Bryan Baca, a candidate for McDonough County Sheriff, said a bankruptcy from 15 years ago taught him a lot about how to handle money and be a fiscal conservative.
Baca told Tri States Public Radio he declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2003 after getting injured and being out of work for several months. At the time, Baca was with the Illinois Department of Corrections' Canine Unit. He said there was no “light duty” option for him to return to following an unexpected surgery.
According to court records, Baca and his wife owed nearly $27,000 to several creditors including Capitol One, a credit union, and Illinois Payday Loans. Baca said he was responsible for medical bills, a house payment, and car payments while he was out of work.
“What little savings I did have got eaten up very quickly. So, like a fool I started using credit cards, basically I started robbing from Peter to pay Paul, taking out high interest loans to try and make ends meet until I could get back to work. And then once you start down that rabbit hole, it spirals very quickly,” Baca said.
Baca said bankruptcy is a legal option afforded to all Americans. He said some bankruptcies are created due to bad circumstances and others are created due to mismanagement of finances.
Baca said his 2003 bankruptcy falls into both categories. He said his injury was unexpected and he hadn’t planned to be out of work for so long. But he also acknowledged he had not saved up enough money, vacation time, or sick time for such an emergency.
“That period taught me a lot, it taught me to be conservative, save your money, save your [sick] time, make sure you’re set in case of an emergency so you don’t hit that pitfall again,” Baca said.
Baca said he aims to keep the maximum amount of vacation time and sick leave on the books at work so if something like that happened to him again, he wouldn’t have to miss a paycheck.
Baca said that in the last several years he has taken off work three separate times due to medical issues and necessary surgeries, “...but because of what I learned in my 2003 ordeal, I had time on the books, I didn’t miss a paycheck, and I had savings."
The bankruptcy filing documents were anonymously dropped off at Tri States Public Radio. We asked Baca about the bankruptcy because -- if elected -- he would manage a more than $2.5 million budget for the sheriff’s department.
Baca said he has managed budgets professionally, including in his current role as the Operations Warden for the Illinois Department of Correction’s facility in Canton.
Baca said he works hard to stay within the budget provided to him. “We don’t just go out and spend and buy whatever we want. First, we make sure it’s a necessity. If we can get by without it, we don’t get it. If we can’t, then we try and purchase it at the cheapest rate,” he said.
Baca said the same rules apply to his personal life. “If we don’t need it in my household then we don’t buy it, unless it’s a vacation we are saving up for.”
Baca also points to his campaign for Sheriff as proof of his fiscally conservative ways. He has raised less money and spent less money than both of his competitors in the race. Three Republicans are are running for McDonough County Sheriff in the March Primary to replace Republican Sheriff Rick VanBrooker.