Thursday, February 1, 2018

02012018 - News Article - Loans from former sheriff Buncich leave campaign committees in limbo

Loans from former sheriff Buncich leave campaign committees in limbo
Chicago Tribune
Feb 1, 2018

Debt owed to convicted former Lake County Sheriff John Buncich have left campaign committees in limbo.

Carrie Castro, a former Democratic judicial candidate and Merrillville attorney, asked the Lake County Board of Elections and Registration about closing her campaign committee but an outstanding loan from the former sheriff is holding that up. The Lake County Democratic Central Committee is in a similar situation.

Michelle Fajman, director of the Lake County Board of Elections and Voter registration, said if a campaign committee has an outstanding loan from an individual that person has to sign off saying the amount has been forgiven.

Once a campaign committee has no debt owed by it, debt owed to it or available funds, it can be closed out, Fajman said.

"All three of those lines must be at zero," Fajman said.

Castro's campaign committee is left in limbo because of a $3,500 personal loan from Buncich to her 2016 primary bid that either needs to be forgiven, requiring the former sheriff's signature, or repaid. Until outstanding debt is resolved or forgiven, candidates cannot disband their campaign committees, according to the Lake County Board of Elections and Voter Registration.

Castro was unavailable for comment Thursday. Her committee isn't the only political organizations with outstanding loans from Buncich.

The Lake County Democratic Central Committee reported $6,400 in loans it owed to Buncich Boosters, according to the 2016 campaign finance report. The Lake County Democratic Central Committee hasn't filed its 2017 finance report that would show if any of that amount was repaid last year.

Buncich is currently at the Metropolitan Correction Center, a federal holding facility in Chicago, while he waits his transfer to another prison to serve a 15-year and eight-month sentence after being convicted in August of bribery and wire fraud.

Fajman said the board recently worked with a candidate who sought to close his campaign committee but needed loan forgiveness signatures. Fajman said he had loans dating back to 2000 and had to get signed letters from the individuals before the board would consider the loans forgiven.

Castro could keep the committee open for the year, Fajman said, and try to get a resolution to the loan issue.

Castro ran in the 2016 Democratic primary for circuit court judge against then-incumbent George Peras and Marissa McDermott. McDermott ultimately won the primary and general election.

Castro had previously run for Lake Station city judge.

During 2017, Castro didn't raise a cent or spend one, according to her annual report.

The former judicial candidate has in $90.37 in the bank, according to the report, and $5,096.60 in outstanding debt. Castro's campaign committee owes her $910.28 and Buncich another $3,500.