Bernard Schoenburg: Cellini still in the mix in local GOP

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

BILL CELLINI has not been convicted of anything and strenuously proclaims his innocence, but the fact that he remains indicted and is scheduled to go to trial this summer on federal corruption charges still might indicate — at least from a public perception standpoint — that he shouldn’t be seen as a force in the Sangamon County Republican world.

But there is a direct link between Cellini and money that’s been paid and offered as part of Springfield’s mayoral campaign.

That’s because when Sangamon County GOP Chairman TONY LIBRI helped engineer payments totaling more than $9,900 for campaign expenses of Sangamon County Auditor PAUL PALAZZOLO — who kept his word and dropped out of the mayor’s race when he didn’t get the party’s backing — the money came from the Sangamon County Republican Foundation.

That foundation, according to state records, is chaired by Sangamon County Board Chairman ANDY VAN METER. The treasurer is Cellini. The only other officer listed with the State Board of Elections is ROBIN ELLISON, administrative assistant, who works for the Illinois Asphalt Pavement Association, where Cellini is still executive director.

JANIS CELLINI, sister of Bill, is executive director of the foundation.

Bill Cellini’s trial on allegations of fraud conspiracy, extortion conspiracy and attempted extortion, dating back to his dealings with the Teachers’ Retirement System  is set for Aug. 22.

Earlier this month, when Libri tried to entice third-place primary finisher MIKE COFFEY JR. out of the race for mayor, and $13,000 in TV advertising  was brought up, Libri arranged for a $13,000 check to be cut from the foundation. Coffey friend and Sangamon County Clerk JOE AIELLO was given the  check and called Coffey a couple of times, but Coffey didn’t want it.

Palazzolo didn’t get out of the race until the GOP’s screening committee chose Coffey, but he did say what his costs had been when party leaders asked. The list he gave me included $6,629 to the consulting firm Hodas & Associates, run by GLENN HODAS of Springfield.  

Interestingly, one of Hodas’ subcontractors, who was paid $1,950 for website work, is MICHELLE TJELMELAND, wife of county board member JOEL TJELMELAND JR. Another county board member who worked directly for Palazzolo is JEN DILLMAN, who’s been paid  $1,500 for fundraising consulting. JIM GOOD, a third county board member, got $907 as reimbursement for printing and mailing expenses. Palazzolo himself got $885 in reimbursement for parade candy and expenses for a fundraiser at a pizza restaurant. Palazzolo said he also spent more than $700 of his own on other campaign bills that came in later.

Just last week, Palazzolo reported a portion of those payments — those of at least $1,000 — as part of required campaign finance reporting. He said because he was no longer a candidate, he didn’t know he had to file timely reports of those big donations, but now that he’s reviewed election law, he’s had his campaign treasurer get it done.

“We’re doing it right as quickly as possible,” he said.

While the GOP is no longer supporting Coffey for mayor, former GOP Chairman IRV SMITH is. He had backed Palazzolo earlier, and was at a Coffey fundraiser last week.

Making the decision to run

We don’t always hear how candidates get into a race, but Sangamon County Board member TIM MOORE seemed proud to explain part of the process of how his wife, DONNA MOORE, was recruited to run for the Subdistrict 5 seat on the Springfield School Board.

Moore told a Sangamon County Republican Network lunch some time back that in viewing the seat being left open because incumbent CHERYL WISE wasn’t running again, “I thought, boy, oh gosh, who are we going to find to run. … And Tony and I were talking, and Andy Van Meter, and they were like, ‘Well, what do you think about Donna running?’” Moore said.

He noted his wife runs two Curves for Women fitness centers, they are raising seven children, and public service runs in the family.

The Moores met when both were Army lieutenants and, Tim Moore said, “I thought, that gal, her worst day is everybody else’s best day. She runs circles around everybody.”

Donna Moore, who retired as a lieutenant colonel from the Illinois Army National Guard, said her father, ROBERT THILL, retired a decade ago as the longest-serving town clerk of Lancaster, N.Y.

“This is something Tim and I had talked about before,” she said of her running for office. “He sees a lot of good qualities in me. I have high expectations in myself, and I am always striving to do better.”

So despite her immediate reaction of “Can’t they find anybody else?”, she said, her husband encouraged her, and “now that I’m walking the district, and I’m realizing that gosh, I do have the skills for this.”

CANDACE MUELLER, the candidate running against Moore, is assistant director of external relations for the Illinois Board of Higher Education, has two children in college and was vice president of the PTO at Springfield High School, where her son graduated after the family moved to Springfield. She had been on the school board, including time as president, in Ewing, N.J.

“Serving on the school board was a high honor for me,” Mueller said. “When I heard Cheryl Wise wasn’t running again … I thought to myself — me, myself and I only — ‘I wonder if the voters of Springfield would allow me to sit at the school board table on their behalf.’ And I went to the board office and picked up the application.”

Mueller didn’t identify a party preference, saying she’s worked for people in both major parties. She voted in the GOP primary in 2008.

Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at 788-1540 or