Kendall County’s three ethics commissioners discussed an invitation to a political fundraiser for a matter of minutes before clearing County Board member Anne Vickery of an ethics complaint Thursday.
“My personal opinion is that it was probably wrong, but I don’t think there was any intent,” commissioner Darald Nelson said.
The unanimous decision the Kendall County Ethics Commission heard since the county’s ethics ordinance was approved in May 2004, State’s Attorney Eric Weis said.
The commission chose against sending the complaint to Weis’ office for prosecutors to consider pursuing as an ordinance violation. If convicted of an ordinance violation, Vickery, of Minooka, could have faced a fine or up to a year in jail.
The ethics commission's ruling also indicates the trio found no probable cause that, if the acts alleged had occurred, Vickery had committed violation of Article 5 of the county’s ethics ordinance. That section prohibits employees and elected officials from using county resources for certain political activity, such as preparing for political events or soliciting campaign contributions.
Retired judge Jim Wilson, who Vickery has described as a political foe, filed the complaint Dec. 17. He did not attend Thursday’s hearing.
Vickery on Oct. 31 to invite three fellow county board members to a fundraiser she hosted. Vickery, a Minooka resident who is seeking re-election for the last time, apologized during a County Board meeting Nov. 28.
The e-mail invited County Board members Dan Koukol, John Shaw and Bob Davidson to a fundraiser Vickery hosted for Republican State Rep. Pam Roth of Morris, who is running for re-election in the 75th District.
“I did not ask them for any money,” Vickery said. “I simply, from the bottom of my heart, did not want to leave anybody out or think that I have overlooked inviting someone.”
The invitation indicates “a donation of $50 per person or $75 a couple would be appreciated,” but Vickery said several people attended the function without donating money and without her asking them to donate.
Ethics Commissioner Lowell Mathre said that the “prohibited political activity” section of the Ethics Ordinance was complicated.
“You don’t hardly dare breathe,” Mathre said. “It’s got so many restrictions on it.”
Meanwhile, Ethics Commissioner Kristine Heiman noted the Vickery had said she didn’t often use e-mail, although other e-mails she sent on Oct. 31 seemed personal.
“I do think she’s got to quit using the county e-mail for personal things,” Heiman said.
Heiman, a Democrat, is running for Kendall County Board in District 2. She’ll be competing with Vickery for one of five seats if Vickery succeeds in receiving a Republican Party nomination in District 2 next month.
Weis assured Heiman at the beginning of the hearing that her candidacy did not prevent her from acting as a commissioner in this case.
“You’re under no legal conflict,” Weis said. “… How that’s perceived, that’s a separate issue. I can’t advise you on that.”