DeKalb city clerk faces office forfeiture for allegedly violating state Governmental Ethics Act

Sasha Cohen allegedly failed to file statement of economic interest for past two years, ignored multiple court summons

DeKalb City Clerk Sasha Cohen talks on the phone to someone regarding his being replaced as the person to accept candidate filings Monday, Dec. 12, 2022, at City Hall. Filing opened Monday at 8:30 a.m. and Ruth Scott, recording secretary to the DeKalb City Council, was on hand to accept the paperwork for candidates who were filing.

DeKALB – A DeKalb County judge is expected to rule this month whether DeKalb City Clerk Sasha Cohen will forfeit his office for allegedly violating the state’s Governmental Ethics Act by failing to file statements of economic interest for the past two years, records show.

Chief Judge Bradley Waller signed a default order filed in DeKalb County court Wednesday for the DeKalb city clerk and village of Lee Trustee Jessica Moser.

Waller ordered Moser and Cohen to appear at 9 a.m. March 28 for a hearing, where Waller is expected to determine whether the two will forfeit their office for failing to follow state laws surrounding requirements by elected officials.

The filing comes as the DeKalb County Clerk’s Office seeks to enforce state law requiring financial disclosures of elected officials. The clerk’s office said multiple attempts to get Cohen to file his paperwork since 2022 have been unsuccessful.

When reached by Shaw Local News Network on Wednesday, Cohen declined to comment.

Under the Illinois Governmental Ethics Act, elected and appointed officials are required to file a statement of economic interest – which discloses sources of income, business investments and property ownership, among other things – to their respective county clerk annually.

Cohen allegedly failed to file statements for 2022 and 2023, “despite numerous attempts to obtain compliance,” according to court records.

The DeKalb County Clerk and Recorder’s Office mailed a letter to Cohen in March 2023 and June 2023 to alert him that he still needed to file his notice.

City of DeKalb Executive Assistant Ruth Scott also sent a letter with the economic interest statement form July 18, 2023, to Cohen’s DeKalb address, which was returned undeliverable Aug. 4.

“Yet it is known that he lived at that address, as he requested a new Voter Registration Card be sent there on Sept. 27, 2023,” David Berault of the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office wrote in court filings. “The county clerk then emailed Sasha Cohen on Dec. 13, 2023, at the email address he provided to her office in December of 2023. In that email, he was again told he needed to file his statement and given the form to utilize. He never responded.”

The DeKalb County Clerk’s Office has requested that the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office take action against Cohen and Moser, the only two remaining in the county who have failed to file their necessary paperwork on time or pay fines.

Moser also failed to file her statements of economic interest for her trustee position for 2022 and 2023 despite multiple attempts by election officials to remedy the situation, according to court records.

Statements of economic interest are required to be filed annually on or before May 15. Upon a late filing, the official also is required to pay a $15 late fee. A $100 late penalty is incurred for each subsequent day, documents show.

Since Cohen has failed to file his statements for 2022 and 2023, and allegedly ignored multiple attempts to correct that, he owes $1,615 per year, totaling $3,230 in late fines.

The DeKalb city clerk was elected after he ran unopposed in April 2021. His four-year term would be up in spring 2025.

In his time in office, Cohen has faced substantial public scrutiny from residents and also from fellow elected city officials, namely for his frequent absences at city meetings and for not showing up to work.

The DeKalb City Council voted to censure him in January 2023, alleging his consistent disregard for his elected duties.

He unsuccessfully sued DeKalb city officials in 2023, seeking relief for what Cohen alleged was the city’s attempts to bar him from performing his duties.

Waller threw out that lawsuit in February 2023.

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