January 10, 2012 · 0 Comments
How does someone who moved to Edgar County, starting as a City of Paris fireman, become so firmly entrenched in behind-the-scenes county politics that he profits by hundreds of thousands of dollars at county taxpayers’ expense?
It started with becoming an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), which is not an unusual certification for firefighters. His confident, professional performance and a tight relationship with a couple ofCountyBoard membersthen led to his hire as administrator of the county-owned ambulance service, Edgar County Special Service Area Ambulance (ECSSAA), which serves a portion ofEdgarCounty. Along the way he left the City fire department and also became a part-timeEdgarCountysheriff’s deputy. Sounds like an ambitious, intelligent man’s focused course to build a better life for himself and his family.
Unfortunately, greed and the willingness to operate outside of ethical and possible legal boundaries became one means he used for getting ahead. Exorbitant reimbursement for “benefit time” was paid; during his last month as paid county ambulance service administrator, Burgin in effect paid himself over $10,000.00 with a reported total of 575 hours of compensation for that one month! This begs the question, still unanswered: why was a salaried county employee paid for “benefit” time? The standard business practice is to only pay benefit or comp time to hourly employees. Are all salaried county employees eligible for paid benefit compensation? According to Carl Farnham, county board member, there is no such thing as benefit time for salaried employees.
In 2003, Dee Burgin made an offer to the county to purchase the ECSSAA from the Edgar County Board, who found that operating the service was tedious and a financial drain. Seems logical to sell it to the administrator, right? In fact, Burgin initiated the conversation by informing the County Board of his interest in purchasing ECSSAA, and was instructed by then State’s Attorney, Matt Sullivan, to create the contract to do so, according to sources. The Board quickly agreed to the purchase.
It is obvious that this was a well-planned sale: board minutes state there were “negotiated procedures agreed to by the board”. However, no records exist indicating a public announcement that the ECSSAA, including all assets, was for sale in the first place.
A list of assets is included in the contract but without any value assigned, including a brand new 2004 $30,670 Ford Excursion – purchased by the CountyBoard at the Ambulance Service Administrator’s request the same month as the ambulance service sale occurred. Other assets included 3 COMPLETELY outfitted ALS ambulances and approximately $100,000 in drugs and other equipment, including a 1998 Jeep Cherokee with rescue equipment. How much did Dee Burgin and his wife pay for this complete Ambulance Service? Only $100,000! AND according to the contract he was to receive all funds in excess of $100,000 that were in the county ambulance fund “for operations”. By contract, the county account must remain funded in case the county has to hire an ambulance service in case of emergency or the contracted private ambulance service’s dissolution. Edgar County’s fund must maintain a $100,000 balance.
ECSSAA is funded by a tax levy of $.20 per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation in the seven townships that make up Special Service Area No. 1 Ambulance District. Edgar County Board’s sale included a five year contract with Burgin, with a base amount of $267,000 annually, with $20,000 annual increase. This fee is in addition to what is charged to those who use the ambulance or their insurance company. The 2003 contract stated that all three ambulances must be available for service 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
Now if that deal is not sweet enough, just breaking information reflects the County Board co-signed a loan with Mr. Burgin that was in excess of $200,000.00. We are working on confirming the dollar amount.
In 2005, a second contract between Burgin’s ECSSA and the Edgar County Board was made. Why? A reimbursement claim for approximately $43,000 against the County on behalf of ECSSAA was submitted to the Edgar County Treasurer 5 months after Burgin purchased the service. The document states that it was approved by the Edgar County Board, therefore it was paid without question. However, no County Board minutes exist that approved this request. The payment was made from the $100,000 reserve account. It appears that the 2005 contract was created to cover Burgin’s intentional misuse of county funds. He already owned the service when the claim was submitted and should have paid any and all expenses from ECSSAA’s operating fund as outlined in his contract. The County Board unofficially called this an “interest-free business loan”. This was an illegal act: the County Board cannot serve as a lending agency. When confronted recently about the 2005 contract, Dee Burgin first denied that said contract existed, then when it became clear that that contract details were known, he suddenly couldn’t recall its creation or any details. A contract is created to cover up what appears to be an illegal transaction involving tens of thousands of dollars after you’re caught with your hand in the cookie jar, and it wasn’t significant enough to recall? Really???
Two items of note in the 2005 contract: 1) Burgin must reimburse the county at a rate of $800/month until the fund was brought back to the $100,000 balance, not to exceed a total of $40,000.00, and 2) only 2 ambulances must be available at all times. Question: if only two ambulances are needed due to actual usage data, why wasn’t the amount of county board funding adjusted? Expenses would have been reduced and the county’s ambulance service levy could have been proportionately reduced. Taxpayers in the seven townships would have experienced tax relief.
What did the Burgins do at the end of the five year contract? They sold the ambulance service to a local family group who provides quality, reputable service.
Dee Burgin continues to keep his hands in the County Board’s pocket and business: he is still a county deputy and recently became Chairman of the ETS (911) Board, where his first action as chair violated the law by having an illegal blind (secret) ballot to elect the vice-chairman. Why did it need to be a secret? This occurred in the presence of their legal council and their Open Meetings Act Officer, who gets a stipend in her paycheck as 911 coordinator for performing that duty – but that’s another story in itself….
By Kirk Allen