Even though the general election is more than five months away, the gloves are off in the race for Madison County treasurer.
Incumbent Treasurer Fred Bathon held a press conference Wednesday morning at the county Democratic headquarters claiming his political opponent's request for payroll and budget information is an attempt at discrediting his administration.
"Clearly, my opponent and his allies are attempting to build a negative attack on my office and on my record," Bathon stated in a press release.
Kurt Prenzler, the Republican candidate for treasurer, said he and his supporters had made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for employment figures in the treasurer's office and in Madison County government as a whole.
"We have attempted to get information about the treasurer's office," Prenzler said. "This information is public information that any taxpayer or the press has a right to know."
Prenzler said that his preliminary research suggested that the Madison County treasurer's office is "among the most costly in the state of Illinois, on a per capita basis."
"It is only prudent that I gather information on the operations of the Madison County treasurer's office," Prenzler said. "I am concerned that a simple request for information draws such a strident and protective reaction from the Treasurer."
A spokesman for Bathon said the treasurer complied with Prenzler's campaign FOIA request for payroll and budget documents.
"It was a lot of pages," said Bob Miner, a St. Louis public relations spokesman for Bathon.
In Bathon's press release, he names Robert Hulme -- former Madison County Republican Chairman -- as having made the FOIA request.
"I also have learned that he (Hulme) is requesting similar information from other treasurers' offices in other counties," Bathon stated.
Hulme, who is actively supporting Prenzler's campaign, said he typically requests public documents through FOIA requests.
"That way it's on the record," Hulme said.
In the press release, Bathon listed accomplishments made during his last two terms.
"We have brought in the latest technology and modernized what was a seriously outdated office," he stated.
Bathon stated that a previous "misinformed" opponent also tried to make a case that the treasurer's office budget was not in line with other county operations.
"Clearly, my opponent this time is trying to make a similar case," Bathon stated. "The bottom line is that when you compare offices you must make certain you are comparing apples to apples. Not all treasurers' offices perform the same duties and, even when they do, they don't perform them to the same standards.
"These comparisons ultimately reveal less than they obscure."
Prenzler said, "We will not be intimidated by the incumbent Treasurer's bullying tactics, because the taxpayers have every right to know this information."