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Election board to Harvey mayor: No deal for you on $72,750 in election fines

The Illinois State Board of Elections has resoundingly rejected a settlement offer from Harvey Mayor Eric Kellogg, raising the possibility that his reign as head of the troubled south suburb could be coming to a close.

The board of elections, the government agency that regulates campaign activities, contends that Kellogg’s political committee owes civil penalties totaling $72,750 for failing to file mandatory fundraising disclosure reports in recent years.

Kellogg had hoped to persuade the elections board to forgive at least half the fines.

But board members on Tuesday unanimously rejected his settlement proposal.

“This guy is a chronic violator,” Board of Elections member William McGuffage says. “I don’t know why we should accept any offer.”

Now, Kellogg has just over a week to pay the $72,750 he owes the state. His campaign committee, “Citizens to Elect Eric J. Kellogg,” has $3,984 in cash as of Dec. 31, 2014, records show. If the figure is correct, he will have to look elsewhere for the money.

The deadline to pay is Jan. 29. If Kellogg misses it, his name can’t appear on the ballot in the April 7 election, effectively ending his 12-year tenure as mayor, according to the elections board. No other elections board meetings are scheduled this month, meaning Kellogg is unlikely to reach a settlement because the board must approve those proposals.

“We’re committed to resolving the issue one way or another,” Kellogg’s spokesman Sean Howard says. “The mayor will be on the ballot. And we’re looking forward to the election.”

The elections board has settled with other political committees, typically for at least 50 percent of the penalty.

An attorney for Kellogg’s committee proposed something similar: A “reasonable initial payment” and then “a reasonable payment schedule for the remaining amount due, ultimately concluding with the Committee paying 50% of the outstanding balance, minus late fees and interest,” according to a copy of the offer. But the elections board on Tuesday was unwilling to negotiate.

In all, the elections board fined Kellogg’s committee $72,750. That includes $55,900 for “delinquently” filing a dozen quarterly reports, from March 2011 to September 2013, plus $16,850 for other related violations.

State law requires campaign committees to submit quarterly reports to the elections board.

The reports are supposed to reveal the names of all donors who have given $150 or more over the preceding three months, as well as detail how that cash was spent – whether for campaign signs, cellphones or something else.

The filings are then posted online for the public to review. The aim is transparency – so the public knows who’s donating money and whether it’s used for legitimate purposes. In Illinois, campaign funds are to be used only for political purposes, not for enhancing personal incomes.

This is just the latest controversy Kellogg has faced. Under his leadership, Harvey has come under intense scrutiny because of financial mismanagement, numerous misconduct allegations against its police officers and more. Last June the suburb was sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly defrauding investors in a hotel development deal.

This story was written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Andrew Schroedter, who can be reached at aschroedter@bettergov.org or (312) 821-9035.