BREAKING NEWS: RVC, county board member Johnson may have to resign seat

Chris Johnson (R-4), a member of the Winnebago County Board and Rock Valley College (RVC) Board of Trustees, may be forced to resign one of his board seats if challenged.

The challenge may come from Winnebago County State’s Attorney Paul Logli or a citizen, according to Michael Luke, chief of the opinions bureau for the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. Logli was not available for comment.

The Rock River Times gave Logli state documents March 20 regarding the attorney general’s opinion, which states that holding both the community college and county board positions simultaneously is a potential conflict of interest. Therefore, no one person can hold both positions simultaneously.

Johnson said he wasn’t prepared to say which board he would resign from, if forced to do so. Before running for county board last fall, Johnson said his research did not indicate that there would be a problem with holding both positions.

A 1994 letter (File No. 94-021) from Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to Clinton County Judge Henry Bergman reads:

“I have your letter wherein you inquire whether one person may simultaneously serve as both a county board member and a trustee of a community college, part of the territory of which is located within the county. For the reasons hereinafter stated, it is my opinion that the offices in question are incompatible, and, therefore, one person may not simultaneously hold both offices … because of the potential conflicts in the duties of these offices. …”

The letter is the basis for state’s current opinion about the compatibility of community college and county board positions, according to Luke.

If Johnson resigns from the RVC board, support for controversial RVC President Roland Chapdelaine could be further eroded. If Johnson resigns from the county board, there will be minimal impact because 19 of 28 county board members are Republican and he holds no committee chairman positions.

According to sources, Chapdelaine and RVC’s board broke the law by awarding at least one contract for the construction projects that have been underway at the college.

The illegal construction contract, which is currently being reviewed by the state’s attorney’s civil division, was the subject of two articles in The Rock River Times March 5 and Feb. 12.

The contract concerned Chapdelaine’s recommendation and the RVC’s board approval of construction management services and planned “gifting” schedule for Robert Stenstrom of Stenstrom Companies, Ltd.

Further details on this story will be included in the March 26 edition of The Rock River Times.



Mayor and Armory owner to meet

By Jeff Havens, Staff Writer

According to Polo Berumen, a representative of Rockford’s Mexican Civic Society, Jocelyn Stoller, the new owner of Rockford’s historic Armory building at 605 N. Main St., will meet with Rockford Mayor Doug Scott the first week in April to discuss the Armory’s fate.

Negotiations that Stoller had scheduled last week with Berumen and the society have been put on hold. The society hoped to turn the Armory into a Hispanic community center. However, access to parking is a major issue for the Armory’s future use.

Last year, the society’s attorney, Jennifer K. Soule of the Chicago law firm of Soule, Bradtke and Lambert, threatened to sue the park district. The society wanted access to the district’s Riverfront Museum parking to the north of the Armory. The Armory itself has about only 10 parking spaces at the rear of the building.

Soule claimed the district was discriminating against the society because other non-Hispanic groups that used the Armory in the past were allowed to use the museum’s parking.

Park district attorney G. Michael Scheurich, of Guyer and Enichen, argued that the society’s request to use the museum’s parking was denied because the group’s functions were private and profit-oriented.

The society hopes to be a non-profit group that would use the Armory for activities such as indoor soccer, volleyball, computer training, English-as-a-second language classes, basketball, karate, concert and dances.

Chicago-based Mirador Group, LLC and its manager Stoller bought the Armory from AMCORE Bank March 6 for an undisclosed amount. AMCORE bought the Armory at a Winnebago County Sheriff’s sale for $200,000. Less than three hours later, AMCORE transferred ownership to Mirador. AMCORE’s action surprised and angered many who expected the bank to donate the property to the Rockford Park District for its planned museum park expansion. Because preservationists were uninformed about AMCORE’s true intentions, they did not bid for the property at the auction and are angered at the exclusion.

The 1936 art deco Armory was given historic landmark status in January 2000 through an ordinance (2000-19-0) passed by Rockford’s City Council.

The ordinance mandates that “a Certificate of Appropriateness be obtained from the Rockford Historic Preservation Commission before any alteration or demolition visible from a public right-of-way is made to the structures located on this property, or before any new structure that would be visible from a public-right-of way is added.”

Under Illinois eminent domain law (65 ILCS 5/9-2-15), the city could petition the circuit court to obtain the Armory.

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