Bambenek: Smyth violated Urbana ordinance with news conference

Bambenek: Smyth violated Urbana ordinance with news conference

URBANA — Urbana Alderman Charlie Smyth violated the city's municipal code by using the city council chambers for a political news conference, Republican John Bambenek charged Friday.

Bambenek, a candidate for the state Senate, attended Smyth's conference Friday morning where the Democrat criticized his opponent, Gordy Hulten, for not allowing same-day grace period voting. The press conference was held in the city council chambers, which was decorated with "Charlie Smyth for County Clerk" signs as well as a banner.

"It's clear he was campaigning and talking about the differences between him and the county clerk in matters of public policy," Bambenek said at an impromptu news conference on the public sidewalk in front of the Urbana City Building. "He could have had that press conference anywhere in town that he wanted. He could have had a press conference on the sidewalk in front if he had wanted."

"When you are using your own governmental office to have a press conference, that's beyond the line," Bambenek said. "You don't see county board members having political press conferences in the county board chambers. You're not going to see any candidate for the state Legislature having a political press conference in the state Capitol. There are some things you don't do."

But Urbana Assistant City Attorney Curt Borman said he didn't think Smyth violated the city ordinance by using the council chambers.

"That kind of ordinance is for things like misusing the city's email or fax machine or stamps for political purposes," Borman said. "That's how I read the statute."

He said he's not sure what will happen as a result of Friday's events.

"It's not up to me to say. No one has asked me to do anything," he said.

Article X of the Urbana city code, titled "City Officials and Employee Ethics and Political Activity," prohibits certain political activity by officials.

"No elected official, employee, citizen appointee shall intentionally misappropriate any City property or resources by engaging in any prohibited political activity for the benefit of any campaign for elective office or any political organization," reads Section 2-203 of Article X.

"If it's a violation, it's really unintentional," Smyth said. "The city clerk (Phyllis Clark) told me I could do it. I know political meetings and press conferences like this have been held there before.

"It's on city property, but it's considered a public venue. I could have done this in any number of places."

Clark confirmed that she had given her OK.

"I told him it wasn't an issue, that it's happened before," she said.

Clark said she thought the prohibition against political activity on city property was aimed at people "going from department to department seeking signatures on petitions. That's what that was about."

Under the city code, any person who intentionally violates any provision of Article X can be fined as much as $750.

Bambenek said that "when you're running for the county clerk's office you need to play it straight. Elections need to be done fairly and independently, and you shouldn't have a history of using government power for partisan, political gain.

"Government officials in both parties in this state, going back a century, have a history of using government power and governmental resources to advance their political objective. There needs to be a firewall between government and campaigning."

Comments

News-Gazette.com embraces discussion of both community and world issues. We welcome you to contribute your ideas, opinions and comments, but we ask that you avoid personal attacks, vulgarity and hate speech. We reserve the right to remove any comment at our discretion, and we will block repeat offenders' accounts. To post comments, you must first be a registered user, and your username will appear with any comment you post. Happy posting.

Login or register to post comments

ericbussell wrote on October 27, 2012 at 11:10 am

Article X clearly prohibits city officials from using the room for poltical activities.  I'm sure there is plenty about election law that is less obvious.   Is there a history of city officials and employees using the room for political gain?   This ethics rule is limited to city officials and employees, so I can understand why non city officials might be allowed to use the room for political activities and why Smyth may have made an honest (but dumb) mistake. 

I just find it amazing that Smyth breaks ethics rules while attacking his opponent for being part of a voter supression conspiracy.   His friends in the Urbana City building might find some creative way to skirt the issue, but this was certainly a huge campaign blunder.

One of the fundamental requirements for County Clerk is one's ability to interpret and fairly apply the law and to convince voters that you will not use your office for political gain. 

A candidate for County Clerk should know better.  

