Bannockburn mayor resigns amid sex misconduct allegations

The mayor of north suburban Bannockburn has abruptly resigned after two people told police that he had inappropriate contact with them when they worked for him at a Wilmette hardware store in the 1990s as teenagers, officials confirmed.

According to a Wilmette police news release, a 36-year-old man told authorities in May that from 1991 to 1995 a local business owner committed inappropriate sexual acts against him while he was an employee. According to a police report released by Wilmette police, the business owner is James Barkemeyer.

Barkemeyer, 57, resigned as village president of Bannockburn on Friday, effective immediately, village officials and the village website confirmed.

According to the Wilmette police report, the man told authorities that Barkemeyer engaged in the alleged inappropriate conduct at the hardware store and at a residence where he took the teenager to go swimming.

During their investigation, police located a second man who said Barkemeyer had engaged in sexual conduct with him at the store when he was a teenager, the police report said.

Barkemeyer, when interviewed by police in June, initially denied having inappropriate sexual contact with the two juveniles, though he admitted that "he showed unknown juvenile employees pornographic images" on a computer disk "he kept in the store," Linden True Value Hardware, according to the police report.

But later in the police interview, "Barkemeyer acknowledged that there was an incident in the hardware store where he" touched one of the teens in a sexual manner and later acknowledged he had had similar contact with the second teen, according to the police report.

Barkemeyer, who could not be reached for comment, has not been charged with any crime related to the conduct alleged in the police report.

Wilmette police forwarded the findings of their investigation to the Cook County state's attorney's felony review office.

"The suspect was released without charges because these acts of criminal sexual conduct fell outside the statute of limitation for criminal prosecution," according to the release from Wilmette police.

The investigation remains open, and anyone with information is asked to call Wilmette police at 847-256-1200847-256-1200.

Bannockburn police Chief Ronald Price said Monday that Wilmette police informed Bannockburn officials last week of the investigation.

Bannockburn officials said Barkemeyer was a village trustee from 1999 to 2007 and village president from 2007 until Friday. The Village Board has appointed Frank "Bud" Rothing to serve as acting president.

Village Manager Maria Lasday declined to discuss Barkemeyer or his reasons for resignation, saying she was advised not to comment by the village attorney.

"We're aware of it, but it's also unrelated to the purview of the village of Bannockburn," Lasday said. "This is not a Bannockburn issue. The investigation is being conducted by the village of Wilmette."

Because of a change in Illinois law that took effect this year, the state no longer has a statute of limitations for prosecuting sex crimes against children under certain circumstances, such as when physical evidence exists. In other circumstances, the statute of limitations was lengthened to 20 years after the victim turns 18.

The law is part of a nationwide push to eliminate the statute of limitations for such crimes. However, the new law applies only to crimes that occurred this year or in the future.

For the period in question in the Wilmette case, the time frame allowed for filing charges depends on the age of the victims at the time and whether the crime was reported before they turned 21.

Failure to report by age 21 is often the factor that eliminates many victims from seeing justice, said Claudia Castro, general counsel for the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

"When victims finally get the courage to report it and are told nothing can happen to the perpetrator, they almost feel victimized again," Castro said. "They feel like there wasn't any justice. Guilt sets in for a lot of them if the perpetrator is still around children."

Tribune reporter Robert McCoppin contributed.

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