East St. Louis politician who owes state $149,560 in fines wants election ban lifted

East St. Louis politician who owes state $149,560 in fines wants election ban lifted

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EAST ST. LOUIS -- East St. Louis Township Supervisor Alvin Parks, who is barred from running for office due to campaign finance violations, is hoping to strike a deal with the state that could get his name on the ballot for an upcoming election.

Parks is set to appear before the Illinois State Board of Elections next month in hopes of reaching a settlement, according to Matt Dietrich, the state board's public information officer.

The former East St. Louis mayor and city manager is banned from appearing on ballots because he owes more than $149,000 in fines from repeated failures to file campaign contributions reports, Dietrich said. To date, Parks has paid the state more than $60,000, Dietrich said.

Parks did not respond to requests for comment and hasn't commented on the fines in the past.

State law prohibits candidates who owe fines to be certified for an election, meaning Parks cannot appear on the ballot, even if he files for office.

State law requires political committees or politicians to file reports every time a contribution of more than $1,000 is made. Parks stopped filing the campaign contribution reports in 2011 and was fined $5,000 for each failure. He was fined again in August for failure to report, according to state board meeting minutes.

It's unclear whether Parks plans to run for reelection in 2021 or for another office in 2020, as he hasn't filed in St. Clair County as of Friday, Nov. 29. He is scheduled to appear before the state board Monday, Dec. 16, to plead his case.

Parks hopes for a settlement

Parks is offering $8,716 as a settlement with the state board. If the board approves Parks' offer, his name could appear on upcoming ballots, Dietrich said.

Dietrich said the decision to accept or deny the settlement is entirely up to the board and can depend on several factors. Typically offers for settlement must be at least 50 percent of the amount owed.

In some cases, Dietrich said the board accepts offers of less than half when the owed amount far exceeds the amount in an individual's campaign fund. Parks has $8,716 in the Citizens to Elect Alvin Parks Jr. fund, but owes a total of $149,560.

Dietrich said that doesn't mean the board will agree to the settlement.

"It will be up to the board's discretion," he said. "In cases like this, the candidate gets to make their case in front of the board."

Dietrich said there also are "discrepancies" in Park's campaign fund that will need to be cleared up, but Dietrich did not elaborate.

Fines collected by the state board are put into Illinois' general fund, Dietrich said.

"Our interest is in transparency," Dietrich said, while describing the need for the fines.

The board is bipartisan, made up of four Democrats and four Republicans. Parks is a Democrat.

When Parks was elected East St. Louis Township supervisor in 2017, he owed the state roughly $95,000 in administrative fines. But at that time, due to "uncertainty" at the state board about how to enforce unpaid fines, Parks was allowed to remain on the ballot and won the election.

Later, in 2018, the board wouldn't allow Parks to appear on the ballot when he was seeking re-election as an East St. Louis precinct committeeman.

At the time, Parks declined to comment but stated in a letter to East St. Louis Central Committee members that he would not be running for re-election as a committeeman.

"I have arrived at this decision due to personal circumstances," the letter stated. Parks promised to remain active politically, ... but not as a candidate."

If a settlement is not reached with the state board, Parks will be unable to seek re-election for his current position as township supervisor in 2021, or for any other seat in the upcoming election.

Filing for candidates running in the 2020 election in Illinois closes Monday.

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