reviewing the matter, one can only speculate that a decision should be forthcoming by the Ethics Commission within the next day or so... the failure to do so would seem to put them in conflict with the procedures clearly spelled out in the Geneva Ethics Ordinance!
Charles Emout March 06, 2012 at 04:50 PM
1-9-6: Ethics Commission, Section E(3) also states that: "If the complaint is deemed sufficient to allege a violation of Section 1-9-3 herein, then the Commission shall notify in writing the attorney designated by the corporate authorities to prosecute such actions and shall transmit to the attorney the complaint and all additional documents in the custody of the Commission concerning the alleged violation." In order to determine if the complaint is deemed sufficient to allege a violation of Section 1-9-3, you must first read 1-9-3: Prohibited Political Activities(1) which clearly states in part: "....No officer or employee shall intentionally use any property or resources of the City of Geneva in connection with any prohibited political activity, including use or display of the officer or employee's title or City uniform or equipment"
John Smith March 06, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Once again Patch is publishing politcal endorsements as news ... this isn't news I am sure that if a true look at this is done everyone in city government has misused their e-mail
Charles Emout March 06, 2012 at 05:53 PM
The question then becomes: "Are the FACTS sufficient to allege a violation of 1-9-3: Prohibited Political Activities?" The complete record of all the emails is contained here: http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/Burns%20Email%20Correspondence.pdf 1) Did Mayor Burns allegedly use city email for campaign? Page 1 of the email records would indicate YES ... the very FIRST email is an email sent FROM "burns4kanecounty@gmail.com" TO "mayorburns@geneva.il.us" ... this would seem to debunk the "email snaffu" claim and allege a violation. 2) Did Mayor Burns allegedly use his City Blackberry for campaign? On Page 33 of the email records Mayor Burns states "I'm working of my Blackberry right now but I will check via my laptop tomorrow morning" ... does Mayor Burns own a personal/campaign Blackberry? If not, then YES it would appear there's evidence to allege a violation. 3) Did Mayor Burns allegedly use his City owned cell phone to make/receive calls for campaign? On Page 109 of the email records in an exchange with Patrick Brady (presumably the Illinois GOP Chairman) about Brady's wanting to "get this fundraising back on track" Mayor Burns replies, " Hey, Pat. I've tried to call u on the # u provided but cant get through or leave a message. Call me @ 630-742-8916. Thanks! KB" If this # is Mayor Burns' city # then YES it would appear there is evidence to allege a violation.
G.Ryan March 06, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Thank you Mr. Emout and Mr. McQuillan. The verdict hopefully will rest on justice,ethics and objectivity. As wasn't Mayor Burns the one who appointed this Ethics Committee? And his "Boys Club" cheerleaders are among them? Correct? Using gov't equip for political gains is just not right...where is your integrity Mayor Burns?
Charles Emout March 06, 2012 at 06:59 PM
The appointed members of the Geneva Ethics Commission are hard to determine based on the info available on www.geneva.il.us (which isn't much) ... best I can tell from quickly looking through past council meeting minutes, they are likely: 1) Ethics Advisor - (It was Phil Page, who it is now that he's gone is anyone's guess?) 2) Member - Tim Moran ($500 donation with his wife to "Burns for Congress" -- per http://fec.gov/finance/disclosure/norindsea.shtml) 3) Member - David Creighton 4) Member - Suzanne Shogren The Ethics Advisor and all members are appointed by the Mayor with the advice/consent of the city council. Furthermore, Geneva's City Attorney is Charles Radovich. He is also appointed by the Mayor with the advice/consent of the City Council. Additionally, Mr Radovich donated $1,000 to "Burns for Congress" (per: http://fec.gov/finance/disclosure/norindsea.shtml) Given the fact that all appointments to the Ethics Commission are made by the Mayor, and a couple of the individuals involved with the Commission have given campaign contributions to the Mayor's campaigns, it would seem the only way the taxpayers can get a clean review of the facts "that the community can be satisfied with" is for this commission to immediately refer this matter to the State's Attorney's Office for investigation due to the inherent conflict of interest that arises from being asked to investigate the person that appointed you.