Political Observer wrote on October 27, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Full Disclosure Here: Eric Bussell (the poster above) often appears on News-Gazette discussion boards to act as Gordy Hulten's spokesperson and defender.  In fact, back when Hulten finally got around to shutting down his far-right, dirty-tricks blog, IlliniPundit.com, Bussell actually wanted to buy it from him!  [Ewww! Good thing it's near Halloween...Isn't that a disgusting and scary thought?!]  Unable to come to terms with Hulten, Bussell decided to start his own even-far-less-interesting blog, in an apparent effort to become the person he apparently sees as "The Incredible Hult" (I guess)...

Anyway, I can't really think of a more appropriate use of the public forum space in the Urbana city building than to use it to bring to light strong evidence of someone doing dirty tricks to try to make it more difficult for our fellow citizens to vote! (This isn't a partisan issue!  All political parties should be concerned with someone trying to make it more difficult to vote.)  Charlie Smyth has done Champaign County an enormous public service in organizing this press conference and in publicizing Hulten's War on Grace-Period Voting.  We really owe him a vote of thanks!

What other counties in Illinois (if any) have created the kind of long, drawn-out process for casting a Grace-Period vote that the devious Hulten has devised in order to suppress the vote in Champaign County?  (In most other counties in Illinois, a Grace-Period voter goes to the County Clerk's office, changes his or her address, and then votes the same day...In fact, in some areas around the US, voters can even make the address change and vote on election day itself, after establishing proof of identity, of course.)

Political Observer wrote on October 27, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Oh, and by the way, John Bambenek makes so many bizarre claims and is such a national laughing-stock that it’s amazing  there’s still anybody left in this town (besides Eric Bussell and the anonymous employee(s) of the News-Gazette that wrote this article) who even pretend to take him seriously. 

But if you want to have a good laugh at Bambenek’s expense, click on the link below, follow it to his News-Gazette profile, skip the largely irrelevant information provided by the News-Gazette in the profile, and enjoy the reader comments at the end.

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/politics-and-government/2012-10-01/2012-election-candidate-questionnaire-john-bambenek-state-se

johnny wrote on October 27, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Which were all made by you.

ericbussell wrote on October 28, 2012 at 8:10 am

Why is it necessary for people to try and insult and/or discredit those they disgree with?   I probably shouldn't encourage the childish namecalling by anonymous commenters, but the Incredible Hult comment was pretty damn hilarious.  

The idea of changing grace period voting is not necessarily a bad one.  It is hard to take people seriously if they are going to frame it as part of a conspiracy to suppress voters instead of simply a constructive idea that Charlie Smyth has that he feels will improve the voting process.  Oh, and not only is Hulten allegedly playing dirty tricks, he's actually engaged in a war on grace period voting.  

 

Mark Taylor wrote on October 28, 2012 at 12:10 pm

I know; it's just so mean, right? It's on par with attacking someone you disagree with by bringing up the actions of their cousin...oh, wait...

nvm

ashrprice wrote on October 27, 2012 at 9:10 am

Taken independently, this could be a valid complaint (I'm unfamiliar with the laws in question so won't speak to them). However John Bambenek has a long history of scrutinizing the political activity of Democrats and then attempting to get the government to shut them down. By that I mean rather than publicizing a concern he has he'll file a complaint with some governmental body, and always and only Democrats.

He tried to get the FEC to classify the popular liberal blog DailyKos as a political committee and thus subject to their rules. He did not do the same for RedState, an equivalent conservative blog. 

He then filed a complaint against DailyKos with the Michigan Board of Elections accusing them of voter fraud for publicizing the fact that Michigan has an open primary. 

For the record in both of these situations he was ridiculed by the conservative blogs. RedState supports DailyKos' right to exist as it does, even if Bambenek does not. 

More recently, covered in the News Gazette, he's filed an official complaint against Quinn for staffing a board with more Democrats than Republicans. 

And now this complaint against Charlie Smyth, yet I hear no complaints from him or his friends (we unfortunately have mutual friends) against the Champaign County Republicans using the primary as placeholders.

