DIXON – Two years ago, Rock Falls Mayor David Blanton sent a letter to Sauk Valley Media to endorse Dixon Mayor Jim Burke for re-election.
Burke, who won in a close race, paid back the favor Thursday, writing a pro-Blanton letter on city letterhead.
“What impresses me is, [Blanton] knows why he wants to be mayor,” Burke wrote on a letter faxed from Dixon City Hall. “Dave has a vision for the riverfront [that], when realized with strong leadership, will change Rock Falls like the Dixon riverfront project transformed our city.”
Blanton, who is facing City Clerk Bill Wescott in Tuesday’s election, also understands that economic development is the key to a better quality of life in any town, Burke said. Blanton, he said, was “absolutely delighted” when the owner of Dixon’s Touch of Thai recently announced that he planned to open a restaurant in Rock Falls.
Wescott said he had no problem with Burke making an endorsement. But he said he should have done it as an individual, not as mayor.
“I’m somewhat surprised he did it on city stationery,” Wescott said. “He could have sent it as an individual, rather than from the entire city. Let’s hear from everyone else in Dixon.”
Blanton had little to say about the endorsement.
“If Jim wants to endorse me, he can,” the mayor said.
Burke said he “goofed” by using city letterhead, saying he never would have done so for his own campaigns.
“I never thought about it,” Burke said. “I won’t do it out of City Hall again.
“I’ll use my real estate office,” said Burke, a real estate agent.
David Morrison, deputy director of the Chicago-based Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said government letterhead should be used for official purposes only.
“He cannot be acting as spokesperson for the city when he’s endorsing candidates in another town,” Morrison said. “I have to assume this is an oversight on his part and that he grabbed the wrong sheet of paper.”
Illinois law bars government agencies from using taxpayer dollars for political resources.
“It doesn’t happen often, but more than it should,” Morrison said.
Last year, then-Lee County State’s Attorney Henry Dixon’s secretary drafted a number of letters and other documents for his re-election campaign, apparently at Dixon’s direction. In 2011, Dixon wrote a letter using state’s attorney’s letterhead to discuss the coming political campaign with a potential rival.
Dixon lost in the November election to local attorney Anna Sacco-Miller, who announced that she would prohibit political activity in the office.
Burke’s letter won’t appear on Sauk Valley Media’s Opinion page because it missed the deadline, which was noon Tuesday.