G.Ryan March 06, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Thanks, Mr. Emont wow! You are impressive as you have done your research...thank you so much...I thought that the "conflict of interest" issue could be the rationale for the stalling of the verdict here. Tim Moran wasn't he the former president for the School Board and he is a member of the ethics committee??....they all seem to snuggle up to one another each and everyone of them! This sickens me......
Rick Anderson March 06, 2012 at 09:58 PM
How can you be so sure, Mr. John Smith? If I were a city official that practiced due dilligence I would be offended by your comment. If that is the case then why are ethics in place to guide elected officials in their behavior. This is a simple case of a total disregard and disrespect of resources and an arrogance on the cheap to run a campaign in a sophmoric manner. If people are not held to accountability, then unethical practices blossom and the laws are unenforceable and become a farce.
Karen Phillips March 06, 2012 at 10:36 PM
If Mr. Burns or the ethics commission truly desires justice and fairness on this issue they will appoint an independent investigator to review this matter. If they are donors to his campaign as described above the self interest in this regard is evident.
Jeff Ward March 06, 2012 at 11:27 PM
Dear All, At last night's city council meeting the city manager made it clear that the ethics investigation is now in the hands of an independent Batavia attorney. It would've been nice to be given some sort of time frame, but let's be realistic folks. While using your city email account for any campaign purposes is certainly a violation, on the 1 to 10 scale of political atrocities it's a negative 5. It's just not that big a deal. So as the police always like to say, "Let's move along folks, there's nothing left to see." Jeff
Justin Eggar March 07, 2012 at 01:31 AM
It's interesting the amount of effort some people put into trying to tear others down. Imagine if they actually put that kind of effort into being better people themselves. I'll probably get a few tongue in cheek responses about Burns and and my first statement... but that just proves my point. Not a whole lot to see here people, it's being handled. If you need something to spend your idle time on, I would be happy to put you in touch with some non-profits that could use the help.
Karen Phillips March 07, 2012 at 02:52 AM
Justin, The "tearing down" was contained originally in the content of the e-mails, mocking a candidates family and calling someone profane names. I guess that the ethics laws in the state should be scratched if it is inconvenient or uncomfortable for some to have to consider a misuse of public funds. You are obviously biased on this as we all are but have legislators remove the stronger ethics laws if you find them bothersome or distasteful. I think most people can understand the irony in having an official appoint an ethics officer or commission and then ask them to investagate their actions after they appoint them in the first place. Can't the state of Illinois perhaps find a more objective solution to all investigations? This is not only about this matter but all ethics investigations.
Karen Phillips March 07, 2012 at 03:39 AM
I am sorry on the typo of investigate.
Charles Emout March 07, 2012 at 03:41 AM
Justin, my above effort has nothing to do with "tearing others down," and everything to do with simply seeking truth (and this would be true no matter who the elected official in question was). It seems some are all to happy to just sweep this issue aside expediently as "just not that big of a deal," but by the Mayor's own words/actions the implications go beyond foul mouthed emails & political sausage making. The Mayor's own words/actions (in the city emails that are widely available on the web now) form the basis to question further regarding additional allegations of using his City provided Blackberry AND cell phone service for personal/campaign related purposes. Furthermore, when a government body answers questions in such a veiled manner, and doesn't lay out the specific FACTS about how this investigation is being conducted & by whom ... it gives rise to additional questions of "what's there to hide or protect by being open?" If you were an elected official in a similar position, wouldn't you be shouting from the roof tops explaining the "transparent and open" process that will ultimately settle this matter once and for all? Frankly, the whole "nothing to see here, move along" mentality is precisely what causes our state to rank 3rd among all states in corruption & Chicago to be ranked the 1st most corrupt city in the country ... As Reagan was often quick to remind, "Trust, but verify"
G.Ryan March 07, 2012 at 04:18 AM
Excuse me, Justin but using someone's else equipment on company time and dime is down right stealing. On top of insult to injury here, the Mayor uses unprofessional language and conduct. This is just another reason why this individual should not be seeking another higher public office position as Chairman. Us taxpayers are tired of the Pay to Play gangster politics in a State which is literally bankrupt. His conduct is a breach of trust in his service to us as Mayor. Furthermore, he is an embarrassment to the community...
