Zeroing-in on source of mysterious Rockton mailing

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118175429211976.jpg’, ”, ‘Philip J. Nicolosi III‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118175427320924.jpg’, ”, ”);

A postal meter number may have revealed the source of anonymous political mailing just prior to the April Hononegah School Board elections.

Until now, residents of Roscoe and Rockton have been in the dark as to who mailed them fliers urging three specific candidates in the April Hononegah School Board election. In the mailing, a fourth candidate was maligned.

David Kurlinkus, Matt Kentner and Mary Lewis—who were endorsed in the anonymous political communication—ran as a slate against Kim Hodges, the fourth candidate.

The slate candidates, however, say they have no idea who was behind the mysterious mailer.

“I did ask Mr. Kentner and Mr. Kurlinkus when I heard about the mailing,” Lewis explained. “I can tell you that none of the three of us have sent or were involved with that.”

Hodges, who was bashed along with husband Chris in the anonymous mailing, did not win one of the three open seats on the board. Hodges thinks the source should be identified.

The mailing alleged the Hodgeses purchase of land in Roscoe was based on inside knowledge of the District’s plans for a second high school on the 23-acre site. The anonymous flier further alleges Hodges was seeking a school board seat to influence the outcome of an eminent domain case begun in 2005.

In October, a jury decided the land was worth $9,100 an acre. The Hodgeses are appealing the decision.

By law, electioneering communications such as this must clearly identify who paid for the mailing.

Illinois election statutes stipulate: “Any political committee, organized under this [Election] Code, that makes an expenditure for a pamphlet, circular, handbill, Internet or telephone communication, radio, television, or print advertisement, or other communication directed at voters and (i) mentioning the name of a candidate in the next upcoming election, without that candidate’s permission, and (ii) advocating for or against a public policy position shall ensure that the name of the political committee paying for any part of the communication, including, but not limited to, its preparation and distribution, is identified clearly within the communication.”

The mysterious political flier mailed to Roscoe and Rockton residents in April gave no indication as to who had paid for it, but a postal meter number on the political flyiers may shed some light on who was behind it.

Some residents allege they’ve already figured out who the source is by matching the meter number with one used by the Buckley Companies, a local group of companies specializing in the investment, development and marketing of real estate.

Kurlinkus, attorney for the Village of Roscoe and Hononegah School Board president, parted company with employer Nicolosi & Associates, LLC, in December to start his own practice, while being retained to stay on as Roscoe’s village attorney.

Paul Nicolosi, president and CEO of the Buckley Companies, stated the postage matter had been brought to his attention during the June 5 Rockton Village Board meeting. Nicolosi noted Buckley’s marketing department handles bulk mailings and that he’d investigate.

Xeroxed documents anonymously sent to The Rock River Times show postage meter 0002427788 imprints on the anti-Hodges election mailer, on an envelope with the return address of Nicolosi & Associates, LLC, and on a promotional real estate brochure with the return address of Buckley Brokerage Commerical Division.

June 11, Tim Ratliff, a U.S. Postal Service spokesman, reported to The Rock River Times a trace of the postal meter number revealed it is registered to Buckley Construction­—one of eight businesses comprising the Buckley Companies.

Other Buckley companies include Buckley Architects, Buckley Capital, Buckley Homes, Buckley Land Planners, Buckley Real Estate Brokerage, Buckley Title Services and Nicolosi & Associates, LLC.

Nicolosi & Associates represent the City of Loves Park and the Village of Rockton. In December, Roscoe Village President Ward Sterrett announced Nicolosi & Associates would no longer represent Roscoe. In May, Nicolosi & Associates announced they will no longer be representing the Village of Caledonia.

After learning the postal meter number was registered to Buckley Construction, Kim Hodges issued the following statement to The Rock River Times: “The confirmation that the letter was sent from Buckley Companies/Nicolosi & Associates comes as no surprise. It is a prime example of how our negotiations have gone with the Hononegah School Board since the inception of our eminent domain lawsuit. It demonstrates, yet again, that Hononegah School Board has acted in bad faith and never wanted to offer a fair price for our land. Now, maybe instead of accusing us of our motives, members of the public might start asking whose self-interest is really at stake here.”

Rockton residents, who’ve received Buckley real estate mailers attempting to lure buyers to Rockford, argue it is a conflict of interest for Nicolosi & Associates to represent the best interest of their village.

