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Woodford Times - Peoria, IL
  • Woodford County letter may have violated election code

  • Woodford County Board Chairman Stan Glazier wants the county’s state’s attorney to investigate the circulation of campaign materials within the courthouse during early and absentee voting ahead of the March 18 primary, a potential violation of the Illinois Election Code.State’s Attorney Greg Minger c...
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  • Woodford County Board Chairman Stan Glazier wants the county’s state’s attorney to investigate the circulation of campaign materials within the courthouse during early and absentee voting ahead of the March 18 primary, a potential violation of the Illinois Election Code.
    State’s Attorney Greg Minger confirmed last week his office is looking into possible campaigning in an election zone, a Class A misdemeanor. 
    Investigators still were conducting interviews and had reached no conclusion as of April 1.
    A letter attacking the leadership of board member Larry Whitaker, who also serves as the chairman of the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, was sent to the thousands of registered voters in the county’s District 3 ahead of the March 18 primary.
    Several county employees said they saw the letter when County Board member Don Cremeens brought it into the courthouse asking for support while early voting was being conducted in the hallways.
    Cremeens said while he was aware of the letter’s existence, he declined to comment on whether he had any involvement or on accusations that he was behind the material’s mass distribution.
    The letter attacked Whitaker’s role in the TCRPC, citing high expenses, frequent meetings and personnel issues as evidence of his “lack of leadership.”
    The planning commission has been criticized by board members and some citizens in Woodford County for its stewardship of funding and distribution of funds and projects throughout the region.
    Whether voters were staunch against TCRPC or whether the letter altered election results isn’t clear, but Glazier said he “absolutely” thinks the materials had an effect at the polls.
    Whitaker garnered 851 votes, or 23.8 percent of the vote, in the primary, and lost his seat after serving for 16 years to Jason Jording, running in his first election, and Tom Karr, who previously served for eight years on the board.
    Karr is the only individual in 2014 to date to make a Freedom of Information Act request to the county for a list of District 3 voters. 
    He sent out a letter on behalf of his own campaign to about 1,000 households, he said April 1.
    “(Whitaker) has a consistent, reliable core of voters that are typically much more than the number he got,” Glazier said. 
    “For him to all of a sudden drop 400, 500, 600 votes, something happened. I don’t know if it was the letter or something else.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Whitaker doesn’t deny the claims made in the anonymous letter, but said they were presented to accomplish an agenda rather than to present the facts fairly or accurately.
    Whitaker served as chairman of the TCRPC during the investigation and eventual departure of previous director Terry Kohlbuss, which did, in fact, cause a spike in legal fees and executive sessions.
    It also was under his leadership that the state’s funding mechanism changed to a reimbursement model after previously paying for projects up front, which caused a shortfall in operating cash. 
    But Whitaker said those events would have happened no matter who was chairman.
    “There’s only one thing I would have done differently since July 1 a year and a half ago. I would have done it all faster,” Whitaker said. “It was the recognition of things that needed to be done or we were headed for a cliff. I’m at peace because of what I did, and I sleep at night because of what I did.
    “The commission did the right thing.”
    Other members of the TCRPC say what the letter alleges are facts without adequate explanation and don’t reflect on Whitaker’s role as chairman.
    “On the basic premise that it’s written, the majority of that is fact,” Glazier said. “The way it was presented, it’s all totally skewed to the negative. It can be argued that Larry Whitaker had nothing to do with those facts negatively.”
    Several County Board members vilified the anonymous mailer, saying whoever was responsible for it should have stood by their claims.
    Board member Mike Hinrichsen made an impassioned, five-minute plea at the board meeting last week saying he was “embarrassed and disappointed” by the tactic.
    “It’s difficult for me to understand that we would treat each other that way in this county,” Hinrichsen said. “I would expect this kind of letter to be developed in Chicago, and we’ve witnessed this kind of activity in Washington, D.C., but not in Woodford County.”
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