Questions arise about sheriff candidate’s campaign office
• Democratic candidate Bob Springer is reportedly running campaign out of office inside Winnebago County Justice Center
By Jim Hagerty
Recent information suggests an office obtained and occupied by Democratic candidate for Winnebago County Sheriff Bob Springer may be pushing the envelope of State of Board of Elections rules.
According to sources, Springer occupies an office inside the Winnebago County Justice Center, where he is reportedly running his campaign. The office was reportedly closed as Springer campaigned for the primary March 18, when he won 42 percent of the vote against Randy Olson, Jeffrey Schroeder, Glenn Heidenreich and Bob Redmond.
After winning the primary, Springer re-opened the office and maintains access to the county’s e-mail and security card systems, sources close to the situation said.
During the initial attempt to contact Springer, a switchboard operator confirmed the 34-year law enforcement veteran maintains an office in the building. Calls to the office’s direct line were met with an outgoing voicemail message that states: “This is Deputy Chief Bob Springer. I’m not in the office right now.”
County e-mail, a direct phone line and a security card granting access to areas of the Winnebago County Justice Center, including the jail, are necessities reserved for employees. Springer retired from the sheriff’s office five years ago. He then became a regional coordinator for the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System (ILEAS), the agency that assists other police agencies during emergencies throughout the country.
Insiders say Springer used the justice center office as an ILEAS headquaters before retiring from the agency. He is now a volunteer — with the same security clearance and system access — for the department, and maintains an office in the building, raising questions about possible infractions, specified in the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act (5 ILCS 430/5-35).
According to the act, “Contributions shall not be intentionally solicited, accepted, offered, or made on State property by public officials, by State employees, by candidates for elective office, by persons required to be registered under Lobbyist Registration Act, or by any officers, employees, or agents of any political organization.”
The act defines state property as public buildings owned by government entities. The act continues: “Any building or portion thereof owned or exclusively leased by the State or any State agency at the time the contribution is solicited, offered, accepted or made. ‘State property’ does not, however, include any portion of a building that is rented or leased from the State or any State agency by a private person or entity. Any inadvertent solicitation, acceptance, offer or making of a contribution is not a violation of this Section as long as reasonable and timely action is taken to return the contribution to its source.”
Springer faces Republican Gary Caruana in the Nov. 4 General Election. Caruana spent eight years as a Winnebago County Sheriff’s deputy in the 1980s before a 26-year career in security with UPS. Caruana said he expects the race to be fair.
“If this is true, there needs to be a formal investigation,” Caruana said. “I don’t have access to that building. Mr. Springer’s presence there gives him the advantage of appearing as something he’s not. It makes him appear like he’s in an official position there and the playing field is not level, and it should be — 100 percent.”
Springer and Winnebago County Sheriff Dick Meyers did not return repeated phones calls for comment. Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato (D) was not available for assistance in interpreting the act.
From the April 16-22, 2014, issue