Patrick Maher is running for Cook County Commissioner on a campaign of ethics reform and cleaning up county government.
But a FOX Chicago News investigation found that Maher has not been forthright about an ethical lapse in his own past, and might even have tried to cover it up.
The issue: In 1991 Maher, then a freshman at Illinois State University in Bloomington, was arrested and charged with felony aggravated battery after the brutal beating of another student. According to police records, Maher and a friend went to the dormroom of a man who had once dated Maher's girlfriend. The victim suffered a broken jaw, broken eye socket and 25 stitches. Witnesses described finding a "puddle of blood" in his dorm room. He was hospitalized for two days.
Maher plead guilty to misdemeanor battery after the jury hung on the felony charge.
Yet when asked on one candidate questionnaire to explain any criminal background, including arrests, convictions and major traffic violations, Maher responded "none."
"I probably forgot I got arrested. I was 20 years old. It was a mistake," he said.
But then, after telling us it must have slipped his mind Maher said: "I regret it every day of my life. It was something I shouldn't have been there for. It was a mistake."
On top of that, two separate candidate questionnaires-- one for the Sun-Times, the other for the Southtown Star-- give inaccurate birthdates for the Orland Park resident. Maher was born on November 18, 1971, but on the newspapers' questionnaires, his birthday is listed as November 19, 1971.
We asked Maher if he filled out the forms himself.
"I fill out most of them, yeah. I fill out all of them," he said. "I made a mistake. It's probably a typo." Maher denied changing the birthdates in order to make a background check more difficult.
Maher later blamed his former campaign manager for the errant information. But the former campaign manager told Fox News Maher reviewed all the questionnaires before they were submitted and raised no objections. The former campaign manager also said he asked Maher whether there were any issues in his past that the campaign should know about and Maher told him there were none.
We found another "typo" that critics might say shows an attempt to erase what happened at ISU in 1991. On Maher's LinkedIn page, he says he attended Northern Illinois University from 1990 to 1995. There is no mention of ISU, even though Maher didn't start at Northern until 1992.
Someone who hasn't forgotten about the beating is Karen Peterson, the victim's mother.
"My son's injuries were severe," she wrote in a letter to FOX Chicago News. "Perhaps the most frightening of all, short term and long term memory loss. I am appalled that Mr. Maher currently holds an elected position and is seeking a second elected position. I question how many voters Mr. Maher made aware of his criminal record prior to his election."
For the past seven years, Maher has been a member of the Orland Park Fire Protection District, and its president since 2006. He comes from a politically-connected family. His father, David Maher, is Village Clerk of Orland Park and an investigator for the Cook County Sheriff's department who also does background checks on prospective employees. Maher's uncle is Democratic powerbroker Tom Hynes and his cousin is Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes.
Maher is now running against Republican Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman on a platform of restoring ethics to county government.
His website says it's time to hold elected officials accountable.
Three days after we went to Maher's house to ask him about what happened at ISU, Maher's campaign released the following statement:
"Almost 20 years ago as college student, I got into an altercation with another student and later plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge resulting from the incident. I was deeply ashamed of my actions and learned some valuable lessons about personal responsibility. Lessons I will share with my children as they get older and begin to face the world on their own. I am running for Commissioner because I believe that my adult life experiences, as a small business owner, as an elected official and most importantly as a Father & Husband, make me the best qualified candidate to solve the problems facing Cook County."