Live in person: Anthony Keene returns, state officials watch Roscoe politics


Photo: PxHere

For almost the first time in more than a year, Roscoe trustee Anthony Keene attended Tuesday night's Village of Roscoe's meetings in person, on March 21, 2023. According to trustee Justin Plock, Keene has moved back to Roscoe from California. Keene is up for reelection on Tuesday, April 4.

At the February 22 board meeting, trustee Carol Gustafson asked Village of Roscoe attorney Josef Kurlinkus to report back to the board on Keene's residency status and his eligibility to serve as a Roscoe trustee, since Keene had been living outside Illinois for more than a year.

Village President Mark Szula assured Gustafson, who is running against him, that he would have an answer on Keene's eligibility before the Mar. 7 board meeting. As that meeting began, Szula announced, "There is no need to further explore Trustee Keene's status as an elected official." When asked for further explanation, Kurlinkus seemed to respond positively to Rockton-Roscoe News's proposal to send a FOIA request to see a copy of Kurlinkus's legal opinion. Kurlinkus said only that he might have to redact part of it.

But on Mar. 13, the Village's FOIA officer sent an email claiming the memorandum was "an attorney-client privileged communication between the Village and its legal counsel... made in confidence to the President and Board." The Freedom of Information Act does have an exemption for "materials prepared or compiled by or for a public body in anticipation of a criminal, civil, or administrative proceeding upon the request of an attorney advising the public body."

Dissatisfied with that description, Rockton-Roscoe News appealed the denial with the Public Access Counselor of the Office of the Illinois Attorney General. On Mar. 22, 2023, the Illinois Attorney General's office instructed the Village to send them Kurlinkus's memo so they can decide for themselves if Anthony Keene's eligibility for office should be considered protected information. The Village has a week to provide that memo to them, along with their "legal and factual basis" for the denial.

Meanwhile, we published a possible explanation of why Keene would be eligible to serve, based on hints from several trustees who did read Kurlinkus's memo.

In other legal news, Justin Plock filed a complaint with the State Board of Elections, accusing Carol Gustafson of misappropriating Village funds. What was the specific charge? Gustafson had downloaded her photo from the Village website and then reused it on her campaign website (it has since been removed). Plock apparently believed these photos were owned by the Village, since the Village paid for them to be taken. Gustafson apparently believed they were public domain because they don't have any copyright notice.

The State Board of Elections dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction, saying Plock would need to refer it to the Winnebago County State's Attorney as a criminal matter. But it is not clear that any attorneys have investigated the case on its legal merits - both Plock's and Gustafson's arguments come from the obsolete 1909 version of the copyright law, which was replaced by the Copyright Act of 1976.

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright notices and registration of copyright are no longer mandatory, unless "you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement." Instead, a creative work is owned by the creator -not the customer - from "the moment it is created." Unless Amy Ryan Photography specifically signed away her copyright (which portrait photographers rarely do), she owns the rights to the photos, not the Village of Roscoe.

Coincidentally, it was Anthony Keene, after we first interviewed him in 2021, who checked for us and said we could use his photo as long as we gave credit to Amy Ryan Photography. We reached out to the photographer via Facebook to confirm these details, but have not heard back yet.

In addition to Anthony Keene, the Moving Roscoe Forward ticket includes Village President Mark Szula, trustee Michael Dunn, and current ZBA chairman Jay Durstock. Justin Plock and Stacy Mallicoat are not officially part of Szula's ticket and are not up for reelection. But they are active on social media defending the existing board and fact-checking statements made by Szula's opponents.

The opposing ticket, Citizens for a Better Roscoe, led by Village President candidate Carol Gustafson, includes trustee candidates Michael Sima, Michael Wright, and William Babcock. They say they entered the race because they disagree with the existing board majority, including Keene, Plock, Mallicoat, and Dunn. One of their sharpest disagreements is over the multi-family townhomes in Hawks Pointe, where Wright and Babcock both live.

Brian Black is also running for Village Trustee but is not part of a ticket. Current trustee Sue Petty, who usually votes with Gustafson, is also not up for reelection.

Two weeks after our previous article, we heard for the first time a claim that March 21, 2023 was not the first meeting that Keene attended in person since he began working in California. We have not verified this claim, since we only received it on Mar. 28, 2023, but if it's true, we regret the error.

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