By Bob Uphues
The Riverside Community Caucus, which for nearly a century has recruited and endorsed candidates for village president and trustee, will dissolve its official political committee, effectively ending its mission, for now.
Jill Mateo, vice chair of the caucus, confirmed that the organization, on the advice of its attorney, was filing paperwork to shut down the political committee. The roughly $3,200 remaining in the committee's account will be sent to the Illinois State Board of Elections to satisfy fines levied over the past two years.
The caucus will continue to exist as a community organization, but its future role has not been determined, Mateo said.
"We're still discussing what we want to do going forward," she told the Landmark in a phone interview on Dec. 17. "We met last week and we'll meet again in February. We're looking at other models, seeing what groups do in other towns and what we want to do moving forward."
The Riverside Community Caucus began to unravel earlier this year after the Illinois State Board of Elections levied $17,275 in fines against the political committee for six violations for either filing campaign disclosure reports late or failing to file them at all from 2015 to 2018.
The caucus leadership at the time was trying to move the organization away from a traditional campaign committee that would help fund political activities to one that was solely there to identify and vet candidates for office.
Riverside's last contested election was in 2009 and the committee had not raised or spent any funds for years. John Mathews, the former president of the caucus who resigned the position this fall, said he simply assumed the Illinois State Board of Elections would inactivate the caucus' political committee due to inactivity.
But in November 2015, the Illinois State Board of Elections started fining the caucus for the late or non-existent filings. In July of this year, the state sent a letter informing Mathews that it was terminating the caucus and that $17,275 in fines remained in force and payable.
The caucus subsequently updated all of its filings to make them current and on Dec. 3 appealed to the Illinois Board of Elections to accept $1,597 — half its fund balance — to settle its fines.
The state board denied the appeal.
Matt Dietrich, public information officer for the Illinois State Board of Elections, said the caucus could choose to make another settlement offer if they wished.
By caucus officials paying the balance of its funds to the state and dissolving the political committee, they likely have put an end to the state's pursuit of the balance of the fines.
However, according to state law, if any officer of the Riverside Community Caucus creates a new committee for the same purpose within two years, they would still be liable for the balance of the fines.
That's why caucus members are trying to determine how to proceed. The caucus already decided to not interview or endorse candidates for the April 2019 election. Village voters will elect a new president and three trustees in April 2021.
"The interest is still there, but what format is unclear," Mateo said.