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Cunningham emails lead to separation of duties

Published: Monday, June 2, 2014 8:53 p.m. CST

GENEVA – Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham used his county email for campaign and political purposes going back to December, additional emails released show.

Cunningham and a former deputy clerk who also volunteered on his primary election campaign both used the county's computers and email servers to do campaign work.

State law and the county's own ethics ordinance forbid the use of taxpayer resources for political purposes.

Cunningham said he has taken steps to separate his work as the county clerk from his re-election efforts and Republican Party work. 

"I'm not perfect. As soon as you helped me realize that it is a problem, I have done away with that totally," Cunningham said. "I have a separate mobile campaign office now. A Winnebago RV being set up with wireless email, equipped with a printer, Wi-Fi and only my email, cunningham.john@aol.com."

Cunningham said also changed his Kane County email so everyone who contacted him that way would not be able to get through.

His new county email is KCClerkCunningham@co.kane.il.us.

Cunningham said the way he used the county's email was how people kept in touch with him.

"Things would go on my calendar. This job has a lot of things people ask you to do," Cunningham said. "A lot of people used that [old] email over the years."

Cunningham said he would not comment further about using the county's emails improperly.

His former deputy clerk, Jeff Ward, was first suspended for five days without pay after he used his county email account to file Cunningham's election material March 12 with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Cunningham's additional emails released through a Freedom of Information Act request show:

• Cunningham forwarded an email at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7 to Ward from the John Ericsson Republican League about attending a meeting.

• Cunningham also forwarded a newspaper candidate questionnaire at 11:06 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11.

• Ward sent a comment about a deadline extension for the candidate questionnaire to Cunningham at 1:54 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17.

•  Ward sent an Elgin Township Republican straw poll on Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 8:34 a.m. from his county email account to Cunningham's.

Ward worked for 17 months as a deputy clerk. His position was eliminated May 1 and he is to receive $11,298.42 according to a severance agreement.

Kane County board member Mark Davoust, R-St. Charles, who lost to Cunningham in the GOP primary race for clerk, said Cunningham should have known better.

"In light of the fact that Mr. Cunningham touted his legal prowess in this race, I cannot understand how he allowed this to happen," Davoust said. "Therefore, he owes us a better explanation than 'I'm not perfect.'"

Davoust notified the county ethics advisor Grant Wegner regarding Ward's emails. Wegner referred the matter to the Kane County State's Attorney's Office.

Because no Democrat or third party filed by the deadline for the Nov. 4 ballot, Cunningham will run unopposed for a fourth term as county clerk.

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