Outgoing Park Board’s Attempts To Quiet Voter’s Choice Fails

CLARK CO., IL. (ECWd) –

During the Clark County Park District’s regular monthly meeting held April 20, 2017 at 6pm, Park Commissioner Randy Blankenship asked that the order of the agenda be changed to reflect the swearing in of newly elected commissioners as the first item of business. The agenda as written reflected the outgoing board vote on revisions to a lease agreement that had been the subject of fierce debate for years. Commissioner Blankenship recommended that the agenda item of swearing in of the new commissioners happen first, and of course that effort failed as the “old” board, who held majority at the time, wanted to approve the revisions so that they could cash the $50,000 check they had already received, essentially locking a family into a lease they were coerced into signing under threat of losing their existing dock.

The “old” board thought they had the deal sealed…but failed to consider the new board just might know what they were doing.

After the newly elected park commissioners were properly sworn in, and before the meeting was over, Commissioner Don Pine, who ran his campaign on the platform of not supporting the lease lots, made a rarely used motion called a Motion to Reconsider under Robert’s Rules of Order. A Motion to Reconsider can typically be made by one who originally voted with the majority which, surprisingly, Commissioner Pine had done. A Motion to Reconsider can be used when a decision is done hastily or under ill advisement. Seeing that the “old” board voted to accept revisions to a lease they did not have time to review, as they had not received copies of the revisions, Pine was of the belief that the motion was applicable.

The lease revisions were then voted down by the new board, and the issue will be brought forth again for full consideration at a Special Meeting to be held Tuesday April 25th, 2017 at 6pm. With Commissioners Pine, Blankenship, Wallace, and Sweet in opposition of leasing public real estate for private use, the next meeting we may very well discover that some board members actually care about the public that they serve.

From all indications, the subject of “leased lots” will soon be relegated to the dust bin of failed attempts to undermine the integrity of the Clark County Park District.

Audio from the April 20 meeting below at 36:24 thru 54:09 is the outgoing board’s discussion and vote on the lease revision (without even reviewing the lease revision they were voting on) – and at 1:46:30  is where Commissioner Pine starts the Motion to Reconsider to previous vote on the lease revisions and continues on till the end of the meeting.

https://www.dropbox.com/home/CCPD%20Audio?preview=CCPD+April+20th+2017.mp3
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When does a Park Commissioner cease being a Commissioner?

Clark Co., IL. (ECWd) –

This article is to clarify when we believe an elected park district commissioner takes office – or more importantly, ceases to be a commissioner.

From the Illinois Park District Code: Commissioners shall serve until their successors are elected and qualified...”are “elected” and “qualified.”

Elected” happened the instant the County Clerk canvassed the ballots (certified).

Qualified” happened when they were placed on the ballot, providing they are still a voter, a resident of the district,  are not in arrears of any debt or tax due to the district, and have not committed any disqualifying felony crimes.

When “Elected and Qualified” the newly elected are now commissioners by operation of law. Once the canvasing has occurred (tomorrow), the outgoing board members no longer have any legal authority to conduct any meeting or any business.

The only remaining item “prior to entering into the duties of a commissioner” is swearing an oath – and any Judge, notary public, or the clerk of the board can attest to the swearing of the oath of office – it need not be in a public meeting. After swearing the oath, that oath must be filed with the clerk of the board.

This is not to be confused with somehow stating the now-former commissioners are still commissioners until the next meeting – that would be a false assumption because they cease to be commissioners when the county clerk canvasses the votes.

There is no “Lame-Duck” board when dealing with the Park District Code when the above conditions are met. There is no such thing as “old business” considered by the old board prior to the new board taking over. Those that either decided not to run for office and those that were defeated at the ballot are no longer commissioners.

The next meeting must be an organizational meeting where the new board elects its officers.
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U.S. District Attorney announces Southern Illinois Public Corruption Task Force –

(Pay attention Clark County…Effingham County…you are in this district)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, April 10, 2017

Southern Illinois Public Corruption Task Force Introduces New Tipline

On Monday, April 10, 2017, Donald S. Boyce, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, and Brendan F. Kelly, State’s Attorney for St. Clair County, Illinois, announce the introduction of the Southern Illinois Public Corruption Task Force Tip Line: 618-589-7353. There will also be a billboard campaign in connection with the Tip Line.