One could argue that Bambenek is a principled man who cares about the electoral process, but considering he always and only complains about liberals it's clear to me that he's attempting to convince the government to silence people he disagrees with. It's hypocritical and frankly anti-American. I encourage anyone considering voting for Bambenek to google him. He has an extensive internet history that is easily searchable, and he's doing his best in this campaign to hide his many extreme views.

Mark Taylor wrote on October 27, 2012 at 10:10 am

You mean this tea party anti govermint extremist fanatic has a long and publicly documented (not to mention, ridiculed) history of trying to use evil govermint bureaucrats to silence his political opponents???!!/!??

It's just so perplexing that a right wing extremist would try to shut down his opposition by so comically appealing to the power of govermint, even if his attempts have been hapless and ineffectual.

ericbussell wrote on October 27, 2012 at 11:10 am

Ineffectual? This story is on the front of the newspaper and you are obviously riled up.  The definition of ineffectual is something not producing any or the desired effect.  I'd say that his efforts are absolutely having the desired effect....and it is quite amusing. 

Mark Taylor wrote on October 27, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Ding dang right I'm riled up, Eric. THIS IS WORSE THAN WATERGATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1111!1111111!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Keep on this. Don't let it go. You have no idea how far up this conspiracy goes. Follow the money, but BE CAREFUL. There are powerful forces involved that will do ANYTHING to keep their role in this from coming to light.

I pray for you and John Bambenek -- two brave souls who are protecting our democracy from the FORCES OF EVIL PRESS CONFERENCES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Note how extra riled up you and Bambenek have got me. Do you see ALL THE PUNCTUATION??????2222????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????)

Mark Taylor wrote on October 27, 2012 at 9:10 am

OMG -- this is the BIGGEST SCANDAL EVAR!!1! Totally disqualifying, OBVS!!1!

His friends in the govermint are clearly just covering for him. This is a HUGE BLUNDER. Hey, I have an idea -- let's just keep talking about this press conference till the election, not the issues.

Because the question of who holds press conferences where is a CRITICAL ISSUE THAT WILL DECIDE THIS COUNTY'S FUTURE!! It's not grasping at straws or skirting the issues, not in the slightest. No. No, it's not.

ericbussell wrote on October 27, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Keep in mind it is the little things that can swing a contested race.   I suspect that people appreciate this, given the use of so many capital letters and puctuation marks.   Otherwise, people would just ignore it and move on.

This was also a hot topic at the tailgate today.  Listening to the many reactions leads me to believe this news report (or hatchet job by Bambenek if we want to call it that) is very unfavorable for the Smyth campaign. 

spangwurfelt wrote on October 27, 2012 at 9:10 am

There's a simple rule. If John Bambanek says it, it's almost certainly wrong. The trail of lies and distortions just goes on for mile after mile. If he tells you the day after Tuesday is Wednesday, don't believe it until you've verified it independently, because Bambanek and truth are just that remotely acquainted.

jimed wrote on October 27, 2012 at 10:10 am

So he paid for the use of this governmental facility?If not can any citizen use it?

wayward wrote on October 27, 2012 at 11:10 am

From what I understand, anyone CAN reserve and use the city council chambers.  For example, that's where Tim Johnson made his announcement that he was withdrawing his candidacy.

ericbussell wrote on October 27, 2012 at 12:10 pm

According to the code, city officials are not allowed to use the city building for political purposes, with few exceptions.  I do not agree that anyone can use the city council chambers unless they either change or ignore existing law.  Article X did not apply to Tim Johnson who is not a city official.  Furthermore, it is debatable that Johnson announcing his retirment from public service would be considered a political event as defined by code.  With Smyth, there is no doubt. 

rsp wrote on October 27, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Bambenek said at an impromptu news conference on the public sidewalk in front of the Urbana City Building.