Rockton resident Kevin Mueller is one of many to receive the political communication by mail.

“When I received that mailing, it reminded me of some of the things that had been done in the past that served to divide our community, so I decided something needed to be done,” Mueller explained. “The style of the artwork and lettering fonts reminded me of some things I had seen from the Buckley corporation.”

Mueller said he and other residents then shared their suspicions with one another, vowing to vigilantly keep an eye on future mailings.

Soon after, photographic images of the anonymous mailing and known Buckley Companies mailings began popping up on—an online forum for which Mueller is webmaster. When compared, the images show a common postal meter number.

“This made me reasonably certain enough that I felt it should have some further investigation from somebody in village government,” said Mueller, explaining the letter he read to the Rockton Village Board June 5.

In his letter, Mueller wrote: “I have carefully examined the evidence including the style of artwork and lettering fonts and suspected the likely origin of this piece to be the Buckley corporations. Most telling, however, was the use of a postal meter on this piece which was also found on other mail that is clearly identified with this company through the use of their logos and address. The Buckley corporation is Rockton Village Attorney Paul Nicolosi’s company. Nicolosi’s associate, or former associate, David Kurlinkus serves as Hononegah’s School Board President.”

Mueller then formally requested an independent investigation into the matter, adding, “I furthermore wish to propose, that in my opinion, enough evidence of wrongdoing and conflict of interest already exists to warrant the removal of Nicolosi & Associates from Rockton Village government immediately.”

In light of the new information linking Buckley to the mailings, Village President Dale Adams said he still had no plans for an investigation.

“If it had been a Village issue, that certainly would be something to be looked into,” Adams replied. “We don’t have any control at all over the School Board election.”

Asked whether he saw a conflict of interest, Adams again responded, “I don’t see where it’s an issue the Board should be involved in.”

Reacting to news the meter number is registered to Buckley Construction, Mueller said, “That sounds like a smoking gun to me.”

Nicolosi & Associates, for which Paul Nicolosi is a partner, was awarded a $355,000 contract, along with Chicago-based Camiros, Ltd., for a new land-use plan and zoning re-writes for Winnebago County. Roxanne Sosnowski, an attorney for Nicolosi & Associates, is overseeing the county’s new zoning ordinances. Her husband, Rockford Ald. Joe Sosnowski (R-1), is a vice president of commercial real estate for Buckley.

After Winnebago County State’s Attorney Paul Logli (R) announced he’d not seek another term in 2008

, Philip J. Nicolosi (R)—brother of Paul, Rockford Township trustee and attorney for Nicolosi & Associates—said he is considering a run for the office.

In an e-mail received by The Rock River Times the afternoon of June 12, Paul Nicolosi wrote: “As you are aware I was recently asked whether a mailer regarding the candidates for the Hononegah High School Board election had been sent from the marketing/printing department of The Buckley Companies. I have since reviewed the information and have had discussions with the appropriate staff.

“By way [of] background, The Buckley Companies has six departments and over forty employees. One such department is its’ Marketing and Printing department which sends out approximately 100,000 pieces of mass marketing material per year for The Buckley Companies, its customers, and third parties. Similar to bulk mailing companies, when handling print jobs for third parties, our staff does not review or monitor the content of those documents printed or mailed.

“Here are the facts I have determined after reviewing the matter:

“1) The piece was brought to our Marketing and Printing department by a third party who asked that it be sent. None of the employees of any company I am associated with was the author of the piece nor did any of them direct the piece to be sent.

“2) The person who asked it to be sent was not an officer of any political party, associated with any candidate or running for any office during the election in question.

“3) I have asked our legal department to review the facts and the law and to contact the State Board of Elections. From such a review and discussions it was concluded that our Marketing and Printing department committed no violation of the election or other laws.

“Given the continued innuendo, out right allegations, and the bias of those who have attempted to make more out of this matter then [sic] the facts warrant, I am closing this matter to further comment.

“Thanks, Paul”

After receiving the e-mail, The Rock River Times attempted to call Nicolosi to ask who the “third party” was.

After we asked to speak with Paul Nicolosi, the receptionist indicated Nicolosi was on the line with another call and asked who was calling. Once identified as The Rock River Times, this reporter was placed on hold. When the receptionist returned to the line, she indicated Nicolosi had left for the day.

Authorities from the State Board of Elections did not respond for comment prior to publication.

from the June 13-19, 2007, issue

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