Anyone with information concerning public corruption occurring within the 38 counties that make up the Southern District of Illinois is encouraged to call the Tip Line. Agents from the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigations, and Illinois State Police will professionally and swiftly investigate any information provided. It is only by citizens alerting law enforcement to public corruption that law enforcement can continue to investigate and prosecute those officials who have betrayed their oaths and the public trust by choosing to make public service into self-service.

Click to enlarge

St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly said, “Over the past five years, we have greatly increased prosecution of public corruption. With trust in our public institutions at an all-time low, we must do everything we can to protect it from those who would violate it.”

U.S. Attorney Boyce said, “Concerned citizens are the government’s biggest asset when it comes to exposing people who are abusing the public’s trust and misusing taxpayer money to line their own pockets. This initiative is designed to solicit the public’s help in identifying and targeting public corruption.”

 

Updated April 10, 2017



Parks Commissioner Joe Ewing gets vulgar, texts “Shove that congrats in your _ _ s” –

MARSHALL, IL. (ECWd) –

Wow, Clark County, this is what you voted for. Own it.

We knew reality would eventually set in when he realized he no longer had control over anything at the long-embattled Clark County Park District, but he couldn’t even take a congratulations from a fellow candidate, who lost, and was attempting to tell Ewing “congrats on your win.”

Click to enlarge

Losing candidate Lisa Thomas texted Joe Ewing a simple congratulations for his victory at the polls, and he responded with vulgar language. Way to be a good winner Joey, still feeling guilty from the past election?

Joe Ewing is the Clark County Park District Commissioner who we had written about for alleged forging of election petition sheets at the last election – we have the before and after copies, so we do know for a fact they were forged.

We also wrote about him appointing an Ethics Commission consisting of himself, another commissioner, and the newspaper owner and business partner of a third commissioner – all of whom had ethics complaints against themselves or their business partners – and then held an illegal meeting, confirmed by the Attorney General, to find none of themselves did anything wrong (LOL) – (that’s usually how it turns out when you can appoint yourself to the commission hearing complaints against yourself and do it all in an illegal meeting).

We also wrote about his vote to attack a FOIA requester in an attempt to silence her criticism of the park district. Why does he hate the first amendment?

And the voters of Clark County voted him in again. Amazing.

We asked for comment from Ewing but have yet to receive any response.

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Marshall’s Mayor Sanders leads charge to give away your tax money –

MARSHALL, IL. (ECWd) –

During the February 27, 2017 Marshall City Council Meeting, the majority of the council voted to misappropriate another $5000 of your hard-earned tax dollars and give it to a private cemetery.

We heard comments like: “our residents are buried there” – “there are veterans buried there” – and “our attorney said it was OK” – but none of those pitiful excuses can legalize what is already illegal.

Mayor Sanders claimed they should vote yes on this theft because the Watchdogs wrote about something else last year, so since, in his eyes, if the council wrongly voted last year on something else, it was perfectly OK for them to wrongly vote on this item. Of course this has nothing to do with his connections to this nonprofit where he was on its board for years prior to being elected Mayor – and that’s when these unauthorized gifts of taxpayer money began.

Eventually someone will sue the city and recover all of these funds from the cemetery, which may bankrupt the cemetery, but it’s not like they haven’t been warned.

Download (PDF, 186KB)




Clark County Park District Settles Open Meetings Lawsuit, Writes Check –

CLARK CO., IL. (ECWd) –

The Clark County park District recently settled the Open Meetings Act lawsuit after their complete defeat at the Appellate Court earlier this year.

The suit was filed after the park board decided it would vote on two items without informing the public present at the meeting what they were actually voting on. The Circuit Court agreed with the park district, we appealed, and the Appellate Court overturned the Circuit Court siding with us with a unanimous vote, sending it back to the lower court for further hearings.

For the voters in the Park District – this is what has been running your park district for far too long. They thought they could do what they wanted to do without any repercussions – but when taken to the Appellate Court level, we believe justice was served and this district got the ruling that should have been ruled at the circuit level.

