Allegations lead to public hearing

By Michael Berg

DeKalb Mayor Greg Sparrow’s disputed travel expenses are the concern of a public hearing scheduled for Friday in Chicago, but Sparrow believes the issue could be settled as early as today.

The State Board of Elections ruled to conduct a hearing on the allegations presented by 6th Ward Alderman Jamie Pennington. Pennington accused Sparrow of incorrectly filing disclosure statements and “double-billing” the city and his campaign fund for travel expenses.

The hearing, which is to begin at 9 a.m., will be similar to a courtroom process, Pennington said. “It’s quasi-judicial. As the complainant, I’ll have someone representing me, an attorney or a researcher presenting my case,” he said.

Sparrow, however, said the hearing might be cancelled and the complaint dismissed today.

“On March 4, we presented our case to a hearing officer,” Sparrow said. “At the March 15 board meeting, that officer recommended to the board and the corporate council that the complaint be dismissed.”

At the March 15 meeting, the election board chose not to accept the report even though the corporate council concurred with the hearing officer’s recommendation, Sparrow said. Since the board ruled earlier that the case had to be resolved by March 22, the next step in the process was to hold a public hearing and present both sides of the case one more time, he said.

However, the board did give an option to Sparrow to send more information by March 17 concerning his disclosure statements. If the information was sufficient, the case would be dismissed, Sparrow said. “If I was willing to supply information on amended D-2’s and further evidence and breakdown of expenses, and the board’s staff is satisfied with this, they would reconsider the hearing officers’ report of March 15 and rule there was no need for a public hearing,” he said.

Sparrow said he has faxed this information to Chicago. “I fully expect, based on what we sent them (the board), they’ll find they have sufficient information to take the recommendation of the hearing officer,” he said.

Pennington said he hoped the final outcome would at the very minimum make Sparrow comply with the Disclosure Act. “I would hope they (the board) would make Greg (Sparrow) comply with the law, which in my opinion he has not done,” Pennington said.

“It’s extremely encouraging that the board ruled the complaint was filed on justifiable grounds,” he said. “They looked at the evidence and found there was room to investigate further.”