Ward 5 candidate cleared
Prosecutors complete Purchase investigation
The Illinois State’s Attorney Appellate Prosecutor’s office has cleared Lakeisha Purchase, a Springfield aldermanic candidate who was the subject of a complaint alleging that she had omitted information from a statement of economic interest.
“The agency thoroughly reviewed it,” Pat Delfino, director of the state prosecutors office said. “From this review, there was a clear decision that there was no criminal offense that we were going to prosecute. Simple as that.” The Sangamon County state's attorney's office referred the case to the state agency last month.
Stephen Hughes, who lives in the same Enos Park neighborhood as Purchase and incumbent Andrew Proctor, filed the complaint in December. In his complaint, Hughes accused Purchase of trying to hide business interests by not listing rental properties she owns on her statement of economic interest, a form that candidates for office, office holders and high-ranking government officials must fill out. Hughes also complained that Purchase did not disclose that she is a sales director for the Momentum Society, an organization that advertises itself as credit repair organization that can help clients remove inaccurate and derogatory information, including bankruptcies, foreclosures, tax lien, and judgments, from credit profiles.
Hughes could not be reached for comment. Proctor, the incumbent, has acknowledged that Hughes is a supporter who has also done work on his house. Proctor, also, could not be reached for comment, nor could Purchase.
Filers of economic interest forms can be fined as much as $1,000, jailed for as long as a year, or both for filing false information. Hughes complained that Purchase wrongly omitted her affiliation with the credit-repair organization by checking “not applicable” for a question that requires filers to list the nature of “professional services” if filers have been paid more than $5,000 for such services. The form that Purchase filed out by hand doesn’t define “professional services.” Filers can check “law,” “engineering,” “accounting” “medicine, “architecture” or “other.” An online form on the Sangamon County Clerk’s website defines “professional services” as the practice of law, accounting, engineering, medicine, architecture, dentistry or clinical psychology.
As for rental property, several public officials who fill out economic benefit statements haven’t included rental property. City Clerk Frank Lesko, for example, has listed neither rental properties nor a commercial parcel he owns. Corporation Counsel Jim Zerkle owns farm land, a commercial parcel and a home in addition to the home where he lives but has listed no real estate on his economic benefit statement. Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin also owns rental property that doesn’t appear on his statement of economic interest.
Zerkle could not be reached for comment. Lesko said he’s always believed that rental property and commercial real estate don’t have to be listed. He noted that it isn’t hard to look up what real estate is owned by a public official. “It’s not difficult at all to find out,” Lesko said. “It’s not something anyone would hide.”
McMenamin said he believes the requirement to list real estate applies only if property is sold and a capital gain of at least $5,000 is realized. He points to the question itself: “List the identity (including the address or legal description of real estate) of any capital asset from which a gain of $5,000 or more was realized during the preceding calendar year.”
“It doesn’t use the term ‘income,’ it uses the term ‘gain,’” McMenamin, a lawyer, said.
Sangamon County Clerk Don Gray, however, lists rental property on his statement of economic benefit. He says that his office tells filers to consult their lawyers for advice on how to fill out the forms, which he says can be confusing.
“I would definitely draft something a little more understandable,” Gray said. “People interpret it differently all the time. … We only advise that you are required by law to fill out this form.”
Contact Bruce Rushton at email@example.com.