Public officials’ ill-advised campaign contributions


We’ve talked about ethics issues and Bill Nicklas before, in the context of his outside employment, which — shamefully — the city council has so far failed to address.

Now we see Mr. Nicklas, DeKalb city manager since the beginning of 2019, has been making political contributions to Illinois Representative Jeff Keicher.


(“Report Received Date” of 9/9/2021 for both itemized contributions reflect dates of amended reports following discovery of an old error.)

Campaign contributions are prohibited by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) to avoid undermining public confidence in administrators.

Elections. Members share with their fellow citizens the right and responsibility to vote. However, in order not to impair their effectiveness on behalf of the local governments they serve, they shall not participate in political activities to support the candidacy of individuals running for any city, county, special district, school, state or federal offices. Specifically, they shall not endorse candidates, make financial contributions, sign or circulate petitions, or participate in fund-raising activities for individuals seeking or holding elected office.

Tenet 7 Guidelines of the ICMA Code of Ethics

The city manager has said publicly that City of DeKalb does pay dues to Illinois ICMA, which has adopted ICMA Ethics Code in full. Clearly, this is a total waste of money.

For his part, Rep. Keicher evidently knows a good “give and take” when he sees one. He transferred funds from his campaign committee to Cohen Barnes’ mayoral campaign committee. Rep. Tom Demmer did so, too. This is unusual in that state reps who are Republicans normally endorse and contribute to other Republicans. Mayor Barnes ran as an independent, got support from prominent state-level GOP, and the third piece is some DeKalb County Democrats thought they were helping a Democrat in supporting him, judging by a discussion in our Facebook group. That’s quite a con.

Related: Cohen Barnes’ report of campaign contributions, first quarter 2021, below. If you’re feeling extra cynical today, keep it as a checklist of awardees of public funds during Mayor Barnes’ term.


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