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Sunday, July 21, 2019

Deputy election clerk who lost job for filing campaign paperwork on government time, has worked for many Democrat office holders


By Record News | Aug 20, 2018

BELLEVILLE – Margaret Eros of Belleville, whose actions as treasurer for Sheriff Rick Watson’s campaign caused her to lose her job as a St. Clair County election clerk last week, has worked hard for several other Democrat office holders through the years. 

State election board records show she submitted 22 quarterly reports and nine other documents for Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert since 2011. 

Eros submitted Eckert’s report for this year’s second quarter on July 14. 

She submitted 65 documents for Judy Cates six years ago, when Cates ran successfully for the appellate court position she now holds. 

Eros submitted 18 quarterly reports for county board member Robert Allen since 2013, and she amended 27 of his previous reports last year. 

In all, since 2011, she has submitted 221 documents for eight campaign committees. 

For every committee but Watson’s, she acted as volunteer rather than officer. 

As Watson’s treasurer, she submitted six documents in five years. 

Watson submitted most of his own quarterly reports. 

“My reports were perfect,” he said on Aug. 16. 

He said he has started talking to people about replacing her, adding that he didn’t think she would want to be treasurer any longer. 

County Clerk Tom Holbrook, who accepted Eros’s resignation on Aug. 14, said she admitted poor judgment. 

He said she worked in the clerk’s office 26 years. 

“She worked on all aspects of anything that affected elections," he said.

Holbrook said she handled voter registration entries, coding issues and some reports.

“She was very proficient," he said.

Campaign records show that she and Mark Eros of the same address contributed $11,080 to two Democratic committees from 1999 to 2013. 

Mark gave the county Democratic central committee $1,240 in 1999, $1,400 in 2000, $1,480 in 2001, and $1,480 in 2002. 

Margaret gave the central committee $1,520 in 2003, $1,560 in 2004, $400 in 2005, 2006, and 2007, $200 in 2008, $400 in 2009, and $200 in 2010, 2011, and 2012. 

Mark gave Margaret’s employer, then county clerk Bob Delaney, $600 in 2006, $200 in 2010, $400 in 2012, and $400 in 2013. 

Margaret started submitting quarterly reports to the election board in 2011, for Eckert and his Better Belleville Good Government Party. 

Late that year, for Cates, she started submitting reports that committees must file between quarterly reports if they receive contributions of $1,000 or more. 

She eventually submitted six quarterly reports, 58 reports of big contributions, and a final report for Cates. 

On Jan. 24, 2013, Eros took a first step toward her downfall. 

On that date, the election board received a statement of organization from Citizens for Richard “Rick” Watson in Cahokia. 

It showed Watson as chairman and Eros as treasurer. 

At the top of each page ran a fax transmission record reading, “Jan 24 2013 15:14 St. Clair Cnty Clerk 16182778783.” 

On March 1, 2013, the board received a statement of organization from highway commission candidates John Kernan, Greg Hipskind, and Sherman Poston. 

It showed Kernan as chairman and treasurer. 

Eros’s name didn’t appear but the county clerk’s number did. 

Eros has submitted all their quarterly reports since then, most recently on July 5. 

On June 25, 2013, the board received a statement of organization from Friends of Robert Allen Jr. 

Again, Eros’s name didn’t appear but the clerk’s number did.      

Eros has submitted all his quarterly reports since then, most recently on July 5. 

On Oct. 1, 2013, the election board received an amendment to Watson’s statement of organization bearing Eros’s signature and the clerk’s number. 

The amendment changed his bank from Regions Bank to Bank of Springfield. 

On July 7, 2014, the election board received an amendment with her signature and the clerk’s number, changing his address to Millstadt. 

On Jan. 31, 2017, the election board received a statement of organization from Citizens for a Better Township in Swansea. 

It showed Robert Buechler as chairman and Kernan as treasurer. 

At the top, it showed the clerk’s number. 

Eros submitted two quarterly reports showing the committee spent about $10,000, and she submitted a final report last September. 

Last year and this year, she has submitted five quarterly reports, an amendment, and a report of a big contribution for Board of Review member Michael Crockett. 

On July 25, 2017, the board received an amendment changing the address on the organization statement of the 8205 Club campaign committee in Columbia.

Eros’s name didn’t appear on it but the clerk’s number did.

On the same date, she submitted an amendment to the club’s report for the second quarter of the year.

Last October, she submitted the club’s report for the third quarter. Drew Denison is club chairman and Dustin Ramage is treasurer.

Whether she submitted anything but organization statements from the courthouse, the election board’s records don’t show. 

Fax numbers show up on organization statements but nowhere else, because the board requires paper for the statements but not for the reports that follow. 

The board records the time of each submission, and nine of her 12 submissions this year occurred between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.    

Last year, 42 of her 50 submissions occurred between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. 

She formerly carried out most tasks after regular working hours. 

For Cates, she submitted 80 percent of documents after hours. 

Last year, on the Fourth of July, she submitted quarterly reports for Kernan’s committees at 10:35 p.m. and 10:39 p.m. 

It's an election year

Both Holbrook and Watson, Democrats, face opposition in the November general election, and their challengers have called into question the integrity of county operations. 

Nick Gailius, who retired as Fairview Heights police chief on June 30 and seeks election as Sheriff on the Republican ticket, said Eros "was running his (Watson's) campaign at the Clerk's office."

"She (Eros) was a top deputy in the Clerk's office," Gailius stated in a recent Facebook post. "The Clerk's office, by the way, are the people in charge of managing the voting process in the County. She counts the votes."

In response to comments Watson made to another newspaper on seeking advice from the State's Attorney's office on how to handle the Eros situation, Gailius stated, "...What kind of nonsense is this from the Sheriff? He claims not to know the election laws, although he is one of three members of St. Clair County's voter integrity team with Clerk Holbrook, and State's Attorney Brendan Kelly. The State's Attorney still has to give him taxpayer-funded advice on how to run a clean campaign?"

Watson has recently come under fire by the chair of the county Republican organization, Barb Viviano, for allegedly having used jail resources and jail phone numbers to solicit campaign donations.

Republican Duane Henson, who seeks to unseat Holbrook, said in a statement that he was "concerned and disappointed" in learning that a deputy election clerk was doing campaign work on taxpayer time.

"The Clerk is responsible for ensuring fair elections, and has no business running political campaigns on the taxpayer's time," he said. "How can we trust election results when there is such obvious favoritism and corruption in the Clerk's office."

He said that Eros's resignation should not be the end of inquiry, and called on State's Attorney Kelly to initiate an independent investigation that should be completed before the Nov. 6 general election. 

"This has obviously been going on for years," he stated. "There should have been systems in place to ensure this sort of illegal behavior could not go unnoticed for so long. This person's resignation should not be the end of looking into mismanagement at the County building."

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Organizations in this Story

Better Belleville Good Government Party St. Clair County Clerk St. Clair County Sheriff's Department St. Clair County State's Attorney's of

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