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.