So Bambenek went outside and used the city building as a backdrop? The banner was a bit much but that's about all. And all of Johnson's appearances are political. That's what they do, make political appearances. 

ericbussell wrote on October 28, 2012 at 8:10 am

I'm sorry, RSP.  The rules for city officials seems pretty clear to me and Johnson is not a city official. 

Political Observer wrote on October 29, 2012 at 2:10 am

Hmmm…So did Mr. Bambenek apply in advance for a permit to use a City of Urbana sidewalk, in order to hold his Press Conference to attack Charlie Smyth there?!  You can’t just schedule a public event for a City Sidewalk, you know, without making  proper notifications, and receiving approval, beforehand!  There are public safety implications whenever a crowd is involved, and there must be arrangements made so that the sidewalk is not completely blocked and so that pedestrians have the free right of passage back and forth along the sidewalk completely unimpeded, in order for Mr. Bambenek to comply with city code requirements associated with his special event.  In addition, if there were a significant number of attendees for Mr. Bambenek’s Clown and Pony Show, a special circus parade permit might be required, and this could necessitate the re-routing of traffic and the blocking of the street in front of the City Building, so as to avoid any problems of vehicular congestion!  Finally, if there were any vicious wild animals present (other than Mr. Bambenek himself, of course) in this impromptu poor-excuse-for-a-circus, appropriate caging would be a  very important necessity that would have to be guaranteed in writing by Bambenek’s Big Top, Inc.…or else he’s blown it once again!  (Although if Sgt. Hulten himself were present, this requirement might be waived altogether, for he’s well-known as a long-time expert and practitioner in the black art of voter caging.)

The irony of all this can be put this way:   What if in his extreme zeal to create a distraction to divert attention away from Sgt. Hulten’s War on Grace Period Voting, Mr. Bambenek didn’t realize that Charlie Smyth had indeed obtained valid permission to use the City Building (via the mechanism discussed in the article above), and thus when he proceeded to schedule Bambenek’s Big Top, Inc. Clown and Pony Show on City of Urbana sidewalks and falsely attacked Mr. Smyth for impropriety, he himself had not secured the necessary circus permits?   Would this not be a case of what those in the legal community often call, “Hoistus Upon His Own Petardus?”  Might not Father John, upon experiencing the Déjà vu sensation of having received the Daily Kos National Laughing Stock Award all over again, find himself with that familiar Frozen, Bambenek in the Headlights Feeling yet one more time?  (“Excuse me, Mr. Coyote, but were you expecting a package delivery from a company that goes by the name of Acme?”…BLAM!!!!)

ericbussell wrote on October 29, 2012 at 6:10 am

It's a shame that you use your creative writing talents to sling mud and engage in the childish name-calling, but you are extremely talented and entertaining....

Your boogeyman Hulten doesn't have anything to do with Smyth's PR mess.  In fact, he would not even give me a comment on the subject.  Not a even a creative personal dig or zinger!

The republican county-wide candidates are clearly committed to running a positive campaign.  They are focusing on themselves instead of taking shots at the their opponent.  These candidates are focusing on what they would do to make the office better and are not making any references to their opponents.  This was definately notable in the county-wide debates.

Wait...I just realized I'm interrupting....please proceed with the insults and name-calling.

 

 

 

Mark Taylor wrote on October 29, 2012 at 8:10 am

Step 1: attempt, with the help of a friendly local media concern, to hype a silly complaint about a press conference.

Step 2: when widely ridiculed for the attempted hype, complain about how the people ridiculing your sad attempt are mean and that they make fun of your silliness.

Step 3: be able to tell yourself that the problem with politics isn't pathetic stunts like press conferences about improper press conferences. No, the problem is that people make fun of poor you for engaging in such stunts.

Step 4: sadly shake your head; maintain a smug sense of superiority; repeat every two years.

ericbussell wrote on October 29, 2012 at 10:10 am

If all you're going to do is heckle, why not point out the obvious about Bambenek?

