A Sad Story – Not a Fairy Tale
Once upon a time there was a need for an ambulance service in Edgar County, and POOF (well, not quite that quickly…), it was done. For many years the People in the land around Paris were cared for with love, first by the Paris City People and later by the Paris Community Hospital, whose People performed the service as volunteers, and guided by a group of people, the Ambulance Board. The People who lived in seven townships in the land paid a tax to have the Ambulance Service.
Over time, some big, scary People joined the Ambulance Board and made decisions that the good People who created it and volunteered to help serve it couldn’t agree with. In the year 1999, two of these good People stated with regret that they could no longer play with their new board members and resigned (Max Carrington and Dr. Haskell). Fine Dr. Haskell was very forthright about his disappointment, but knew he had served the People well. He shared his concern that appointments to the board were becoming more focused on politicians own personal interests than on serving the People.
It appears that in the year of our Lord, 2000, the Edgar County Board, a group of People who make decisions from a Big Building with a Tower, assumed responsibility for providing ambulance service to seven townships. It is called the Edgar County Special Service Ambulance Area (ECSSAA). So, they added another layer of government by hiring an Ambulance Administrator, Dee Burgin, and then found that they were not making enough money, even though they were able to milk over $50,000.00 of Ambulance tax revenue into the General fund in just over 5 months!
In 2003, the Tower People decided to move the Ambulance Service from the logical place, connected to the Paris Community Hospital, to a location at the south end of Paris, which is not the center of the seven townships. They secured a loan for $300,000 to buy the piece of property, Index #09-18-12-327-004, on which an ambulance garage and business office had been custom designed and built by one of the People, Marlin Ingrum, more commonly known as Scott Ingrum.
The Tower People even reported to the county board in January of 2003, before a purchase was ever made that the new building may be opened next month to house the service. Isn’t that interesting? They knew the service was going to be housed there before they ever purchased the property. Such insight of the Tower People!
Still, the Ambulance Service was losing money for the Tower People. So the Tower People said “Sure!” in 2003 when the current Ambulance Administrator wanted to buy the Ambulance Service. He said “I’ll pay you $100,000 for the ambulances, the brand new Ford Excursion you just ordered for me and all of your supplies” (or something very close to that). After discussion with the Tower People and their legal leader, the State’s Attorney, the Tower People and the Ambulance Administrator signed some papers, and POOF! The Ambulance Service was his!
The Tower People knew that the Owner would need a place to put his ambulances, so they transferred possession of the new ambulance property they had just purchased for $300,000.00 with the People’s money. The fortunate new ECSSAA owner, Dee Burgin, just had to assume the loan’s payments although the Tower People were still on the hook if the private service failed. The Tower People still owned the deed for the ambulance property and assets until the loan to purchase the property was completely paid.
The People in the land were served by an ambulance service that was equipped with three ambulances ready at any time. They also could be picked up in the fields or the woods by a specially designed Jeep, part of the purchase deal. The Ambulance Administrator also served them better by driving a brand new 2004 Ford Excursion that he ordered as County Administrator, just a month or so before buying the Ambulance!
In 2004, one of the People discovered that the ECSSAA contract was not accurate because it didn’t say he could only receive as much money to operate his service as the tax levy generated, and so the Tower People and the new ECSSAA owner quietly signed a new contract. The Tower People decided not to make a big deal of it, so they didn’t tell the People of the land.
In 2005, a Bean Counter Person looked at the Tower People’s papers and discovered that the Owner had sent an invoice to the Tower People in February of 2004 claiming an operating expense of $43,000.00 was to be paid, “as approved by the Tower People (county board).” The Bean Counter said “You can’t do that! We already give you money to operate the ambulance – use that money!” (or something like that). The owner also decided the People didn’t use the ambulance enough to need three to be ready all of the time. The Tower People didn’t tell the People of the Land because then the People wouldn’t have needed to pay so many taxes. The Tower People didn’t want the Owner to get in trouble for using the People’s money to run his business, so they quietly signed yet another new contract in 2005, and he had to give the Tower People back $40,000.00. Interesting they didn’t demand the other $3,000.00? Payments were to be a little bit at a time, INTEREST FREE!
