In my opinion, Mayor Cunningham should have recused himself from the issue, in the same manner in which Supreme Court justices (occasionally, albeit not enough) recuse themselves, when they are asked to be neutral arbiters in lawsuits in which the outcome stands to directly and materially benefit them personally.
Mayor Cunningham should have said "I shouldn't comment on this matter any further, because I am the party whose innocence is under question, and, as such, I am not qualified to contest my guilt in such a public venue, Therefore, let someone with legal standing, file the appropriate charges against me, and the local election authorities or the courts can determine whether and how I should be punished, and how the Waukegan Music Festival should be funded and advertised."
This is a very complicated issue; it is not just a legal issue, but very likely also a constitutional one, because it relates to issues like how public entities run their own elections, whether campaigns and political parties are private institutions, and how that affects their right to receive taxpayer funds.
That is why the issue of the Waukegan Music Festival, and the issue of whether the mayor has found a way to improperly misappropriate taxpayer funds for the purposes of his own re-election, should not be decided through the mayor simply loudly insisting upon his innocence to an alderman (while the public has no right to weigh in on the matter).
While I wish to commend Alderman Martin for trying to explain that that wasn't what the Waukegan resident was concerned about, I also have to say that I don't think Alderman Martin succeeded in explaining to the mayor what that exact concern was. The issue at hand here - I think - is whether taxpayer money may be used to promote events whose advertisements contain the name or likeness of currently seated public office holders. I believe that that is the specific issue we're talking about, is that correct?
It would be unfair to all potential challengers to the current mayor in his next election, to unfairly favor incumbent public officials, by continuing to allow them to appear in advertisements for public events; events which were organized and funded entirely through the approval of the public, not by the mayor.
Mayor Cunningham benefits from the current policy of allowing elected officials to appear in ads for public funded events, whether he wants to benefit from it or not; and that's why this policy must change. Mayor Cunningham may be totally innocent, and the policy may be good enough; but even if that's so, the mayor and the city should take extra precaution, and change the policy, because doing so would remove the potential conflict of interest involving the mayor. Which, I think, everybody has an interest in removing; the mayor most of all, because it would remove from the mayor the incentive and ability to misappropriate or reroute public funds in order to engage in that sort of self-promotion in the first place.
The city of Waukegan should discontinue its policy of allowing elected officials to appear in ads for publicly funded events; lest the less intelligent members of our community feel pressured to re-elect the mayor, based on some ill-founded fear that if they don't re-elect the mayor, then nobody will provide them with the same sorts of music festivals and other public events which the mayor appeared to provide by agreeing to lend his title, name, and face for the sake of their promotion.
We, as residents of Waukegan, have every right to be concerned about taxpayer funds being effectively rerouted so as to fund campaigns, through this legal loophole we've discovered, which allows incumbent elected officials to appear in advertisements for public events, at public expense. Political parties and campaigns are private organizations, and as such should never receive public funds. Yet they do; through this advertisement loophole, through the gift of taxpayer funds to all parties receiving more than 5% of the electorate's vote, and undoubtedly through other avenues as well.
This should end, and we can take the first step right here in Waukegan, by ensuring that, going forward, all advertisement for public events should be free of association with any particular office holder, or title of an official, serving any government, be it at the local, county, state, or federal level.