Misinformation flies in Sangamon County Board race

With Democrats seeking to chip away at Republican dominance on the Sangamon County Board in the upcoming election, incumbent Annette Fulgenzi, R-17th District, has become a top target.

In the past week, the Sangamon County Democratic Party has sent voters in the district a mailer that attacks Fulgenzi, who has been on the board since 2015, for allegedly voting in favor of giving a group her husband, Jeff, is involved with “an exclusive license to grow marijuana at one of their commercial properties.”

“On Election Day, tell Annette Fulgenzi that you want a County Board Member that works for you, not them themself,” the mailer goes on to say.

It’s a tough piece of campaign literature. The only problem? The information shared is not true.

“I, my husband, nor any partnership we were involved in has ever petitioned or requested any action from the Sangamon County Board,” Fulgenzi said. “There has never been a vote by me or anyone on the board regarding any business dealings involving me or my husband and certainly not a vote on a marijuana cultivation license that the county has zero authority to grant.”

Since the legalization of recreational marijuana in Illinois in 2019, local municipalities and counties have the authority to set parameters on where marijuana dispensaries, cultivation centers and transporting facilities can be located through zoning.

In Sangamon County, craft cultivation centers are allowed in various agricultural and industrial zones as a conditional permitted use, which means they must be approved by the county board.

To back up their claims, county Democrats cited a July 16 article in the Illinois Times highlighting three cultivation facilities proposed in unincorporated portions of the county.

In July, the Sangamon County Board approved a request from Cyclone Labs to construct a 14,000-square-foot facility between the 3100 and 3500 blocks of Cockrell Lane.

Fulgenzi voted ‘yes’ on that proposal, the only one thus far to receive a vote.

Chris Stone, who is involved with some of the proposed cultivating sites, confirmed that Jeff Fulgenzi has “no affiliation, connection or ownership” with Cyclone Labs.

Jeff Fulgenzi, a trustee of Lincoln Land Community College, is involved with another proposal described in the article.

He is listed as the manager of Rt. 66 Rec, a limited liability corporation that is seeking to convert The Gym, 1823 Camp Butler Road, to an indoor craft cultivation facility.

Though zoning for Rt. 66 Rec would eventually have to be approved by the county board, no vote has been taken to this point.

And in any case, all proposed facilities are contingent upon being granted craft cultivation licenses from the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the only entity that can actually issue them. The county plays no role in that process.

“I understand you have to have a thick skin to run for public office and I can take a hit, but this isn’t distortion or twisting of facts,” Fulgenzi said. “This hit piece is complete fiction with not a single root in the truth. Attributing these false statements to the Illinois Times in an attempt to legitimize this fiction is a new low in my opinion.”

Stone said the mailer was “blatantly false and deserves a retraction, at the very least, by the Sangamon County Democratic Party.”

But the Sangamon County Democratic Party is not backing away from the ad.

“We stand by the contents of the mailer and believe that the citizens of Sangamon County have a right to know about potential conflicts of interest,” said party chair Doris Turner.

Fulgenzi is running against Democrat Drew Burnett after running unopposed last time.

The seat has been in her family since 1996. Jeff Fulgenzi represented the district from 1996 to 2004, when the family moved to Sherman and out of the district. John Fulgenzi, her father-in-law, was then appointed to the seat.

New district lines drawn after the 2010 Census put both Fulgenzi households in the same district, so when John Fulgenzi was elected to the Springfield City Council, Annette Fulgenzi was appointed to replace him on the county board.

Burnett has run on the slogan “a choice for a change.”

“Her husband had it, and then they gave it to her father-in-law, then they gave it to her and nobody’s opposed them,” Burnett said. “And I think that’s where a lot of the problem lies in Sangamon County.”

Burnett said he was aware of the mailer, but said his campaign did not create it and thereby could not verify its contents.

“There’s a lot of back and forth I think in the Illinois Times about who’s doing what,” Burnett said. “But even if that person is involved with those or not, those same businesses getting voted on is probably not a good thing.”

Fulgenzi said the mailer was a symptom of a larger problem in politics.

“Sadly this is a great example of what is wrong in politics both locally and nationally,” she said. “Actions like this discourage good people from getting involved and making our community a better place.”

State Journal Register- Brenden Moore 10/31/20