1.  Isn't it sad that Bambenek has to resort to earned media as way of a getting his name out there?   I mean, it's not like he can afford a simple commercial like everyone else!  That is because he hasn't been able to raise much money in support of his campaign, right?  Why might that be?  [insert more heckling here]

2. Talk about desperate: he even needs to reach into other races to get his name in the paper because he can't afford a commercial for his own.  [see point 1 and repeat]

3. Did you see that huge mention of Bambenek in the editorial section this weekend on subject of the constitutional amendment?  More proof that the only way to get his name in the paper because....earned media (aka media stunts).

4.  How pathetic it truly is for a candidate to spend so much effort fighting for media attention.   Look at the front page of the N-G online!  How sad it truly is that the only way to keep his name prominently in the media is via media stunts.  Hell, he is featured twice in the most commented section!  I guess the only way this guy can stay top-of-mind is by relying on hecklers to keep heckling away so the story stays at the top of the most commented section, shamelessly drawing attention to himself with futile hopes that keeping this story front and center will overcome his inability to spend money on advertising, while conveniently hurting Smyth at the same time.  I mean everyone sees through this!

Hope that helps.

Mark Taylor wrote on October 29, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Uh, okay. Sure. Uh, huh.

Great heckling there, heckler.

rsp wrote on October 29, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Just doesn't have your talent.

ericbussell wrote on October 29, 2012 at 10:10 am

duplicate comment removed.

Local Yocal wrote on October 27, 2012 at 10:10 am
Profile Picture

Where was Bambenek when Gordy Hulten ruled on the candidacy of Stephanie Holderfield for circuit clerk, who was running against,...ahem,...Hulten's old "boss" (Hulten was Rick Winkel's campaign manager?)

Where was Bambenek when Linda Frank used the Courthouse Plaza to announce her endorsement of Rick Winkel for circuit clerk?

Whether the election laws are such that it can be interpreted that Smyth should not have used government property to hold an election campaign press conference will be a fun partisan fight in the media,...but considering that the City Council Chambers also functions as the public television headquarters, and is open to the public to reserve for all types of meetings, shows, and events, and most importantly,...is available to use for the same purposes by his opponent in the race, and therefore, Smyth does not hold an unfair advantage or exclusive use of the City Council Chambers over his opponent- this should have never been an issue, but The News-Gazette still thinks it can manage public opinion and election outcomes.

We all know how stupid the voters are to fall for this publicity stunt. Hey, don't forget Bambenek parts his hair the wrong way! As Al Nudo can attest, Bambenek has become a political hatchet man. If you can't get elected, (and his head will be served to him come Nov. 6) at least be a media bully.

ericbussell wrote on October 27, 2012 at 12:10 pm

"Where was Bambenek when Gordy Hulten ruled on the candidacy of Stephanie Holderfield"

He was at the courhouse supporting Holderfield, sitting just in front of me, and was one of the key players in the fight to keep Holderfiled on the ballot. 

"As Al Nudo can attest, Bambenek has become a political hatchet man."

The guy is most definately handy with a hatchet and I can definately attest that he was a pain in the butt during the primary, but the accusations that he only goes after liberals is grossly untrue.  Go ask Christine Rodogno. 

Orbiter wrote on October 27, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Local Yocal wrote: "the City Council Chambers also functions as the public television headquarters, and is open to the public to reserve for all types of meetings, shows, and events, and most importantly,...is available to use for the same purposes by his opponent in the race, and therefore, Smyth does not hold an unfair advantage or exclusive use of the City Council Chambers over his opponent"

I think this is the most rational explanation, and it does not escape me that Mr. Smyth's opponents are trying to turn this into something it isn't. This sort of press conference is exactly the intended purpose of our city facilities, and it speaks volumes that the Smyth campaign sought  and received advance permission for this usage. That the opposition is trying to smear him is, unfortunately, to be expected. That the press is either falling for the ruse, or even participating in it, is deplorable.

