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Our View: County clerk should know the rules, and play by them

Published: Friday, May 9, 2014 7:41 p.m. CDT

The Kane County Clerk’s Office has offered up a 1-2 punch of folly in recent months.

Accountability begins at the top, with Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham. Cunningham apologized earlier this week for using the county’s server to work on his re-election campaign. Elected officials are not allowed to use taxpayer-funded time or resources to further their campaign-related agendas, a policy that should be fresh in local politicians’ minds after Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns ran into similar trouble in 2012 while campaigning for County Board chairman. 

Either Cunningham knew what he did was wrong or he was uninformed about this commonly understood campaign disclosure law.

Neither scenario paints a flattering picture for Cunningham, who has a history of difficulty following the rules. His bid for a Republican nomination for a U.S. House of Representatives seat in 2012 was dashed after the Illinois State Board of Elections ruled that he lacked enough valid petition signatures to be nominated.

Cunningham does not plan to step down, saying “nowhere in my literature do I say I’m perfect.” We’re not asking for perfection, but a seasoned public official such as Cunningham – he has been Kane County clerk since 2002, and has a legal background – should know better than this. 

To make matters worse, Cunningham’s former deputy clerk – Jeff Ward – is due severance pay of more than $11,000 after Ward also did campaign work for Cunningham’s primary race on the county server. Ward had been suspended five days for that issue, and he is no longer an employee of the clerk’s office.

Yes, Cunningham did discipline Ward for inappropriately using the county’s email system, but it appears Ward was just following the office’s standard operating procedure.

Cunningham is vying for his fourth term in office in November’s general election, so far with no Democratic challenger. He has had some achievements during his tenure, helping oversee the modernization of the office amid fast-changing technology.

But while Cunningham has had trouble recalling campaign disclosure law as it affects his office, voters might prove to have longer memories.

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