MattG March 07, 2012 at 12:16 PM
Charles Emout - AKA Jon Zahm Why are you using an alias? Can we just change the name of Geneva Patch to "Lauzen Patch" since the contributors are all Lauzen supporters? Anyone that posts anonymously supporting Lauzen is welcomed but anyone posting anonymous supporting Burns is hunted down like Al-queda. Mr. Nagel, if you want Patch to be treated as a serious journalism page, then you need to act like a serious journalist. If you want this site to be gossip central, just keep doing what you're doing. You know that "Charles Emout" is paid consultant for Lauzen, Jon Zahm, and you've done nothing about it. Way to run a site.
Karen Phillips March 07, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Is this accusation provable? If not, is this an attempt to muzzle the messenger rather than consider the message? I doubt that the accused (J.Z.) has suddenly decided to be identified as anonymous after years of using an actual name. I don't want to get into an ongoing debate here... It is very hard to ensure that every poster is actually who they may claim to be. The anonymous blogger violation was abandoned long ago. We each have our opinions in regard to candidate choices in all these elections. To criticize Patch because one anonymous blogger is a problem appears to be somewhat disingenuous as this blogger isn't making it personal but providing legal documentation and linking to sources. Perhaps it is an attorney? And unless this charge can be proven the accusation may be just that.
MattG March 07, 2012 at 05:21 PM
When the original submission to the newspapers went out about the FOIA's, it was sent by "Charles Emout". When some of the papers objected to an anonymous submission, Mr. Zahm surfaced. It doesn't take much to figure out the writing style of Mr. Emout vs. Mr. Zahm. It's also pretty rich to talk about "muzzling the messenger" when you have objected every time someone anonymous has posted and have included messages like (paraphrasing) "I can't find anyone on voter vault by your name". It's also pretty rich considering that a side benefit of releasing all the FOIA's was silencing people. It's also pretty rich to claim a muzzling of the messenger when any time someone says something positive about Kevin Burns, they are immediately met with 10-20 comments about their character, their intentions, who their third cousin four times removed is. The old phrase "people who live in glass houses........" comes to mind.
Bob McQuillan March 07, 2012 at 09:15 PM
If Matt is right about Charles Emount and Jon Zahm being one and the same then the good people of Geneva have been used as pawns in a political campaign for the second time. Quite frankly, if this is true, I'm not pleased with the tatics of either of these candidates. Then again Matt's accusation could be another political tatic to throw doubt in voters minds. A little diversion helps if your candidate of choice is in trouble. So how do we find out the truth? As I said on Monday night, give me the truth because I can handle the truth. Reminds me of the old TV show "To Tell The Truth" -will the real Charles Emout please still up. I'll even go one step further, I have a problem if Charles Emout is real but being told what to say by Jon Zahm.
G.Ryan March 07, 2012 at 10:13 PM
Mr.McQuillan please view the Patch article on the sign changes.Mr. Emout responds to Matt there. He clarifies he is not Jon Zahm. It seems this is another tactic from "Burns and his Boys". They need to stick to the principles which are under Burns & his Boys watch we now have a School District which is 325 million in debt, a superintendent indicted for personal use of a company's credit card, Mr. Burns using company equip for his personal campaigning and vulgar language and overtaxation of us taxpayers! So the concensus is pretty simple. Burns and his Boys have got to go and the Geneva taxpayers are going to do something about it.......it is that simple....
MattG March 07, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Bob, Ask the reporters who got the initial FOIA package.
Justin Eggar March 08, 2012 at 01:53 AM
Your statement had everything to do with tearing down Charles. Let's be that honest at least. The time and volume of your posting on the matter indicates you are somehow personally vested in this. We saw the emails - let us make our own decisions what we think of them. The issue hasn't been resolved yet (as was indicated in the meeting), thus we should probably refrain from crying wolf quite yet. I have a finely attuned sense of right and wrong, but I do appreciate you taking the time to respond.
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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