State’s Attorney Logli: No action on Johnson or RVC

State’s Attorney Logli: No action on Johnson or RVC

By Jeff Havens, Staff Writer

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

The challenge could have 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.

However, Logli said he will not challenge Johnson’s holding both positions because he disagrees with the attorney general’s opinion regarding the potential conflicts of interest for the offices. Specifically, Logli said the 1994 attorney general’s opinion rests upon issues that Johnson may never face.

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. The opinion asserts no one person can hold both positions simultaneously.

Since Logli will not act, only civil action by an individual or group could bring the issue to court for determination.

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 State’s Attorney 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 the 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.

The board and Stenstrom

According to Logli, Chapdelaine and RVC’s board may or may not have broken the law by not using an open-bid process in awarding at least one contract for construction projects underway at the college. According to Logli, the law regarding the contract in question is not clearly written enough for his office to pursue a criminal case.

By refusing to pursue the case, Logli placed the burden of challenging Chapdelaine’s contract awarding methodology on an individual or group who is willing to file suit in civil court. Logli said his personal opinion was that Chapdelaine should have put the construction contract out for competitive bids rather than just awarding it to Stenstrom.

The possibly illegal construction contract was the subject of two articles in The Rock River Times Feb. 12 and March 5. 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.

Stenstrom and the jail

Reportedly, Stenstrom is Winnebago County Board Chairman Kris Cohn’s (R) pick for the county’s new jail construction manager job that may pay between $2.2 and $3.3 million. Illinois State Board of Election information shows in 2002, Stenstrom allowed Cohn to use his aircraft for Cohn’s failed attempt for the Illinois Secretary of State’s office.

Stenstrom reported $7,114.05 worth of “in-kind” contributions to the state for Cohn’s use of his aircraft between June 2002 and September 2002. Also in September 2002, Chapdelaine contributed $300 to Cohn’s campaign. Stenstrom gave Cohn’s campaign $2,500 cash in May 2002.

Logli was point man for last fall’s referendum, which pushed for the county’s proposed new 976-bed jail.

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