All the district had to do in the first place was hold a proper meeting, have a proper agenda, and take a proper vote. Instead, they chose to spend well over $15,000 of your money fighting it out in court, only to settle after the unanimous Appellate Court decision in our favor.

Settlement below:

Download (PDF, 462KB)

 




Clark Co. Park District pays $7,500 to settle Open Meetings Act lawsuit –

CLARK CO., (ECWd) –

The Clark County Park District Board of Commissioners voted to approve a settlement in the lawsuit brought against them for alleged violations of the Open Meetings Act.

This suit was filed on February 18, 2015, by Edgar County Watchdogs co-founders Kirk Allen and John Kraft, the day after the district board approved two items during a meeting in 2015 without informing the public what they were voting on. Even after a member of the public asked what they just voted on, Chairman Ron Stone refused to answer telling her she could get the information from the courthouse after they filed it.

During the September 2015, 5th Circuit Court hearing, the judge granted CCPD’s motion to dismiss, it was appealed to the Appellate Court who unanimously reversed the 5th Circuit Court on November 16, 2016.

The CCPD board voted in December to approve payment of the $7,500 settlement and formally approved the settlement during their meeting on February 16, 2017.

 

 




CCPD Ex Director Still Takes From the Public

CLARK CO., IL. (ECWd) –

Sources at the Clark County Park District have informed us that Charity Murphy, who resigned last week, has refused to return park district property. She is in possession of documents, a laptop, cell phone, internet hotspot, and keys among other items the office needs to carry out the day to day operations of the park district as well as preparing for the opening of the park on April 1st. I have not been able to confirm what their next steps will be in order to force the return of the property.

Mrs. Murphy has professed her love of the park district, however she, by her refusal to return property, expresses a very different sentiment. Mrs. Murphy has a habit of blaming her shortcomings on everyone but herself. One would only need to read the email below to see her shift the blame game. How is she going to shift the blame on her failure to return park property? I guess time will tell.

Download (PDF, 3.14MB)




Clark County Park District Director Charity Murphy Quit Today –

CLARK CO., IL. (ECWd) –

At a Clark County Park District special meeting tonight, February 10, 2017, it was revealed after executive session that Charity Murphy had quit today. Previously she had submitted her resignation for her last day at work to be on March 31, the board did not accept it, and she submitted an email to the board stating her intention was to still resign on March 31st.

Today’s resignation is no shocker, as it was only a matter of time.

The board took action and named Jana Williamson as temporary (interim) director until a permanent one can be found, in spite of the fact no such action item was listed on the agenda.

Video of part 1 of the meeting is below:

https://youtu.be/QYkWiVLo3gk

and of part 2 – naming interim temporary director:

https://youtu.be/48OK2oeeugo

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Will Clark County Park District face the rule of law like Kankakee Valley Park District has?

Kankakee Co.(ECWd) –

“Springfield, Ill. – A federal grand jury returned an indictment on Sept. 7, that charges Roy Collins, former executive director of the Kankakee Valley Park District, with defrauding the park district and a related not-for-profit organization for his personal benefit. Collins will be issued a summons to appear in federal court in Urbana for arraignment on a date to be determined by the U.S. Clerk of the Court. ” (See FBI Press Release)

The question we have is pretty simple.  When will the rule of law be applied to those at the Clark County Park District Board members who have personally gained from their actions?

Below is the indictment for the Kankakee Board member and one can only wonder why the Feds stepped in on that case but so far have been silent with what appears to be even more clear violations of law at the Clark County Park District.

One of the local articles on the matter summed up what we have been saying for years about CCPD.

“It’s a perfect example of poor leadership, a lack of skills and a lack of ethics,” Epstein said. “This is the kind of situation that gives everyone involved in government a bad name.”

Download (PDF, 1.08MB)

 

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WCIA report on Citizen Watchdog Training – Champaign –

CHAMPAIGN, IL. (ECWd) –

WCIA-3 reported on our citizen watchdog training held in Champaign yesterday.