In May 2009, the Owner decided he had made enough pots of gold from ECSSAA. He sold it to new owners, who serve the People of the land well.
Why is this a sad story instead of a fairy tale with a Happy Ending?
- Dr. Haskell stated in his resignation letter, dated September 3, 1999:
I was appointed to the original Ambulance Board and have continued to serve on it until today. Although I plan to continue serving the citizens of Edgar County and the surrounding area by continuing my service on the Edgar County Public Health Department, the Illinois Region Six Trauma committee, and the Illinois Region Six Ambulance Morbidity and Mortality Review committee, I find it necessary to resign my position on the Edgar County Special Services Ambulance Board. I now feel that the Ambulance board is being manipulated by a few politicians for their own reasons. Therfore, I can no longer in good conscience continue my associatoin with the Edgar County Special Serivices Ambulance Board.
“I now feel that the Ambulance Board is being manipulated by a few politicians for their own reasons”
We think he hit the nail on the head! Thank you for your service Dr. Haskell!
- The Ambulance property purchase appears to have been made illegally. No minutes have been found that provide a roll call vote approving the purchase
- It is obvious by the records reviewed, a decision was made to build an ambulance facility, which was built to the counties/Ambulance Administrator’s specifications prior to the purchase with the People’s money all while Marlin Ingrum still owned the property.
- Motion to take out a loan for $300,000.00 20 year loan made by county board member, Kevin Trogdon, close friend of Dee Burgin.
- No roll call vote taken during that aproval process. Who really supported this action?
- Land purchased from Marlin Ingrum, close friend of Dee Burgin
- Marlin Ingram’s Indicated Price upon purchase in November of 1993, $12,000.00.
- Taxable assesment of that land in 2002 according to tax records, $13,926.00
- Purchase price in February of 2003, $300,000.00 according to County Board records.
- Indicated Price on County TAX records $255,000.00. Why was the loan amount $45,000.00 over Indicated price on the tax records?
- Big winner: Marlin Ingrum! Capital gain of what appears to be between $243,000.00 and $288,000.00 depending on actual amount paid by the County.
- County is broke, records reflect they have been informed they may very well have to borrow money that year so they know they are broke, and they take out a loan for $300,000.00 on a 20 year note, which is illegal!
- Government entities can’t take out loans at a bank and pay interest like a private individual or business. If the property purchase can’t be completed, then bonds must be issued. http://illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/opinions/1999/99-001.pdf
- ECSSAA was not advertised for sale and placed for bids
- Although there was an official notice of a Special County Board Meeting, there are no ECB minutes indicating “much discussion” took place – violation of IL Open Meetings Act
- The ambulance service purchase contract states that Exhibit A is an itemized list of assets with assigned values. However, the “list” on record fails to reflect a single value assigned, contrary to what is in the written contract. There is no proof that the sale amount was fair and equitable. How convenient for Burgin that he had just ordered a very nicely equipped 2004 Ford Excursion at taxpayer expense just before he purchased the Ambulance Service. The cost of the Excursion alone would have been approximately 30% of the total amount he paid for the complete service. This would mean the combined value of all ambulances, a specially equipped Jeep, supplies, and drugs was worth less than $70,000.00!
- Radio Equipment purchase totaling $5,000.00 was made the same month Dee Burgin purchased the ambulance. However the purchase was paid by the tax payer! Again, what convenient timing.
- Over $45,500.00 in medical supplies purchased the 9 months prior to purchasing the operation. (supplies in Exhibit A with no assigned value!)
- The 2003 contract stated a dollar amount, $267,000.00 that would be paid to Burgin annually and additional funds, $20,000.00, each subsequent year of the five-year contract. However, the amount ECCSSA would receive annually was not a set figure; it is based upon each year’s tax levy.
- Minimum received by contract in just over 5 years of ownership from tax money: $1,335,000.00 – $1.335 MILLION!
