Is the mayor of Bellwood breaking rules on the campaign trail? - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Is the mayor of Bellwood breaking rules on the campaign trail?

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

It's one of the most important rules in politics and government: you can't use taxpayer dollars to help your political campaign.

So, FOX 32 News was surprised when we found political signs being stored in the garage of a West Suburban Park District, and even more surprised when the mayor there said, “It's no big deal.”

It's one of the most popular ways to raise political cash during the summer season, and last week FOX 32 found plenty of people paying hundreds of dollars to shoot a round of golf and support the campaign of Frank Pasquale -- the Mayor of West Suburban Bellwood.

"Good to see you again," Pasquale said to FOX 32.

At the first tee box at the Bloomingdale Golf Club, Mayor Pasquale was greeting his campaign supporters, many of whom had spent a little extra political money to put their names on signs all over the golf course.

The signs contained the names of people and companies sponsoring a hole, as well as the Mayor's name and political party.

FOX 32's Dane Placko said to Mayor Pasquale, "See all these signs around the golf course? You know where they've been stored?"

He responded with a no, to which Placko said, "The park district garage across the street from Village Hall."

Pasquale said “Okay,” and then Placko asked him, “Is that okay?”

He responded, “Depends on how you look at it, Dane.”

Well, here's how FOX 32 News looked at it.

On a Saturday three weeks before the golf outing, FOX 32 found those same political signs carefully stacked against a wall inside the Park District garage -- a building built and paid for with taxpayer's money.

Placko asked Mayor Pasquale, “You don't see a problem with that?”

He responded, "Other than you complaining or making an issue out of it, what's the problem?...No I don't."

Former State Lawmaker Susan Garrett, now with the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said Mayor Pasquale should know better.

"Well we want the mayor to care, quite frankly,” Garrett said. “The law says that taxpayer-funded buildings cannot be used for any type of political work, and that includes any employee inside the building. Those lines are very clear."

So, why would all these political signs be stored at the Park District? FOX 32 asked the head of the Park District, Mari Harrell, who also happens to run the Mayor's campaign.

Placko said to her, "Some of the employees allege essentially that you're running the campaign out of that Park District office."

She responded, “Not true.”

However, in surveillance camera video, provided by employees, Harrell can be seen organizing the signs at one o'clock on a Thursday afternoon in July -- right in the middle of the work week.

Placko said, "Why would you put them in that garage? That's taxpayer owned property."

She responded, "I realize that and it will not happen again. It will not happen again. It was just easier for me. I was being lazy."

Placko gave Mayor Pasquale one more chance to recognize the issue at hand. He asked, "Is that a problem, then?"

The Mayor responded, "Yes. With you. Not with me. No I don't (have a problem with it.)"

Garrett added, "If you're letting things like that go, you're letting bigger things go. You may be crossing the line and not even know that you're crossing the line. And that really is a problem."

A spokesman for the State Board of Elections said that using a public building for campaign purposes does carry a criminal penalty in Illinois. However, someone would have to make a formal complaint before they or the State's Attorney could launch an investigation.

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