It was sponsored by AFP Foundation – Americans For Prosperity Foundation and was a non-partisan 4-hour session on how to monitor local government using the Open Meetings Act, the Freedom Of Information Act, and other statutes governing local public entities.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCRsI-rU7II&feature=youtu.be
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Supreme Court cites Allen v. Clark Co. Park District in Opinion on Springfield School District 186 v. Atty. Gen. –

SPRINGFIELD, IL. (ECWd)

On January 20, 2017, the Illinois Supreme Court issued its Opinion in Board of Education of Springfield School District No. 186 v. The Attorney General of the State of Illinois upholding the Appellate Court’s decision to uphold the Circuit Court’s decision to overturn the Attorney General’s Binding Opinion on an alleged violation of Section 2(e) of Open Meetings Act.

The Supreme Court stated that:

  • an agenda posting standing alone cannot fulfill the public recital requirement of Section 2(e)
  • in order to comply with Section 2(e), the public recital must occur during an open meeting, prior to the public body’s taking action on the matter (the Supreme Court deferred consideration on the relevance of the school district’s earlier posting of additional information (the agreement) prior to the meeting)
  • under Section 2(e) a public recital must take place at the open meeting before the matter is voted on, it must announce the nature of the matter being considered with sufficient detail to identify the particular transaction or issue, but does not need to explain its terms or significance.

In citing case law, it referred to Roller v. Board of Education of Glen Ellyn School District #41, and to Allen v. Clark County Park District as the only two cases considering the meaning of Section 2(e) of the Open Meetings Act, agreeing with both previous cases. Roller was determined not to be a violation, while in Allen determined a violation did occur and overturned the Circuit Court’s decision to dismiss the case.

The Supreme Court also stated that without a recital and vote in public session, any “vote” in closed session, including signing of an agreement, does not constitute final action – “without a public vote, no final action has occurred” –

  • this part is consistent with the OMA case against the College of DuPage in 2016 where the DuPage County State’s Attorney charged the Board of Trustees of the College of DuPage with violations of the Open Meetings Act for taking final action in closed session on a contract extension of now-former COD President Breuder. No public vote was ever taken on his contract extension. The COD Board plead guilty (here) and stipulated to a consent judgment nullifying the contract extension by declaring it null and void.

In ¶ 44 the Court defined “recital” as requiring the public body to publicly recite the “nature of the matter to be considered” and defined “nature” of a matter as a “fundamental quality that distinguishes one thing from another” (Black’s Law Dictionary) to mean the requirement is to (in nonspecific terms) “state the essence of the matter under consideration, its character, or its identity.” The Court also went on to explain the meaning of “other information” to require specific items of business under consideration to use “specific terms” to inform the public of the specific item of business.

Download (PDF, 129KB)

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Clark Co. Park District Votes Against Accepting Resignation –

MARSHALL, IL. (ECWd) –

As I alluded to in the previous article on the most recent resignation of Charity Murphy, the director of the park district, we believe this to be simply another temper tantrum in order to get a pay raise, more free stuff, or to generally run rough-shod over the Park Commissioners.

After a lengthy executive session, the commissioners voted 5-2 against accepting her resignation.

What does this mean?

  • First, the resignation does not have to be accepted to be valid, so technically she has still resigned with an end date of March 31, and,
  • Second, she can simply refuse to work after March 31 (the end date on her resignation), or,
  • Third, the board can bend the taxpayers over again and give her more money to keep “working”, or,
  • Fourth, bend the taxpayers over again and give her a 4 year contract if they think they will lose majority in the April election – just for spite

edited: Of course they could always simply terminate her employment…

“The Vote”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhTck5RAqW0
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Clark County Park District Director Resigns…again…

MARSHALL, IL. (ECWd) –

The Agenda has been posted for the January 19, 2017, Clark County Park District monthly meeting.

One of the listed items for action is to “discussion and vote to accept the resignation of Charity Murphy as Executive Director.”

This is not the first time she has resigned, the last time (here) the Park District Board rewarded her threat to resign with a massive pay raise. Kind of like rewarding a child’s temper tantrums with candy (it never works as planned).

Let’s hope this vote is unanimous and not simply another excuse for a pay raise.

Download (PDF, 251KB)


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RIDES Mass Transit Lawsuit v. Edgar County Dismissed, Both Counts Stricken –

EDGAR CO., IL. (ECWd) –

During the hearing on January 11, 2017, the Court heard arguments from both RIDES Mass Transit District and Edgar County on Edgar County’s Motion to Dismiss the lawsuit brought by RIDES-MTD.

Judge Glenn heard the Motions and arguments, denied Edgar County’s Motion to Dismiss under Section 2-619, but GRANTED its Motion To Dismiss under Section 2-615. Both Counts were stricken and RIDES was given 21 days to file an Amended Complaint should they see fit.

From the case history in Judici:  “Mr. Hunn present for Pltf. Mr. Brokaw present for Deft. Cause called to hearing on Deft’s Motion to Dismiss. Said motion is denied as to Section 2-619, but allowed as to Section 2-615. Both counts of the Complaint are stricken. Pltf given leave to file Amended Complaint within 21 days. Deft may file responsive pleadings within 30 days thereafter.”

This lawsuit was brought after a nearly 4-year back-and-forth between RIDES-MTD and Edgar County on the legal disposition of funds and equipment left after all debts were paid following the dissolution of the East Central Illinois Mass Transit District – essentially dissolved due to massive mismanagement and alleged theft of public funds. Something no one has been officially charged with yet.

During the failed tenure of former Edgar County Board Chairman Chris Patrick’s short term in office, RIDES was allegedly told they would receive all the left over funds from the dissolution of ECIMTD – and we (ECWd) objected, continuing to bring the issue to the forefront for years (since early 2013), noting that the county did not have the legal authority to hand over the cash to RIDES, but it instead had to go to the county general fund for the use of the county.

RIDES filed suit agaisnt Edgar County for the $152,150.49 last December – this was their first hearing on the suit.

The final disposition of this lawsuit could have a positive impact for Clark County to the tune of over $60,000 they have yet to receive as their portion of the proceeds from the dissolution of ECIMTD. Additionally, there are still the outstanding issues of the real estate improperly “sold” by ECIMTD and the two transit busses improperly “leased” to RIDES from Edgar County.

Our previous article on this situation are here: http://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/index.php?s=RIDES

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Clark-Edgar Rural Water District Sets 2017 Meeting Schedule –

OLIVER, IL. (ECWd) –

The Clark-Edgar Rural Water District has set its 2017 regular board meeting dates as listed below:

CERWD – 2017 Meeting Schedule

January 16, 2017          7:00 pm
February 20, 2017       7:00 pm
March 20, 2017           7:30 pm
April 17, 2017             7:30 pm
May 15, 2017*            7:30 pm
June 19, 2017              7:30 pm
July 17, 2017              7:30 pm
August 21, 2017          7:30 pm
September 18, 2017    7:30 pm
October 16, 2017        7:30 pm
November 20, 2017    7:00 pm
December 18, 2017     7:00 pm

The meetings are at the district office in Oliver, IL. They are held the 3rd Monday of the month. When daylight savings time begins the meetings are at 7:30 pm and when daylight savings time ends they are at 7:00 pm.

*Organizational meeting will take place at 7:30 pm with the regularly scheduled meeting to follow.

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Clark-Edgar Rural Water District Candidates for the April 2017 Election –

EDGAR CO., IL. (ECWd) –

The list of candidates who filed their petitions for Clark-Edgar Rural Water Commissioner, prior to the end of the filing period, are as follows:

Sandra O’Neal
Lisa Thomas
Seth Thompson
Charles Warfel
Brad Adams
Phil Adams




Clark County Park District Candidates for April 2017 Election –

CLARK CO., IL. (ECWd) –

The Candidate Lineup (gleaned from petitions that were submitted by close of business today) for the Clark County Park District Board of Commissioner seats in the April 4, 2017 election is as follows:

3 full (4-year) term seats – Roy Sweet, Joe Ewing, Steve Turpin, and Lisa Thomas

2 partial (2-year) term seats – Jeff Wallace, Don Pine and Glen Kuehnel

The five open seats will be filled from the above.

