A conservative political consultant filed an ethics complaint March 13 against Kane County Sheriff Donald Kramer, alleging that he drove his official county-issued police car and wore official sheriff’s clothing at political events.
Kramer is the incumbent candidate in the March 20 Republican primary, running against challenger Kevin Tindall, a sheriff’s deputy.
Jon Zahm, a political consultant to the Tindall campaign, alleged that in wearing official clothing and driving the county-issued car, Kramer used taxpayer resources for political gain in violation of the county’s ethics ordinance against prohibited political activities.
“No officer or employee shall intentionally perform any prohibited political activity during any compensated time, as defined herein,” the ethics ordinance states. “No officer or employee shall intentionally use any property or resources of the County of Kane in connection with any prohibited political activity.”
Among the prohibited political activities is, “Managing or working on a campaign for elective office”
Zahm’s complaint alleges that Kramer wore an official shirt and drove his official police car when he attended two election events.
The events were the Western Township Republican Party Candidate's Night at the Blackberry Township Hall on Feb. 15, and the Aurora Township Republican Central Committee meeting at the Colonial Restaurant on Galena Boulevard on March 1.
Wearing embroidered shirts with the Kane County Sheriff’s badge on them is “implying power and prestige, as well as the clout of his office,” Zahm’s complaint stated.
His complaint was filed via email to Kane County Ethics Advisor Grant Wegner, a retired judge. Wegman did not return a voicemail message or email requesting comment.
Kramer said he would not comment on Zahm’s complaint, nor would he confirm that he wore county-issued clothing or drove a county-issued car to political events.
“I will not make any comment on it whatsoever,” Kramer said. “I will wait until they make a determination.”
Zahm said he was not present at either event, but that witnesses told him about Kramer’s attire and vehicle.
Tindall and Stan Bond – a GOP candidate in the March 20 primary for Kane County clerk – both said they saw Kramer wearing the sheriff's official polo shirt at the political events.
Tindall said he saw Kramer wearing the shirt at both events and noted the unmarked county car in the parking lot.
Bond said he saw Kramer at the Western Township meeting Feb. 15.
"I did see him making a presentation wearing a shirt that identified him as the sheriff, with a badge on the sleeve," Bond said. "It was a black shirt with a gold-colored badge on the chest."
Laura Pollastrini, a Hampshire precinct committeeman, said she was at the Western Township meeting and confirmed she saw Kramer wearing a shirt with his name and badge on it.
"It was not a uniform, but it did have the badge," Pollastrini said.
Gary Daugherty, precinct committeeman in Rutland Township, also confirmed that he saw Kramer Feb. 15 and March 1 in a Kane County polo shirt with a badge embroidered over the pocket.
“What it is, is a [polo shirt] with his name on it and a badge insignia sewn into it,” Zahm said. “And he drove an unmarked squad car. … It is part of what he wears, issued by the county. The [shirt] is OK, it’s the badge insignia that is the problem. It is issued by Kane County. He cannot wear it at a political event.”
Zahm said the sheriff should have gone home, changed clothes and drove his personal car to the campaign events.
“This is not the first time I’ve done good-government stuff like this,” Zahm said.
For example, during Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns’ unsuccessful run for Kane County Board chairman in 2012, Zahm had made the same allegation, that Burns had used the city’s resources to conduct a political campaign.
At the time, Burns apologized, saying his personal email defaulted to his city email account, and when it was brought to his attention, he corrected it.
An ethics probe later determined it would go no further unless a complaint was filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections.