Bennett hit with new ethics allegations

Lois Westermeyer

Possible ethics violations in filing candidacy papers by one candidate for the 106th House District seat had another candidate calling a press conference Tuesday to discuss the matter.

Scott McCoy of Pontiac said the violations found with fellow Republican Tom Bennett’s candidacy papers have forced him to speak out on the matter.

“I didn’t want to make a comment until I figured out what’s going on because those are huge allegations, especially in Illinois to have ethics problems,” McCoy said. “With my own investigation, I found more problems than were initially reported. This is more serious than I thought for Tom and his campaign.”

Last week, WGFA radio in Watseka reported that papers of candidacy for Republican hopeful Tom Bennett of Gibson City were filed by Department of Children and Family Services employee Andrew Killian, who was Bennett’s campaign treasurer at the time, on a state fax line.

State law prohibits electioneering or campaign work on state time or using state offices or equipment.

Killian sent in the initial candidacy form and three months later an amended form from his DCFS office in Champaign.

The State Board of Elections said the matter was under review and would not comment further.

McCoy said looking through Bennett’s statement of organization papers for the House seat, he found other problems with the setting up of Bennett’s election committee, which appeared to contain information pertaining to Bennett’s election papers for his Parkland College Trustee seat. In the 106th District candidacy papers, the office being sought states Parkland College trustee.

It appears as if Killian was copying information from Bennett’s prior papers when he was filling out the new candidacy papers.

“The campaign committee was set up wrong. For 11 months he’s been raising funds and spending funds wrong. They have filed amendments to the other problems, but they have not amended the office he is seeking,” McCoy continued. “When I contacted the State Board of Elections I was told to formally file a D4 paper, which is a formal complaint,” McCoy said.

“I was told it would immediately be given a hearing.”

McCoy said he considers the issue a “major glaring error” and wanted to be upfront about his complaint.

“I gave Tom a heads up about this. I told him it wasn’t personal, but that it’s a campaign violation.”

McCoy said his conversation with Bennett was private and would not discuss Bennett’s response.

Bennett did not return a call by the Daily Leader seeking comment Tuesday evening, which was Valentine’s Day.

Last week, Bennett said mistakes were made by Killian using a state fax line to file the initial candidacy paper and amendment three months later, and that he was sure they were not deliberate. He said he had just been made aware of the problems and would take responsibility and move forward with his campaign.

McCoy and Bennett are in a five-way race for the Republican nomination for the newly formed 106th District, which includes the eastern half of Woodford County, most of Livingston County, Ford and Iroquois counties and the northern portion of Vermilion County.

It extends from Eureka to the Indiana state line and from Dwight to just north of Danville.

Fellow candidate Brian Gabor of Pontiac said, “I’m running my own campaign, so I choose not to comment. I will say that the hoops you have to jump through to file for candidacy are admittedly confusing and it wouldn’t surprise me if mistakes are made — there’s a reason amendments are allowed. Given election law and ethics problems in our state’s past these are important subjects, but I’m not making an issue of this.”

Candidate Richard Thomas of Dwight did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Josh Harms of Watseka also said he would not comment on the possible ethics violations.

“Early on, Tom, Brian and I agreed that we would focus on ideas that can help make Illinois better. The three of us understand that if we set out to destroy each other, then we’re never going to make a conservative Republican majority to run this state. Our primary goal is to make sure that our conservative ideals are pushed forward.”

“I like Tom, I’ve gotten to know him over the campaigning events. But I think these are serious issues that are becoming a distraction. People are asking me about this instead of the issues. I feel they need to be addressed,” McCoy said.