We suggest voters find out their opinions on the “lease lots” and everything else at the Park that has been discussed in the past 3 years or so.




Municipal Minute Wrote About Our Appellate Court Victory –

SPRINGFIELD, IL. (ECWd) –

Here is a link to their Municipal Minute article (click here).

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Court Interprets “Public Recital” Requirement of OMA Prior to Final Action

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We don’t get a lot of guidance from Illinois courts on compliance with the Open Meetings Act (OMA) (most of our guidance has come from the Public Access Counselor) but today’s case is an exception.  Allen v. Clark County Park District Bd of Commissioners, 2016 IL App (4th) 150963. This case is an important one for all public bodies to understand, as it interprets the OMA’s “public recital” requirement prior to taking final action on agenda items.
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Here, two individuals alleged that the Clark County Park Board violated the OMA by failing to provide a sufficient explanation prior to voting on two items on the agenda (approval of a lease and approval of revised covenants). According to the court, when the Board considered each of the challenged agenda items, a motion was made, seconded, and then a vote taken. No discussion took place on either item, and the documents were not made available to the public prior to the meeting. Moreover, when a member of the public asked the Board to describe what they had just voted on, the . . . continue reading…
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HLERK.com also wrote about the case (here).
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Clark County Park District – Leases Lots For Less Than Campsite Rental –

MARSHALL, IL. (ECWd) –

The Clark County Park District held a special meeting last night, the same night as Township Caucuses, most likely in hopes nobody would notice they were about to lease out residential lots for less than the cost of an annual campsite.

An amazingly ignorant decision.

Sources tell us that in the 2+ years this has been advertised on their website, only one person has attempted to enter into a contract, and that person only did so because of threats from the Park District of denial of a dock permit on the property she already owns unless she “pays da man” more money – by way of a lot lease on an adjacent lot.

Pretty sad when the district has to threaten to withhold favorable action unless the property owners lease a lot they do not even want to lease (sounds eerily familiar to the textbook definition of criminal intimidation by a public official).

The vote was three in favor of stealing your property, and two against it. Joe Ewing (the election cheat and abuser of public trust and helped the Ethics Commission commit criminal acts and FOIA Requester Attacker) did not show up for this important vote even though he had previously publicly intimidated and badgered a fellow board member for skipping meetings. Commissioner Pine attended his Township Caucus as he had previously committed to.

Kuehnel, Stone, and Stepp voted to give away (for very little money) the very thing this district is charged to protect. Its real estate for the recreational use of the taxpayers in the district.

Video is below. Remember this when deciding who to put your trust in the next time you vote.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4kxSXrFAXk

 




Clark-Edgar Rural Water District Holds Deposits 27 Years – Provides No Water –

OLIVER, IL. (ECWd) –

We have written about this unethical and unlawful situation in Clark and Edgar Counties before but thought it time to remind all those still interested that there has been no legitimate effort to rectify this problem.

In fact, the Clark-Edgar Rural Water District (CERWD) Auditor recently (and wrongly) noted that the District could do whatever they wanted with these deposits, including using them to provide services to other people, would never have to return the funds to the individual making the deposits, and would never have to even provide them water service.

There are currently 420 service deposits paid to the CERWD for service connections, some dating back to early 1989, who have never been provided water service.

Here is how this scam works, the district conducts a survey in a township to see who is interested in obtaining water from them, they then collect “deposits” or “tap-on fees” (in violation of the Public Water District Act) for the proposed service, use those promised contracts to obtain state and federal grants and loans, use them to obtain funds thru bonds, and then only connects those people that can easily be reached wherever they chose to run the water lines. In our opinion, this borders on grant and bond fraud by using the list to obtains the funds, knowing all of the promised connections will never be made, and then keeping the deposited funds indefinitely. Then they go one step further and have their auditor tell them they can use the funds deposited for other people and never have to connect or return the funds to the original depositor.

As we have written in previous articles, there is no statutory authority for a stand-alone water district to collect any tap-on fees or deposits of any kind – but they continue to do so because they found an attorney to write them an “opinion” that won’t hold water in a court.

