February 01, 2023
Local News

McHenry County Clerk amends committee reports in compliance with election board ruling

Tirio amends quarterly reports, Republican central committee report unamended

McHenry County Clerk and Recorder Joe Tirio said he has submitted amended quarterly reports for his campaign committee that properly disclose a $1,200 legal contribution, which had been the subject of an Illinois Board of Elections complaint in June.

But as of Wednesday, the Republican Central Committee of McHenry County has yet to amend its quarterly reports to reflect the proper beneficiaries of the $1,200 payment despite being ordered by the IBOE to do so.

The complaint had been filed by Rachael Lawrence, Algonquin Township trustee and former RCCMC treasurer, who alleged that the Republican central committee failed to properly identify the beneficiary of the $1,200 expense paid to attorney Philip Prossnitz to prosecute a defamation lawsuit filed by Tirio against a dark money group known as the Illinois Integrity Fund.

Lawrence also alleged that the Tirio’s campaign committee, Citizens to Elect Joe Tirio, failed to account for the receipt of the $1,200 as an in-kind contribution from the RCCMC.

An invoice from Prossnitz referred to the $1,200 payment a retainer “to represent Mr. Joseph Tirio in a potential lawsuit against the party or parties responsible for defaming, libeling and slandering the good name of Joseph Tirio during the March 2018 primary in McHenry County.”

A $1,200 check dated April 10, 2018, went from the Republican Central Committee to Prossnitz with the words “Illinois Integrity Fund” written in the memo line.

IBOE hearing officer Andy Nauman determined during a closed hearing that the RCCMC complaint was filed on justifiable grounds, reasoning that the sources that should have been identified as the beneficiary of the $1,200 expense would be the candidates on whose behalf the payment was made.

After a subsequent hearing in August, the IBOE formally ruled that Lawrence's allegation that the committee failed to account for the receipt of a $1,200 in-kind contribution from the RCCMC was filed justifiably.

The IBOE also determined that complaint alleging the RCCMC’s failure to report the proper beneficiary of the $1,200 expense was filed on justifiable grounds.

Trio's committee was ordered by the IBOE to report its portion of the $1,200 payment as an in-kind contribution from the RCCMC, which Tirio said was done a few days ago.

The RCCMC was ordered to amend its report on Aug. 26 and send notifications to beneficiaries within 30 days. If the committee fails to comply with the order, it could face a civil penalty not to exceed $5,000.

Tirio said he had received an email notification from RCCMC Chairwoman Diane Evertsen in compliance with their order.

However, committee reports on the IBOE’s website show the beneficiary of the $1,200 expense as the Republican Central Committee of McHenry County.

Evertsen could not be reached for comment.

Defamation suits

The Illinois Integrity Fund situation came to a head in December, when the president of the Chicago-based union mail-order house that printed the flyers named Michael Noonan, the former campaign director of McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and Sean Tenner, a former aide of Barack Obama and owner of KNI Communications, as the people behind the group. However, Tirio wasn't the only individual to have filed a defamation suit against the dark money group.

Former McHenry County Board member Michael Rein and board member Chuck Wheeler each have agreed to pay $189 to one of the people they suspect was involved with the printing of a series of campaign ads that were distributed throughout the county before the March 2018 primary election.

However, a judge agreed last week to dismiss the suits. Both could still file again within a year.

Former County Board candidates Ersel Schuster and Orville Brettman filed a joint suit against the group, which was dismissed by a Kane County judge last month. The judge determined that the suit was without merit and was filed in violation of Illinois' Anti-SLAPP laws.

Anti-SLAPP laws, established in the Citizen Participation Act, are in place to protect residents’ from retaliatory lawsuits that attempt to chill free speech by using intimidation and expensive court-related costs.