Editorial: Old abuse law saves Bannockburn mayor

James Barkemeyer, pictured here in this 2007 photo, resigned Friday morning as village president of Bannockburn. | File
James Barkemeyer, pictured here in this 2007 photo, resigned Friday morning as village president of Bannockburn. | File

Nothing dramatic ever happens in Bannockburn, the posh 1,318-acre Lake County village whose 1,583 citizens once included Ron Santo and Mike Ditka and where the average value of each home is $1.3 million.

The placid exterior came undone Friday.

Mayor James Barkemeyer came undone, and what a strange, troubling unraveling it was. More questions than answers remain, but the police report is shocking enough.

In a police report released through a Freedom of Information request, Barkemeyer admitted to investigators that he seduced teenage boys and had inappropriate contact with them in the 1990s at his family’s True Value Hardware store in Wilmette.

His statements to police reflected no awareness of the seriousness of his conduct or the effect on his victims.

The statute of limitations now keeps Barkemeyer from facing charges that could bring many years in prison. Under the law then, a victim had to step forward within five years of his 18th birthday to launch criminal charges. A victim who came forward is now 36.

A statement from Wilmette police on Aug. 22 read, “Wilmette Detectives interviewed the suspect and forwarded the case to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Felony Review. The suspect was released without charges because these acts of criminal sexual conduct fell outside the statute of limitation for criminal prosecution.”

The man who was a village trustee since 1999 and mayor since 2007 resigned Aug. 22.

The civic leaders who sat with the 57-year-old Barkemeyer in Bannockburn government and leadership sessions for 15 years can be forgiven if they are jolted by the crushing tumble.

Barkemeyer said he was only looking out for the interest of “troubled kids” and trying to show them personal responsibility.

But his own words to police paint a picture of a boss who persistently pursued teenaged employees, both of whom came from broken homes.

Of the years since the early 1990s, Wilmette police have no evidence about Barkemeyer’s conduct, although his transcribed answers to police are chilling.

What Barkemeyer did is known only because a victim from 20 years ago recently spoke.

Wilmette police essentially have closed the case.

Inadequate laws saved Barkemeyer.

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