ST. CHARLES – Geneva mayoral candidates incumbent Kevin Burns and challenger Bob McQuillan slung stinging rebukes at each other Thursday during the last forum before Tuesday’s election.
Burns and McQuillan spoke sharply to their differences and their perceived faults during a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Central Kane County and held at the Kane County Branch Court in St. Charles.
In drawing a contrast to McQuillan, Burns said Geneva needs a mayor “who knows how to invest the taxpayers’ money wisely and prudently and for the long term.”
“What you have seen here tonight, folks, the tone and tenor of my opponent – that is not what the city of Geneva needs in the mayor’s office. That is not what professional staff needs in order to do their jobs effectively. It is not what a City Council needs in a leader. That is not the type of person we want representing – as an ambassador – this community.”
McQuillan characterized himself as “the underdog … I’m from Philly,” but said, “And coming into this race, I certainly was the underdog. But when we cross the finish line, I do not expect to be the underdog.”
He pledged to be the kind of mayor who “thinks like a taxpayer and spends taxpayer money as if it were their own.”
Burns touted his record of economic development with more than 700,000 feet of commercial space and more than 500,000 square feet of industrial space were developed.
“We have enhanced transparency in everything we do … and responsible and rational stewardship of tax dollars,” Burns said. “Unparalleled engagement of citizens of all ages … Our workforce is doing more with less. In fact staffing levels today are now less than they were in 2003.”
Burns said under his leadership, the city’s expenses were reduced by 30 percent over four years and its debt reduced by 32 percent.
But McQuillan challenged Burns’ characterization, saying expenses did not decrease, “the funding from the state decreased 30 percent and tax rates increased from $2.9 million to $3.9 million.”
Concerning the .44 percent increase in the city’s levy – which Burns said was just the new construction – McQuillan said it was a punishment to all the taxpayers who had to pay for it.
“Last year the city of Geneva levied for new construction only, that equated to .44 percent increase for a total dollar value of $19,000 compared to the previous year,” Burns said. “... I supported it 100 percent. The reality is, if we let it go, then services are impacted, opportunities are impacted, and quite frankly, it’s a short term slogan, not a long term solution.”
McQuillan took Burns to task for a former city employee, Stephen LeMaire, who was convicted of using a city credit card to buy $24,000 worth of personal items over an eight-year period.
“The employee theft, I think, was partly due to the fact that our bank statements were not reconciled on monthly basis. For more than a year, they did not reconcile the monthly bank statements,” McQuillan said. “I was in sales and sales marketing for 35 years, and every expense report had to have original receipts in 1981, even if it was a 50-cent toll.”
To remedy the situation, Burns said the city hired a firm to do a forensic audit and implemented new procedures to check and double-check credit card expenditures, and LeMaire is paying the money back.
“What was happening before?” McQuillan asked. “He’s paying back $200 a month.”