wayward wrote on October 27, 2012 at 1:10 pm

No, it definitely doesn't sound like Smyth was taking advantage of his position as a city council member -- in fact, Bambenek could have also reserved the city council chambers to hold his own press conference about Smyth if he'd wanted.

ericbussell wrote on October 28, 2012 at 8:10 am

At the end of the day, this is not a big deal.  The only reason why this is interesting and entertaining is because Smyth is attacking Hulten for being part of a voter suppression conspiracy instead having a constructive discussion about his ideas for what he feels will improve the voting process.  Smyth slipped up on a technical issue and at the very least made a PR blunder while under intense scrutiny.  I don't think Hulten would make such a mistake, but if he does in the future, I'll bet you his little mistake would be huge. 

Or as Mark Talyor might say:

THE WORST THINK SINCE WATERGATE!!!!!111!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

illini_trucker wrote on October 27, 2012 at 10:10 am

I don't see why not. It should be after all, the People's property.. That's always been a thing to make me scratch my head; when I see signs that say "State Property: No Trespassing."

but I also agree with others.. This is hardly an issue compared with everything else on the table in general..

jthartke wrote on October 27, 2012 at 2:10 pm

The sad thing is that Bambanek and the NG have successfully pulled a great distraction play here.  They've made this about whether Mr. Smyth should have said what he said 10 feet inside the door or 10 feet outside of it. They've tried to make an attack issue out of a non-issue. There was not profit in this, and it could have been held anywhere on public property.

Now everyone is waving their hands in the air while missing the essential point Mr. Smyth was trying to make -- that dozens of people have already been disenfranchised from their right to register and same day vote by Mr. Hulten and his backwards reading of the statute. Mr. Hulten is intentionally missing the spirit of the law, and not following the policy of the vast majority of Illinois counties.

Yet another reason Champaign County should address the issue of a Board of Elections instead of Clerk run elections. And more proof that the NG is the stenographer of power and conservatism in this county.

read the DI wrote on October 27, 2012 at 3:10 pm

All that huffing and puffing, and the Snooze-Gazette waits until the 13th graf to disclose that the clerk said it was OK. So even if the law says Smyth shouldn't have used it, at least it's clear he didn't try to circumvent the approvals.

In other words, if there was a mistake made, it was Clark's.


What a waste of newsprint.

Spence wrote on October 27, 2012 at 5:10 pm
Profile Picture

Why all the whining about Bambenek..... no one is suppose to be above the law. And Nudo dug his own grave!  No one can be a hacket man if the laws and rules are obeyed.... should we demand any less from our elected public servants?

kaw wrote on October 27, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Actually, you all need to back up a step.  First let me state I am a neutral party here, I have no axe to grind with either candidate.  And my memory is a little fuzzy, but I'm pretty sure about the context of the legislation.  When the state passed ethics legislation under Rod Blagojevich, one of the requirements of that legislation was that all public entities also had to pass policies or ordinances in compliance with the state legislation.  One of the intents of the state law was very clear:  an individual is not to utilize tax-supported entities for political personal gain.  Period.  It's difficult to argue with that.  So it seems very clear that the use of a city council chambers by a candidate whose name is on the ballot, with accompanying political signs, is a violation of the intent of the law.  In this context, it seems inappropriate to make general statements about politicians and their behavior.  The law is concerned with specifics, not generalities.  I served as an ethics officer for a tax-supported entity at the time we were all required to pass the required policies and ordinances.  I worked very closely with the people in the State Attorney General's office in clarifying issues when a local candidate wanted to tour a public school one week before the election and bring the press along.  According to Springfield, it was a clear violation of the law. I realize I'm not an expert, but I really don't see how Mr. Smyth's actions were any different.    

wayward wrote on October 27, 2012 at 9:10 pm

OK, I could live with a policy that said no political use of Urbana city council chambers, period.  In this situation, there's apparently a history of other people doing it because the venue was freely available to anyone who reserved it.  But when Charlie Smyth held a press conference there, it was like "OMG -- he can't do that!"  I think it'd make more sense to generally prohibit political activity on city property than it does to tolerate it from some people but then make a stink when a Democrat on the Urbana city council does it.

