Will County Board Republican leader accuses political foe of email hack

Another partisan debate arises

Will County Board Republican Leader Steve Balich, R-Homer Township, speaks Tuesday at a press conference where he claimed his email account on a county computer had been hacked. July 9, 2024.

Will County Board Republican Leader Steve Balich, R-Orland Park, on Tuesday accused his Democratic counterpart of hacking into his email.

Democratic Leader Jacqueline Traynere, D-Bolingbrook, in turn said she uncovered a vulnerability in the county board email system that has lead to the latest partisan squabble on the county board.

Whoever is right, the dispute reflects another party standoff that puts the county board in a similar light to partisan political disputes in Washington D.C.

“There is a big division in the (county) board between Republicans and Democrats just like in the country,” Balich said when meeting with reporters after his news conference.

Balich called the news conference to draw attention to his complaint in which he claims Traynere hacked into an email that he sent earlier this year.

The email concerned the 143rd Street widening issue in Homer Glen on which Republicans have been at odds with County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, a Democrat.

Balich accused Traynere of hacking into his email and sending it to Bertino-Tarrant.

“How often did this happen?” Balich asked. “How many other board members have had their emails hacked into?”

Balich said he reported his allegation on March 6 to the Will County Sheriff’s Office, the Illinois State Police and the FBI.

So far, he had not heard from any of the police agencies and said Tuesday it was time to make his allegation public.

“Jackie Traynere should be ashamed of herself, and she needs to be held accountable,” Balich said.

Traynere, however, said that she detected a problem created by Republican leadership on the Will County Board and contacted board Chairwoman Judy Ogalla, R-Monee.

Will County board member Jackie Traynere sits in on the Will County board meeting on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023 in Joliet.

“I immediately called Judy,” Traynere said. “I told Judy I did not intend to do anything with your email.”

According to Traynere, she gained access to Balich’s email while testing whether one password was good for access to all county board computers, a problem she blamed on Republican county board leadership

The email sent to Ogalla’s email account was used by Traynere to gain access to the email, Balich said.

“In the email, I called her (Bertino-Tarrant) a dictator,” he said. “The first thing she said to me after this thing was hacked was, ‘Why did you call me a dictator.’”

Balich said he has learned since the alleged hacking incident that all county board members were given the same password to use for email accounts with the new Chromebooks.

But its unclear who set up the system to allow one password. Balich said it was the county executive’s office. Traynere said it was Ogalla.