Sparrow complaint dismissed

By Michael Berg

The State Board of Elections finally resolved the case of DeKalb Mayor Greg Sparrow’s disputed travel expenses by dismissing the complain Friday.

The complaint, filed by 6th Ward Ald. Jamie Pennington, alleged Sparrow had not filed his disclosure statements properly and was billing the city and his campaign fund for the same expenses.

“The board determined that the matter not go to a public hearing,” said Al Zimmer, State Board of Elections general counsel. “They reconsidered their decision whether or not the complaint was filed on justifiable grounds. The present status was there were no justifiable grounds.”

Originally, a public hearing on the matter was scheduled for Friday morning. Instead, the board held a meeting at that time and decided there was no need for a public hearing.

According to the board’s preliminary decision on March 15, there would be no public hearing and the complaint would be dismissed if Sparrow sent in amended disclosure statements which met with the approval of the board staff by March 17.

Sparrow said he sent these documents on time, but the board’s decision was delayed. “The board, in review of the data, concluded the filing was done properly,” Sparrow said. “There was no basis for the allegations.”

The board decided there wasn’t a problem in the first place, Zimmer said. “The amended reports conformed to law,” he said. “The board determined the problem really didn’t exist.”

Sparrow called the whole matter a “strange deal” in the way it was handled. “It’s what I told them in the first place,” he said. “It was a waste of taxpayers’ money and time. I hope this settles this once and for all.”

However, Pennington saw the ruling differently. “Today, the state board has reaffirmed that our complaint was filed on justifiable grounds,” Pennington said in a prepared statement. “Because the amended statements filed for Citizens For Sparrow no longer claim to pay Mr. Sparrow for travel items already paid by the city of DeKalb, the board has dismissed the original complaint.”

Joe Wiegand, campaign manager for mayoral candidate Michael Welsh, agreed with Pennington. “The board in fact reaffirmed Pennington filed his complaint on justifiable grounds,” he said. “The decision forced Sparrow, under order of the state board, to amend his financial disclosure statements to no longer show double reimbursements.”

Wiegand said he and Pennington feel “vindicated” by the decision. “We attempted to get the board to enforce their statutes and they did so and made Mr. Sparrow supply more detail,” he said.

“By amending his financial disclosure forms, Mr. Sparrow acknowledges the reasonableness of our complaint,” Pennington said in a prepared statement.

Pennington also questioned Sparrow’s request that affidavits explaining his expenditures remain sealed and not subject to public disclosure. “He certainly does not want the public to know (what he spent campaign funds for),” Pennington said. “Otherwise, he would have refrained from demanding that his affidavit not be included in the public record.”

Sparrow said the campaign should involve more important issues. “We wasted 10 to 12 days on this stuff,” he said. “We have 32 days left until the election to get to the real issues.”