McHenry’s newly established Ethics Commission unanimously dismissed allegations against Mayor Wayne Jett on Tuesday.
The commission had met to consider a complaint filed by McHenry resident Christopher Schurrer.
Schurrer alleged that Jett violated ethics ordinances by campaigning for former Ward 2 alderman candidate Jim Walsh multiple times on city-controlled or mayoral platforms, campaigning for a proposed expansion of the McHenry Recreation Center and not recusing himself as chairman of the electoral board during a Dec. 30 meeting where an objection to Walsh’s petition was considered.
The recreation center expansion was put to referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot and failed. Jett had posted a message on his mayoral Facebook account in October asking whether people wanted yard signs in support of the effort.
Jett engaged in similar practices before the April election in support of Walsh by making three Facebook posts on his mayoral account that stated support for Walsh, requested volunteers for campaigns of alderman and alderwoman candidates he supported and offered Walsh campaign yard signs to followers, according to the complaint.
The complaint also references the email Jett sent from his city account in February that requested support for Walsh. Jett later apologized for sending the email from that account and said he had done so in error.
The commission dismissed all the allegations.
McHenry’s ethics code restricts city employees or officers from engaging in certain political activities such as campaigning while on city time and/or using city property or resources. The actions also must be intentional to be considered prohibited, according to the city code.
Jett’s lawyer, Jennifer Johnson, argued Tuesday that Jett’s Facebook account isn’t sanctioned or paid for by the city and he didn’t make any of the posts in question while on city time. An email campaigning for Walsh sent from Jett’s city email in February was accidental and tied to a mix up with Constant Contact, an email management system Jett pays for himself, she said.
The Facebook account in question is titled “Mayor Wayne Jett – City of McHenry.” Jett started the account himself under his own name prior to becoming mayor. The page evolved into a campaigning account when Jett ran for mayor in 2017. He eventually titled the page as it is after he won the election, Johnson said.
Jett said Tuesday that he acted impartially at the December electoral board meeting and so a recusal wasn’t necessary.
“The commission absolutely made the right decision,” Johnson said after the meeting. “It comes down to common sense. There was absolutely no violation to the ordinance and that was clear.”
Schurrer called the decision fair but said he was concerned that the city had nothing to do with Jett’s Facebook account.
“I am amazed that the city of McHenry is allowing unauthorized accounts of this nature,” Schurrer said. “It’s an extreme liability to the city and I am hoping they will look into that.”
City Council members this month appointed Brandy Quance, a lawyer with city attorney David McArdle’s firm, as its ethics adviser and Michael Roberts, former McHenry School District 156 superintendent; Richard Huber, chairman of the city’s police commission; and John Jones, former McHenry police chief, as ethics commission members.