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Attorney's candidacy worries county Democrats

Thursday, January 28, 2010  
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By Mike Wiser
Posted Jan 28, 2010 @ 09:04 AM
Last update Jan 29, 2010 @ 12:17 AM

ROCKFORD — A top attorney in the Winnebago County state’s attorney’s office is taking some heat from some county Democrats who think his candidacy for a low-level Republican post could be a conflict of interest.

Dave Kurlinkus was appointed as the deputy state’s attorney in charge of the county’s civil division in December 2008. Kurlinkus is also the president of the Hononegah School Board and a Roscoe Township precinct committeeman. It’s the latter post to which he’s seeking re-election, and that has some Democrats concerned.

"The problem I have with it is it could become a conflict of interest because you know how political the County Board can be,” said Winnebago County Board member George Anne Duckett, D-12, who is also the Democratic caucus leader.

"He’s a nice man and this is nothing personal, but I don’t think the attorneys should work for one party or another,” she said. "The state’s attorney has to because that’s the system we have, but I don’t think that the assistants should.”

Kurlinkus, meanwhile, has the full support of his boss.

"When I started my time in the office, I wanted to recruit the best people, regardless of party label,” said State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato, who is a Democrat. "I knew about the position, and it didn’t matter to me then and it doesn’t now.”

The precinct committeeman or committeewoman post is a party position. The person is responsible for making sure party activities are carried out in a certain geographical area. This can include posting yard signs, passing petitions and talking to neighbors about party candidates. In certain circumstances, committeemen are involved in slating or appointing candidates to run for or hold office.
Robert Evans, a political science and economics professor at Rockford College, said Kurlinkus’ bid for the committeeman office isn’t likely a conflict in itself, but it could become one depending on how he conducts himself.

"I think that’s true of just about any position,” Evans said. "But you might expect him to recuse himself from issues where party politics are involved.”

Duckett said one only needs to look at what happened with Ted Biondo and Carolyn Gardner for an example of where politics interferes with duty.

Biondo was appointed to fill the County Board term of Mary Ann Aiello, who died in 2008. He was advised that he did not have to run for the seat and could serve the remainder of the term Aiello would have served. County Democrats sued in a case that went to the Illinois Supreme Court and ultimately ended with Biondo being removed from the board and Gardner being installed.

"It was (former deputy state’s attorney) Gary Kovanda who told Ted that he didn’t have to run. I think that advice was political instead of legal; I truly believe that,” she said. "And look at all the money it cost.”
Boone County State’s Attorney Michelle Courier said staff in her office are allowed to hold outside employment as long as they clear the job with her first so there is no conflict of interest. She said that also includes elected positions, although no one in her office, besides herself, holds an elected position.

Kurlinkus said he’s surprised that the Roscoe position caught the attention of the county Democrats, but he hasn’t considered stepping down or withdrawing from the race.

"I work for the county and the County Board, but my direct boss is Joe (Bruscato),” Kurlinkus said. "As far as I know, I have his support in this matter.”

Staff writer Mike Wiser can be reached at or 815-987-1410.

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