Grayslake District 46 board member Sue Facklam was officially censured Wednesday by the board of education following an investigation by the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office. It was regarding complaints she had violated the state’s election code by allegedly giving high school students free gift cards for registering to vote in her favor in the April school board elections.
Facklam received a letter from Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Waller dated Aug. 9 which concluded she had violated Section 29-1 of the Illinois Election Code by giving $5 Culver’s gift certificates to at least two individuals to influence them to register to vote for her.
Though the letter states such conduct constitutes a Class 4 felony for which Facklam could be prosecuted, Waller’s office decided against it, citing their investigation “did not uncover a broader pattern of illegal payments” and that they were choosing to exercise prosecutorial discretion.
Waller’s office did, however, send Lake County Clerk Willard Helander a copy of the letter with the recommendation that she remove Facklam as a deputy registrar because her conduct subverts the election process which relies upon honesty and integrity.
In an excerpt from the letter, Waller warned Facklam:
“Please do not interpret our decision not to prosecute you at this time as an acceptance or acquiescence to your violation of law. Should we learn of additional violations of the Election Code be assured that we will not hesitate to prosecute you to the fullest extent authorized by law.”
The investigation into Facklam’s alleged election and ethics violations began in April by an attorney working on behalf of Lake County Tea Party Chairman Lennie Jarratt, who has also worked to obtain e-mails between board members sent from district e-mail addresses concerning their personal election campaigns.
This includes e-mails from former board president Mary Garcia sent from her work e-mail at Northbrook/Glenview District 30 and e-mails from Facklam that allude to her efforts to give gift cards to 18-year-olds who would register to vote for her.
In one of those e-mails, acquired by Jarratt through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Facklam wrote to Garcia: “Don’t let them turn us in; Gifts to register to vote is probably illegal! I did offer Erika more gift cards if she can gather up more friends!”
In late September, Jarratt filed a formal complaint with the Lake County Circuit Court seeking an injunction to force District 46 to comply with the Freedom of Information Act and release other previously requested documents and e-mails.
The Lake County Tea Party is calling for Facklam’s resignation from the District 46 school board and the Special Education District of Lake County.
“Ms. Facklam should no longer be allowed to hold a position of responsibility as a role model to the children of this community,” Jarratt wrote in a press release.
On Wednesday, D46 board member Shannon Smigielski asked that an agenda item referring to the reading of the board’s censure resolution be put on hold until next meeting because board member Kip Evans was not present.
“He has a right to have a voice. This affects all of us,” she said.
Board member Michael Carbone agreed. The item remained on the agenda, however, following a 4-2 vote. Later, Carbone tried again to have the matter tabled but was unsuccessful. He then got up from his seat and sat in the audience in protest.
During public comment, Jarratt accused board president Ray Millington of rushing through the matter, claiming it was not just an ethics violation but a criminal act on Facklam’s part.
He also questioned whether the board knew about the Waller letter, which was sent in August. According to Smigielski, it did not.
“You’ve had a lot of time to sit and process what you’ve done,” Smigielski told Facklam.
Smigielski said Facklam showed a lack of respect to the board by not disclosing the letter after first receiving it.
“We have to read about it in the newspaper," she said. "You didn’t give us any consideration whatsoever.”
Furthermore, said Smigielski, “It’s a slap in the face of the people that did vote for you. They voted for someone they obviously did not know. If you had any respect for the board you’d step down. This is no place for you.”
Smigielski added she was “disgusted and ashamed” to be sitting on the board with Facklam and that she hoped Facklam “would lose a lot of sleep” over it.
Resident Lauri Steinhoff came to Facklam’s defense during public comment, calling her a “generous and passionate person” whose service to the community goes above and beyond.
“We’ve got to stop all this nonsense and get on with business,” said Steinhoff.
Smigielski said she believed the board should force Facklam out. Millington said they could not force an elected official to step down.
“This is as far as this board can go,” said board member Keith Surroz of Facklam’s censure.
After the meeting, Facklam told Patch she had “no comment” on the state’s attorney’s findings or whether she intended to resign from the board on which she has sat since 2003.