Column

Styf: Tirio says he paid some – not all – of his legal fees

McHenry County Clerk and Recorder Joe Tirio, shown during a recent McHenry County Board meeting, is the subject of a complaint to the Illinois State Board of Elections alleging the Republican Central Committee of McHenry County paid $1,200 for Tirio to pursue a lawsuit against the Illinois Integrity Fund.
McHenry County Clerk and Recorder Joe Tirio, shown during a recent McHenry County Board meeting, is the subject of a complaint to the Illinois State Board of Elections alleging the Republican Central Committee of McHenry County paid $1,200 for Tirio to pursue a lawsuit against the Illinois Integrity Fund.

On Friday, McHenry County Clerk Joe Tirio was back at a closed hearing with the Illinois State Board of Elections in connection with the funding of a $1,200 check related to a lawsuit against the Illinois Integrity Fund and a group that includes McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks.

The check was made out to attorney Phillip Prossnitz, said “Illinois Integrity Fund” in the subject line and was accompanied as evidence in the complaint by an invoice from Prossnitz that said the $1,200 was “to represent Mr. Joseph Tirio in a potential lawsuit against the party or parties responsible for defaming, libeling and slandering the good name of Joseph Tirio during the March 2018 primary in McHenry County.”

The complaint alleges that the $1,200 check, which the McHenry County Republican Central Committee said was to benefit itself, actually was to benefit Tirio as a candidate. The complaint also stated a GoFundMe was set up by the Citizens to Elect Joe Tirio.

Essentially, the claim is that the $1,200 should have been recorded as a benefit to Tirio’s campaign.

But that’s not the way Tirio saw it. On Saturday, he noted that the lawsuit actually was a personal lawsuit. At the first hearing, Tirio and his attorney, Robert Hanlon, contended that the $1,200 actually was to explore whether the Republican Central Committee should join the lawsuit, which conflicts with the invoice. At that hearing, Tirio also noted that he paid his lawyer bills.

In fact, in the dismissal of that complaint after a closed hearing in August, the ruling stated that complainant Ron Eck hadn’t introduced enough evidence to prove the committee paid Tirio’s legal fees, and there wasn’t enough supporting evidence.

“I believe [Tirio] presented a plausible explanation of the expense, and considering Mr. Tirio testified that he was paying for his own legal fees for his lawsuit, I recommend these allegations be found not to have been filed upon justifiable grounds,” the hearing officer’s report stated.

That brings us to Friday’s closed hearing and the additional evidence that former Republican Central Committee officer Rachael Lawrence brought with her in her complaint – the invoice and the check.

Although this hearing wasn’t about it, the question of perjury against Tirio was brought up by Lawrence. Tirio wanted to clarify, saying the question has been “taken out of context” and that he didn’t perjure himself.

Instead, Tirio said Saturday that when he previously answered the question on legal fees, he simply was stating that he paid some of the legal fees, not all. That’s why he sent us a cashier’s check stub for $2,000, proving he paid some of it.

The GoFundMe page was a real thing, which collected real money for his legal defense, so he clearly didn’t pay every cent of it, Tirio said. He said he was saying he was paying some, not all, of his legal fees.

“He clearly stated that he paid them,” Eck said of last year’s closed hearing, saying Hanlon called him out by asking the source of his information and even threatened to sue him if he didn’t divulge that source.

This time, Eck wasn’t there. But Lawrence was, accompanied by more evidence. And now Tirio has made it clear he paid some – but not all – of his legal fees to sue the Illinois Integrity Fund.

“I believe that the documents and the testimony speak for themselves,” Lawrence said Saturday.

“Mr. Tirio has changed his story numerous times,” Franks said when asked about it.

After the hearing Aug. 21, we should figure out whether the Illinois State Board of Elections agrees.

• Northwest Herald Editor Jon Styf can be reached at jstyf@shawmedia.com or
815-526-4630.

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