Video alleges Canning used Bremen Township facility for school board campaign
A video that surfaced well before the April 4 consolidated election raises questions about whether the Bremen Township government authorized potential ethics violations for political gain.
In the video, it appears that a parade float used by High School District 228 Board Member Larry Canning’s Parents for Progress committee was stored in a maintenance garage owned by the Bremen Township government. The video was posted to Facebook on March 19 by the opposing committee to Parents for Progress, the Truth for D228 slate.
It's not clear who recorded the video, which was sent to South Cook News by an anonymous source close to the Township government and Canning.
Bremen Township taxpayers should question whether this occurs often, Jared Labell, the executive director of Taxpayers United of America, told South Cook News.
“It appears the school board political committee District 228 Parents for Progress improperly used facilities of Bremen Township,” Labell said. “I’m sure taxpayers would be interested to learn more about the use of government resources by political committees and to find out if there are even more egregious activities in addition to this incident.”
Canning works for the Bremen Township Highway Department as a low-level laborer and is a loyal political donor to Township Supervisor M. Maggie Crotty.
Canning and Crotty did not return requests for comment.
Chad Fornoff, executive director of the state Executive Ethics Commission, told South Cook News that ethics violations at the state government level can carry substantial penalties.
“If a complaint is filed and the state proves a violation, we can levy a fine of up to $5,000,” Fornoff said. “Often it is less.”
Fornoff’s jurisdiction includes officers and employees of the state government executive branch, he said. Within the branch, government property has been used for political purposes — like in this specific video — just in different ways.
“We have seen employees use their government computers to do campaign work, send political emails, etc.,” he said.
If an ethics violation were to be filed and investigated, a local ethics commission would have to take up the case and determine whether any such violations occurred.
District 228 Board of Election policy prohibits specific political activities of members while in office. According to the policy, the district Board has adopted similar language to that of the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act, which prohibits a wide range of political activity while on official duty.
Provisions in the policy also prevent members from accepting tangible and intangible gifts of monetary value from someone who "does business or seeks to do business with... a Board member, or... an employee, or with the Board member or another employee directing that employee.”
Ethics provisions for the Bremen Township are not prominently displayed on the entity’s website for the public’s view.
In general, most elected officials throughout the state of Illinois follow and adopt similar provisions of the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act as governing doctrine for unethical practices.
Canning also faces two Illinois State Board of Elections complaints. The latest claims he failed to disclose campaign expenditures in the 2017 campaign. A second, filed by another school board member, claims Canning used a government vehicle to campaign, among other allegations.