Avon Township, IL. (ECWd) -
Terre Wilke, Avon Township Supervisor and Lake County Board Member, was caught allegedly using his official township email account for electioneering purposes and for campaign fund raising purposes.
On December 4, 2020, he responded to an email by stating that yes, he was running for township supervisor and accused people ('devotees of Donald Trump") who are trying to stop his unchecked and alleged illegal activities of transferring real estate and vehicles out of the township's name, and into his own personal name and the name of his nonprofit food pantry - all without the required township board approval. In this email he also stated there are "still a few elected officials her who need to go."
On December 5, 2020, Wilke responded again, calling someone a "member of the Lake County Nazi club" - then inviting Jim to assist in collecting signatures, to meet him at township hall to discuss the campaign, and also pointed him to a website where he could donate to Wilke's campaign.
When I asked Mr. Wilke if he sent the above emails, he initially said he didn't see any in his email account, so I emailed those copies to him.
In response to my email, he asked who sent the subject emails to me, and I told him I would not disclose the sender. Then, he made an attempt at shirking responsibility by stating: "Well, if someone is breaching our email system then that could be your answer."
He did not deny sending the emails in question, and we suggest he file a police report if he thinks his email account was breached (which I highly doubt it was breached).
All that aside, using government email accounts to electioneer and solicit campaign funds violates state law and cannot be tolerated.
Even if the township gets its emails accounts without charge, those accounts belong to the township and are township property.
- Const. Art. VIII. Sec 1: (a) "Public funds, property or credit shall be used only for public purposes." - There is and cannot be any public purpose in soliciting campaign funds and electioneering using public property (email accounts). The Illinois Supreme Court has determined that Constitutional violations can be used as the predicate for Official Misconduct charges.
The Executive Ethics Commission ("EEC") has made numerous conclusions of law on this subject concerning state workers (the same law applies to local governments, who should have their own Ordinance on the subject). Here are the EEC's conclusions in a recent case:
- "Campaign for elective office" is defined as "any activity in furtherance of an effort to influence the selection, nomination, election or appointment of any individual to any federal, State, or local public office ... " 5 ILCS 430/1-5.
- Respondent intentionally misappropriated State property or resources by engaging in prohibited political activity for the benefit of a campaign for elective office in violation of 5 ILCS 430/5-l 5(a), when in January 2009, respondent sent three emails from her State email account to assist an Illinois Democratic County Chairmen's Association official contact the campaign's . . .
- Respondent intentionally misappropriated State property or resources by engaging in prohibited political activity for the benefit of a campaign for elective office in violation of 5 ILCS 430/5-1 S(a) when in June 2009, she sent and received from her personal email account a total of eight email messages . . .
- Respondent intentionally misappropriated State property or resources by engaging in prohibited political activity for the benefit of a campaign for political office in violation of 5 ILCS 430/5-l 5(a) when . . .
- Respondent intentionally performed the prohibited political activity . . .
- Respondent has violated Section 5-1 S(a) of the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act. 5 ILCS 430/5-15(a) . . .
We have sent the township a FOIA request asking for more information and will report on what we receive.