The campaign funds of the late Judy Baar Topinka are now formally frozen, thanks to an order issued Jan. 22 in Cook County Circuit Court.
Cook County Judge Anna Helen Demacopolous granted a temporary restraining order to Topinka’s son, Joseph Baar Topinka, which he’d requested as part of his complaint against Nancy Kimme and Bradley A. Burnett, the chairwoman and treasurer, respectively, of Citizens For Judy Baar Topinka.
Joseph Baar Topinka is the executor of the estate for his mother, the late Illinois comptroller, longtime treasurer and one-time gubernatorial candidate. Judy Baar Topinka died Dec. 10, 2014. On Dec. 29, 2015, her son filed a four-count lawsuit in Cook County court alleging improprieties in the campaign fund, seeking judicial oversight of the fund and asking for transfers from the fund in accordance with Illinois law.
The Demacopolous order stipulated no money in the organization’s accounts be spent outside of the fund’s legal defense in this matter. Topinka herself founded the committee in 1979, before being elected to the Illinois General Assembly. She served from 1980 to 1984 in the state House and from 1984 to 1994 in the state Senate. She served as Illinois treasurer from 1994 to 2007.
A few weeks after Judy Baar Topinka died, according to her son, the fund balance was about $993,834, with no more work to be done or paid for after her death. Joseph Topinka alleged Kimme paid herself $25,000 from the fund for personal expenses on Jan. 10. He alleged Kimme on Aug 7 also endorsed a check for $63,807.22 from the fund made out to cash, with that money also allegedly used for personal expenses such as “loans, debts, clothing, club memberships, travel expenses or other prohibited actions.”
Such disbursals, Topinka argued, violated the Illinois Election Code and State Gift Ban Act. Topinka noted Burnett approved the payments and, as campaign treasurer, retained authority and control over the committee’s money.
Kimme has publicly denied the allegations. According to a report published by the Springfield Journal Register, Kimme said the disbursements from the fund cited by the Topinka lawsuit involved paying herself and other campaign staffers for work dating back to 2014, and involved moving funds from one bank to another bank said to be the depository for the Topinka campaign fund's main bank account.
Joseph Topinka said he intends to use the money to “promote the educational endeavors of Illinois youth and to use money in this fund to build a living memorial to my mother and her career by helping young people become active in public affairs in a manner reflecting the joyful exuberance of mom’s irrepressible spirit toward Illinois and its citizens.”
“It is more than a year since Mom’s death and the start of the conversations between myself and the former staffers on the campaign committee,” Joseph Topinka said in a statement distributed when he filed the complaint. “At no time over these 12 months have any of the conversations been satisfactory.”
The judge’s order gave the defendants until Feb. 12 to plead, after which Topinka will have until Feb. 26 to respond. The defendants must reply by March 11. The next hearing is set for March 15.
Attorney Anthony Peraica, who as Cook County Commissioner nominated Judy Baar Topinka to the board of the Regional Transportation Authority, filed the suit on Topinka’s behalf.
The defendants are represented in the action by the Del Galdo Law Group, of Berwyn.