County board member targeted in lawsuit pays fine

County board member targeted in lawsuit pays fine

URBANA — Champaign County Board member James Tinsley today paid off a $1,136 fine related to his 2010 misdemeanor conviction on a gun charge.

A lawsuit filed Wednesday called for appointment of a special prosecutor and possibly removing Tinsley from office for failing to pay the fine.

The suit was filed pro se by John Bambenek, a former Champaign school board member and one-time Republican candidate for state senator who now serves on the Illinois Community College Board.

The suit alleged that a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate Tinsley, an Urbana Democrat elected to the county board in 2016, because State's Attorney Julia Rietz has a conflict of interest since the county board appropriates money to her office, because she represents the county board on occasion, and because it has been her approach to request special prosecutors "when adversarial actions may need to be taken by her office" against county officials.

Rietz declined to comment.

Bambenek's suit said that Tinsley was convicted of a felony in 2010 and slapped with the fine. But Tinsley actually pleaded guilty in a plea agreement to a misdemeanor charge of unlawful possession of a firearm.

Last year, Tinsley sought to have the records of his arrest and subsequent guilty plea sealed, but Associate Judge Brett Olmstead denied the request because payment hadn't been made.

Bambenek also alleged that Tinsley has failed to file a 2017 statement of economic interest, as required. Tinsley is the only county board member who has failed to do so, according to the county clerk's website.

Bambenek said it cost him $248 to file the pro se ("in one's own behalf") lawsuit.

"That's just my contribution to the cause, I guess," he said.

Filing the economic disclosure statement is not difficult, Bambenek said.

"As much as we have ethics in Illinois government, let's at least do this two-page form, right, guys? It's not hard. There's more disclosure on these guys' LinkedIn pages than on this form," he said. "There needs to be some enforcement of this."

Bambenek noted that county board members are paid a per diem for meetings they attend.

"He's getting money from the same taxpayers he owes," he said of Tinsley.

Bambenek also said he sent a notice to all county board members Thursday, warning them that any action Tinsley is a part of "is legally suspect." But two Democratic board members, Kyle Patterson and Stephanie Fortado, said Friday they had not received an email.

"This means, for instance, any 11-11 votes of the county board could be legally challenged and overturned in court. In order to limit the amount of potential legal challenges this situation creates, I recommend you take appropriate steps," he wrote.

Tinsley said he would "be in touch," but still hasn't commented on the lawsuit or his decision to pay the fine.

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rsp wrote on February 09, 2018 at 8:02 am

I'm wondering if he has standing, he may need to live in his district to do this.

RLW wrote on February 09, 2018 at 10:02 am

 Guess what got paid today. I would think a felony would bar you from being able to work in the goverment. I guess not.

Dogsrule732 wrote on February 09, 2018 at 10:02 am

Guns + Drugs = Political Office? 

This is not a far off youthful mistake. 


jmh910 wrote on February 09, 2018 at 3:02 pm

No one ever takes the time to find out the backstory when articles like this are published...

He used drugs in his past. He had a FOID card to own the gun, however being an addict meant he was no longer allowed to own it. The gun was found when a search warrant was served on someone else and he happened to be there.

He's in his early 30's, so yes, something that happened almost 10 years ago could be called a youthful mistake.

He wasn't convicted of a felony and he doesn't have a drug conviction. He has turned his life around.

Bambanek has no motivation other than to get that seat opened up and he filed something full of false statements. This isn't about money owed. It's purely self serving.

But, apparently, if you've screwed up in the past, you don't deserve anything good in the future

jparks wrote on February 09, 2018 at 11:02 pm

"He wasn't convicted of a felony and he doesn't have a drug conviction."  

This is Champaign County!!!!  WHO IS CONVICTED OF A FELONY?  WHO DOES HAVE A DRUG CONVICTION?  Everything is pleaded down to what you refer to as nothing.

"The gun was found when a search warrant was served on "SOMEONE ELSE" and he happened to be there."

I hate that everytime it happens to me.

Same song, different day. wrote on February 09, 2018 at 11:02 am

He should apply for a pardon like AA RON got w o being able to actually find the paper work. It's all good.

BART15 wrote on February 09, 2018 at 2:02 pm

Ironic how a private citizen can get him to pay his fine in one day when our States Attorney couldn't do anything in seven years.

rsp wrote on February 09, 2018 at 8:02 pm

You probably blame her if it rains too.

jparks wrote on February 09, 2018 at 10:02 pm

Do you have an answer to Bart's statement?

If you are concerned about the weather I can put you on to some good websites.

Just guessing but I would bet the name on the check was Ammons

rsp wrote on February 10, 2018 at 2:02 am

I made a comment on his statement. As he didn't ask a question I can't give him an answer. I have my own sources for the weather, I don't need yours. I use things more reliable than "the sky is falling! the sky is falling!" anyway.

It's really telling when the same people post the same things wihout substance day after day. So now it's Reitz is supposed to knock on doors and collect debts. Or if the topic is about a Black man you reach in and pull out Ammons or another AA you don't like. You think we don't see you but we do.

And no, I'm not who you think I am.

jparks wrote on February 09, 2018 at 11:02 pm

BTW, did you ever find the gun you put on top of your squad car when you were at the school?  


Iapologize if you already stated what happened and I missed it.  I don't remember seeing it in the paper but I could have missed it.

Thanks in advance for your response.