Updated: Bambenek closes campaign fund aimed at Petry

Updated: Bambenek closes campaign fund aimed at Petry

CHAMPAIGN — A campaign committee established a month ago by Champaign school board member John Bambenek to defeat Champaign mayoral candidate Joe Petry has been abruptly shut down, apparently without spending a cent.

"Under the advice of counsel I was informed that I cannot simultaneously have a superPAC and be negotiating with Joe Petry as a school board member over Dodds Park without it being the appearance of impropriety at best and a conflict of interest at worst," Bambenek said Wednesday.

The Champaign park board and the school board are on track to reopen negotiations on the possibility of making part of Dodds Park available as the site for a new Champaign Central High School.

Bambenek is a member of the school board, and Petry — one of four candidates in the April 7 mayoral election in Champaign — is president of the park board.

Bambenek filed a report with the State Board of Elections on Wednesday that showed that he had returned to himself the $27,306.52 he had put into the fund on Jan. 15. He also closed out the account, which had been formed on Jan. 9.

Bambenek was listed as the sole officer of the anti-Petry organization — called the Committee — and was its only donor.

The $27,306.52 that Bambenek contributed to the fund was a dollar more than the $27,305.52 that Petry had reported in his campaign fund on Dec. 31, 2014.

At the time Bambenek said he was sending a message to Petry that "I will spend more than he will to make sure he loses."

He said Wednesday, "The rules are such that it would be very difficult for me to participate in any negotiations or conversation with Joe Petry about this, while having the superPAC."

Bambenek said Wednesday he still opposes Petry's candidacy in the four-way race against Mayor Don Gerard and challengers Karen Foster and Deb Feinen.

"I can't see myself voting for Joe in April but at the end of the day, we'll see if he is willing to work with us to find the best solution for our school children," Bambenek said.

The two have been on opposite sides of the discussion over locating the new high school at an Interstate Drive site in north Champaign. Bambenek supports the site while Petry said at a mayoral forum last week that he opposes it, and would vote against the proposed April 7 bond issue because of it.

"We teach our kids mostly by what we do rather than what we say. To put the school at the northern location I think flies in the face of a lot of the things I believe in," Petry said last week. "I'm convinced, and it's only because I've spent a lot of time thinking about 'Are there realistic, viable options?', and I am convinced that there are realistic, viable options. For that reason I'm going to vote no on April 7."

Sections (2):News, Local
Tags (1):2015 election

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rsp wrote on February 11, 2015 at 4:02 pm

Sounds like he thinks Petry will help him get Dodds for a new school. Of course, did anyone really think he was going to spend that money?

Ruralman wrote on February 11, 2015 at 8:02 pm

Really John, you need an lawyer to advise you it might be a bad idea to trash a fellow board member for your small, petty political witch hunt.  Just a short break and you'll be back at Petry again. 

johnny wrote on February 12, 2015 at 5:02 am

On what Board are they supposed to serve together?