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Out Here: Be leery before an election

Published: Thursday, March 20, 2014 11:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, March 20, 2014 2:34 p.m. CDT
(David Giuliani/dgiuliani@saukvalley.com)
Campaign signs for Ogle County Sheriff Michael Harn and state's attorney candidate Eric Morrow were posted at Breakers Saloon and Eatery. Under Harn, the Sheriff's Department spent thousands of dollars on meals for "training" sessions at Breakers.

When accusations are thrown around in politics, you should have a healthy skepticism. Become even more leery when the mud starts flying just before an election.

Some information, though, is solid. In November, Sauk Valley Media's Matt Mencarini received a letter informing him that the Ogle County Sheriff's Department was spending thousands of dollars at a local restaurant and had wide discretion over the newly created "administrative tow fund."

Matt looked into the information, and nearly all of it was true. The County Board later restricted the sheriff's powers over the tow fund.

We don't know who gave us the original information; it arrived anonymously. Was there a political motivation behind the letter? Probably. But if the information was true, the voters deserved to know it.

A day before the primary election, Brian VanVickle, the Rochelle police officer who ultimately beat Harn, announced on his Facebook page that 85 percent of deputies and employees in the department supported his candidacy. VanVickle's backers, he said, come from every area of the sheriff's office.

"The truth has come out!" he declared. "The professionals who work so hard for you have chosen to follow someone with integrity, honor and transparency. Please share this post so all will know the truth!"

But one thing was missing from VanVickle's "truth" – evidence.

Apparently, someone else noticed that and pointed it out on VanVickle's page. But that comment was deleted. How else do you explain another reply to VanVickle's posting?

"Even if the number is off," a woman wrote, "trying to question this claim does not divert attention away from Harn's questionable use of a credit card and tow fund."

In other words, accuracy is a flexible concept in the political realm.

That reminds me of when a Mitt Romney campaign aide said, "We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers."

David Giuliani is a news editor for Sauk Valley Media. You can reach him at dgiuliani@saukvalley.com or 800-798-4085, ext. 525. Follow him on Twitter: @DGiuliani_SVM.

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