kaw wrote on October 27, 2012 at 10:10 pm

wayward, you're absolutely correct, consistency is a wonderful thing.  However, we shouldn't blow off one person's violation of the law, simply because the local paper hasn't given similar violations space before.  There's a lot of decisions that go into what is news and what gets printed, not simply who's the party in favor at the time and who's not.  It seems it became an issue when the Republican candidate spoke out about it, rather than when the Democrat was speaking in the council chamber.  So, perhaps this will serve as the motivation for city officials to become better educated in the law and nothing like this will happen again.  

wayward wrote on October 27, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Yeah, I'm not saying that something should be ignored because it's happened before.  But it was kind of interesting that the same folks who are screaming about how terrible it is that Smyth used city council chambers for his press conference didn't seem to have anything to say earlier this year when Tim Johnson also used city council chambers to call a press conference announcing his withdrawal from the race.

kaw wrote on October 28, 2012 at 8:10 am

One might make the argument that in Rep. Johnson's situation, since he was withdrawing from the race (and not endorsing anyone else), he was not in violation of the city or state ethics legislation.  He did not stand to gain from his announcement. However, what I find interesting about this dicussion and many others in the News-Gazette online comments to news stories, is that we don't respect whistle-blowers.  Instead, we have a tendency to find fault in the person who is clearly making a case against something illegal.  We impugn motives.  We're unkind.  I don't understand this attitude.  If more of us, as individuals, applied the same set of ethics to ourselves as we do others, we'd be a lot better off as a society.  

wayward wrote on October 28, 2012 at 9:10 am

Yes, I'd agree that the content of Johnson's press conference was significantly different than Smyth's.  I was a little curious whether the city staff knew what the announcement was going to be when he made his reservation, or whether the policy was just that anyone could use it for any reason so it didn't matter.

I think it would be a good idea to have as clear a policy as possible about permissible vs impermissible uses of the city council chambers, post it online, and train the city staff.  There could always be grey areas, I guess.  For example, if Candidate A was running against Candidate B, and one of Candidate A's allies just happened to want to use chambers to speak out against Candidate B (as a concerned citizen, of course), would that be OK? What about candidate forums that use city buildings as a venue?  One could argue that showing up and participating is a political activity for all the candidates.

rsp wrote on October 28, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Instead, we have a tendency to find fault in the person who is clearly making a case against something illegal.

We don't know that anything illegal was done. It's about ethics. And the person making the claim has something to gain from it. He could have handled it in a different way but instead he did it solely to his own benefit. A lot of whistleblower cases are like that. I don't think this qualifies as a whistleblower case.

The fact that Bambenek chose to handle this in this way says something about his own ethics, and makes me question how he would handle situations with the people who would work under him. Without learning any of the background of the situation he held a press conference in order to embarass his opponent for office. So yes, we question the motives. 

wayward wrote on October 28, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Bambenek is a Republican running against Mike Freirichs for state senator.  Charlie Smyth is a Democrat running against Gordy Hulten for county clerk.

rsp wrote on October 28, 2012 at 7:10 pm

I'll plead not enough sleep, but my main point stands, he could have handled it differently and chose to be an opportunist. That's why we have gridlock. 

Every night I have headaches so I'm operating on about 4 hours of sleep. And I thought I made such a good argument. <smh>

johnny wrote on October 28, 2012 at 2:10 pm

It's illegal for city officials.  A Congressman isn't a city official.
 

Ugh, you made me defend Johnson.  I need a bath.

johnny wrote on October 27, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Which were all made by you.

Local Yocal wrote on October 27, 2012 at 10:10 pm
Profile Picture

"Now everyone is waving their hands in the air while missing the essential point Mr. Smyth was trying to make..."

