A Will County Board member running for county clerk was charged with felony forgery in 2003 but never appeared in court for the case.
Lauren Staley-Ferry, D-Joliet, was charged with the felony forgery in Maricopa County, Arizona. Staley-Ferry had lived and worked in Maricopa County but moved from there to Wisconsin before the charge was filed.
According to court documents, the charge alleged that, in July of 2002, Staley-Ferry removed a check from her place of employment at Independent Capital Group, then located in Scottsdale, Arizona, filled it out to herself for an unknown amount and then deposited it into her personal checking account. The document said she did so without the knowledge or permission of her employer.
A warrant was issued for Staley-Ferry’s arrest in April 2003, according to Amanda Jacinto, a spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. By that time, Staley-Ferry said she had already left the state and was back in the Midwest, eventually settling in Joliet, her hometown.
Jacinto said Staley-Ferry’s case predates the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office’s “records retention time,” but that it appears Staley-Ferry was never arrested. Instead, Jacinto said, it appears Staley-Ferry was sent a summons to appear in court, which she failed to do.
Also, Jacinto said, sentencing for a forgery conviction would likely be probation and restitution.
Staley-Ferry said she did not know about the charges until she was already out of Arizona, although she said she did not remember exactly when she left.
The charges were dropped in 2012, according to court documents. Jacinto said, in March of 2012, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office reached out to Independent Capital Group to notify them of the change in the status of the case.
When The Herald-News reached out to Staley-Ferry on Thursday, she said, while she did not remember some of the details, she denies the charge.
“I am aware of that,” Staley-Ferry said. “Obviously, that was many years ago.”
She said the charge was “misdirected” and that there was “nothing there” in regard to the charge.
“I did not do that,” she said.
On Saturday, Staley-Ferry released a statement reiterating her innocence:
“Nearly fifteen years ago allegations were made against me in Arizona. I am innocent of all charges. When I was notified of the charges I was living back home in the Midwest. I was never arrested and if there was any error on my part it was deferring responsibility for any legal matters to my attorney in Arizona.”
Court documents list Kevin Van Norman as representing Staley-Ferry in 2003.
Staley-Ferry also said she has been thoroughly vetted in the past by her previous employers, HSBC and then CapitalOne.
In her statement on Saturday, Staley-Ferry also referenced what she believes to be political motivation for this information surfacing.
“I find it hateful that while I have been focused on meeting people and gaining support, my opposition has been focused on seeking some way to discredit me,” read the statement. “I realize that I am relatively new to politics, but I find it sad that this is what career politicians do. Unfortunately, this is the exact type of mudslinging that causes good people to have reservations about getting involved.
“I intend on staying in this race because there’s a lot at stake. I’ve devoted my life to public service and I intend on doing so as the next Will County clerk.”
Beyond that, Vince Casillas, a spokesman for Staley-Ferry’s campaign, said they have reason to believe the information surfaced from someone connected to Staley-Ferry’s Democratic primary opponent, Denise Mushro-Rumchak, the current Lockport Township clerk.
On Friday Mushro-Rumchak said she was “shocked, saddened and upset” about the charges.
“If in fact those are all true, those are really a shame,” Mushro-Rumchak said.
When asked whether she know about the information before Friday, Mushro-Rumchak said she did know because she received the complaint from someone anonymously but she declined to expand on how she knew about the information.
On Saturday, she elaborated that she told two members of her campaign committee about the information on Staley-Ferry, but did not disclose it to anyone else. Mushro-Rumchak said she did not know whether those committee members shared the information with anyone and that to say if they did or not would be “speculation.”
Staley-Ferry was elected to the Will County Board in 2013 to represent District 9. Earlier this year, she announced she was running for Will County clerk.
“I have an excellent record as a public servant and as an employee,” Staley-Ferry said on Thursday. “I’m just going to continue to work tirelessly. I know I’m the best candidate for the office.”
Attempts to contact Van Norman and representatives from Independent Capital Group were unsuccessful.