Elections officer hears accusations against Bremen board member
Mark Johnson and Patrick Gordon feel confident that their election complaints filed against Bremen Community High School District 228 Board of Education member Larry Canning will have their day in court, so to speak.
Johnson, a fellow board member and former Canning ally, and Gordon, a local political activist, filed complaints with the State Board of Elections around the time Canning won a plurality of the vote to be re-elected to the school board on April 4.
After the win, Canning was ordered to appear in front of a Board of Elections hearing examiner on Thursday to face his accusers head-on in separate hearings.
Johnson alleges illegal campaign practices and discrepancies in Canning’s candidate committee, known as Parents for Progress (PFP), during the 2015 election.
When he spoke to the South Cook News on how his hearing played out, Johnson said Canning might have held an illegal raffle during PFP’s 2015 election bid.
“The hearing examiner was very concerned that the raffle wasn’t done in a specific manner,” Johnson said. “He [Canning] was aware of what was the proper way to run a raffle. He just chose not to go that route.”
Johnson said the raffle brought in a lot of unaccounted-for campaign funds. The hearing examiner even asked Canning if he had a license for the raffle that was held in Tinley Park, and Canning indicated that he did not, Johnson alleged.
Gordon filed a complaint accusing Canning of not reporting his campaign finances from the recent campaign season to state regulators.
Other issues brought up at Gordon’s hearing included the fact that Canning was running a committee, despite his argument that the 2017 Parents for Progress slate was a group of three individuals.
“Let’s face it: He is running under Parents for Progress, and you're telling me that each person pays for themselves, individually?” Gordon said.
According to Gordon, Canning spoke about meeting with a representative of the Board of Elections before the campaign and asked if he could still use the Parents for Progress name without having to reopen his committee. Even though the committee lapsed in 2015, Canning continued to operate with one checking account, Gordon said, while not reporting expenditures.
Gordon has said that his “conservative” estimate for the amount of money PFP spent is approximately $25,000. Candidates and committees have to report if they exceed $5,000 individually. There are no current records of expenditure for Canning or the other members of the PFP slate.
“Why do you need the one checking account for then?" Gordon said. "Like I said before, I don’t buy anything he said in the hearing. I really don’t.”
The hearings were held on the same day at the Board of Election’s office in Chicago.
Complaints filed with the Board of Election are put through a preliminary hearing in which an examiner determines whether they are valid. The examiner then issues a recommendation to the board, which then decides whether to hear the case.
The board can issue fines of up to $5,000 against a candidate or candidate's committee.
“Even if the hearing finds that there is something to this, I have seen the Board of Election officers say that this isn’t going any further," Christine Svenson, an election lawyer, told the South Cook News previously. "That is very possible, but I can be completely wrong.”
No time has been determined for the hearing officer to release his opinions on the complaints.
The South Cook News has sent multiple requests to Canning regarding the complaints, but has not received a response.