What? Smyth actually said something at his press conference? I thought this was about Bambenek's brilliant interpretation of election laws and making sure Smyth is smeared just prior to Nov. 6 and Hulten is elected (finally, instead of Gordo's usual suck-up appointments.)

Setting aside what would generate better voter turn-outs: having elections on weekends, contested races, more political parties with diverse platforms (instead of Tweedledee-D and Tweedledum-R), candidates who dealt with the real issues (instead of issues like whether a woman can get pregnant during a rape or whether Adam and Steve should have a marriage license), extended speaking tours where candidates debated each other 30-40 times with Q and A from the audience (instead of the carefully managed 1 hour, 2-3 "debates" we now have), and regulating campaign ads to be Public Service Announcements and therefore, no media outlet could charge money for a campaign ad (goodbye big money purchasing favorable politicians and favorable legislation); below, for what it's worth, is a recent count of our voter turnouts in a county of 200,000 people with usually about 120,000 registered voters:

1992 General Election: 84%

1996 General Election: 59%

2000 General Election: 63%

2004 General Election: 49%

2008 General Election: 69%

2010 General Election:  45%

Odd-numbered years and primaries average about 16-20% turnout.

The question might be, which political party has the advantage when more voters show up to the polls?

pattsi wrote on October 27, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Well, in 2010 after being elected, I went to Springfield for the ethics seminar. The main take away is there is the law and then there is perception. The latter being the tough part. As the instructor stated, "I always buy my own coffee."  :-)  Then no questions can be asked.

ericbussell wrote on October 28, 2012 at 8:10 am

“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”

- Mahatma Gandhi
 

I'll admit that John Bambenek is an interesting dude, but all the comments on here trying to discredit him reminded me of this little quote. 

If nothing else, he earns credit for being a damn effective hatchetman and deserves an award for being a master in earned media. 

 

 

Mark Taylor wrote on October 28, 2012 at 11:10 am

Yeah, you're right. Comparing this to Watergate is demeaning and insulting to John Bambenek and you, Eric. This is obviously way, way more momentous than that. In actual fact, you are JUST LIKE GANDHI.

You're struggle is epic and it is NOT AT ALL self ridiculing to compare yourselves to Gandhi.

Preach it, brother.

On a related note, you are also correct that all press is good press -- there's no question about that, is there?

wayward wrote on October 28, 2012 at 11:10 am

What would have been very interesting -- seriously -- is if Bambenek had run for county auditor or some other "watchdog" role, rather than state senate.  It seems like that might align better with his interests.

bambenek wrote on October 28, 2012 at 3:10 pm

I imagine I'd have a tough run for county auditor.  While I do have some "auditing" background, IT security auditing and financial auditing are different (but occasionally overlapping) fields.  Not to diminish county government, it just doesn't interest me the same as state government does.  I could run, but I'd have little passion in it and why do it if I don't have any passion for it?

That said, a state legislator does have some watchdog functions when it comes to the executive branch.  The auditor general, for instance, is essentially a creature of the legislature.  State Senators have the same "advise and consent" role for appointments and agency heads as they do at the federal level.  I would certainly view part of my role as a senator to be a watchdog both of the executive branch and of my colleagues in the General Assembly.

If the auditor general was an independently elected office, you're very likely correct that it would interest me greatly.

  

wayward wrote on October 28, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Heck, I imagined you getting bored, scanning county machines and networks, and then making a stink about any holes you found.  Then all the other county officials would wish Fabri was still auditor.  Your campaign slogan could be "Get Pwned by Bambenek."

ericbussell wrote on October 28, 2012 at 11:10 am

And I suppose you deserve an "A" for effort when it comes to snark.    

EL YATIRI wrote on October 29, 2012 at 6:10 am
Profile Picture

So tired and fed up with politician BS from both partys. They blather as if they respected and followed the rules when they have no ethics nor moral compass.  All they want is to be elected and they will say anything and do anything to get into office.