- The ambulance property transaction was illegal: government entities can’t act as lending institutions by guaranteeing a loan for a private business. The County Board minutes state that a twenty year mortgage was made. In actuality, it was a five-year loan with annual payments followed by a balloon payment. The loan was renewed for a second five-year period in 2008. This second contract was signed by the Edgar County Board Chairman, Jim Keller, and Merle Clark, State Bank of Chrisman officer. No collateral is listed. There is no mention in County Board minutes of approval for this second loan – which appears to be illegal after reading the Attorney Generals opinion on counties borrowing money.
- A balloon payment of $180,000+ is due in February 2013. This may very well be the county board’s responsibility to pay, as the second contract entered into was not shared with the current owner prior to purchase.
- A claim of $43,000.00 by ECSSAA was submitted to the Edgar County Treasurer for reimbursement in February of 2004. That document states it was to be a wire transfer as approved by the Edgar County Board in February of 2004, 5 months after Dee Burgin purchased the agency. There are no records indicating that such a transfer was approved. The funds were transferred by check with a claim that it was for loan agreement. No such loan agreement has been found in county records!
- If such records can be presented, more proof that the County Board operated well outside established powers and duties set by law.
- The Ambulance reserve account was established to protect the county in cases of a default by Burgin and was to have a $100,000 Ambulance reserve. The $43,000.00 taken from that account placed the Ambulance account WELL below the established minimum.
- The expenses should have been paid by ECSSAA as operations expenses paid by their own funds (including the approximate $267,000 tax levy funds plus any user fees paid by insurance companies and the patients).
- When questioned by the Watchdogs, Mr. Burgin had no recollection of a $43,000.00 bill sent to the county of which was paid by check number 474. Upon disclosure of a few more facts, Mr. Burgin quickly sniped that the county board approved it. Interesting in less than 30 seconds he went from no clue what we were asking about and then presto: he remembers the county board approved it. When he was informed that is false and no such approval is anywhere in the minutes he took the position that he doesn’t recall the request or transaction?
- How, after being forced into a new contract in 2005, only two years after the original 2003 contact, can you not recall that you signed an agreement forcing you to make $800.00 a month payments BACK to the county? When that little fact was presented you could see Burgin’s blood pressure rise. He even went so far to imply that his confidential agreement with the current owner had been violated. Interesting claim considering we were not aware of such an agreement prior to our questioning him!
- In less than 48 hours after being questioned, Mr. Burgin claimed to have researched it and would like to meet with me and a county board member to explain. We asked that he provide documentation, not explanations. He refused. You see, we have a hard paper trail of documents and it is pretty clear that numerous inappropriate actions and arguably Official Misconduct have been committed.
- After it was determined that usage did not justify having three ambulances staffed at all times, why wasn’t the tax levy reduced? Staff costs would have been reduced. Tax payers, in effect, shouldered the cost of giving ECSSAA a raise.
- Slush fund! Can you believe that the taxpayers’ money for Ambulance Service was being used for the General Fund in the guise of an Administration Fee to the tune of $51,791.63 just in 2003? The taxpayers should hold these people accountable.
- Tax payer money created the Ambulance operation and it was sold for a reported $100,000.00. That is the taxpayers money! Shouldnt they recieve that surplus created under the tax levy? Where did their money go?
Summary: At the cost of $100,000.00, Mr. Dee Burgin, currently an Edgar County Deputy Sheriff and Chairman of the 911 board, purchased a company from a public body, when at the time of the purchase was the director of said operation. If one totals: a) the cost of medical supplies purchased prior to the pre-arranged purchase, b)the new vehicle he ordered the month before the purchase, and c)the three ambulances already in the operation, it is clear that Mr. Burgin profited grossly at the expense of the taxpayers in the seven districts that the ECSSAA serves. Did we mention that it was Merle Clark, the former Chairman of the 911 Board, who facilitated the loan to the county in his capacity as State Bank of Chrisman officer? How convenient that Mr. Burgin just happens to be so close to all the players that made this great business venture possible.