Imagine being promised, 27 years ago, that you would get connected to the water district, only to find out they plan on using your improperly taken “deposit” to help connect someone else.
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Download (PDF, 10.36MB)


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Clark-Edgar Rural Water District Writes Off Over $40,000 In Bad Debt –

OLIVER, IL. (ECWd) –

That’s right. The Clark-Edgar Rural Water District (CERWD) has “written off” more than $40,000.00 in uncollected debt for water service.

That’s $40,000 that could have been used to connect others, pay wages, or to pay down its massive debt.

If you know any of the people listed in the attached document, please ask them to pay their water bills.

Document provided by the CERWD under the Freedom Of Information Act.

Download (PDF, 2.13MB)


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4th Appellate Court Reversed 5th Circuit’s Dismissal of Allen and Kraft v. Clark County Park District re: Open Meetings Act –

SPRINGFIELD, IL. (ECWd) –

Today, the 4th Appellate Court reversed the decision of the 5th Circuit Court in granting the Clark County Park District’s Motion to Dismiss an Open Meetings Act suit brought by ECWd’s Kirk Allen and John Kraft.

We filed this court action on February 18, 2015 the day after the Park District Board took action in a public meeting without properly notifying the public what they were voting on or what action they were taking – as required by the Open Meetings Act, Section 2(e).

This was initially a pro se lawsuit, but we ended up hiring Jacob Smallhorn, Tapella & Eberspacher LLC, Charleston, Illinois to prosecute this on our behalf.

In this case, the Park District actually filed for sanctions against us claiming we were the Edgar County Watchdogs (true), and ran a website called Illinois Leaks (true), and that this was filed simply to harass the board and it was frivolous (both false). The Circuit Court denied their Motion for Sanctions and the park board did not appeal that denial.

Some key statements made in this Opinion reversing the Circuit Court are:

  • “the public was uninformed of what was being leased”
  • “the Board’s recital failed to so inform”
  • “whatever the standard might be for public recital, the Board failed to meet it in this case”
  • “we are confident that no matter what standard the supreme court eventually adopts, the public recital given by the Board in this case was insufficient’
  • and (in my opinion the most important indication of the Board’s intent) found in paragraphs 6 and 31 of this Opinion, where when asked by a citizen what they just passed, Ron Stone and Larry Yargus both declined to inform that citizen by claiming what they just passed had to be recorded at the courthouse before anyone could look at it

Now that the Motion to Dismiss is reversed, this case should progress through the Circuit Court and a hearing date should be set to hear the case.

Download (PDF, 106KB)

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Township Officials of Illinois: How to avoid being arrested.

SPRINGFIELD, IL. (ECWd) –

The Township Officials of Illinois (“TOI”) is having its annual conference this week.

One of the sessions taking place this afternoon caught our eye – and incidentally had a similar subject during the Public Library Association’s Conference a couple of years ago..

On page 14 of the pdf (here) (labeled page 14 of the program) is an educational session that we advise all township officials to attend.

It is entitled: “Citizens Arrest Program” featuring Bob Russell, Attorney from Russell, English, and Beneke, and starts at 3:45 today.

It is described as follows:

“Tired of their complaints and grievances not being addressed, concerned citizens are turning to arresting their local public officials to get their attention. This presentation will discuss the phenomenon of “Citizen’s Arrest,” and hopefully provide guidance as to how to avoid it!”

The bottom line, in our view, is simply follow the law (all of them), tell the truth, publish the meeting agendas, provide public records when requested, realize that public comment is a right of citizens (something you cannot take away or limit), and try answering questions within a reasonable amount of time.

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RIDES Mass Transit Responds To Edgar County’s Motion To Dismiss –

PARIS and HARRISBURG, IL. (ECWd) –

RIDES Mass Transit District (RIDES) has filed its answer to Edgar County’s Motion to Dismiss.

Here is our opinion on their argument(s);

RESOLUTION IS VOID AT ITS INCEPTION

The Edgar County Ordinance and Resolution never set forth the five requirements to form a contract under Section 5 of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act

On page 3, RIDES looks to the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act claiming it gives the County the authority to enter contracts under Section 5 of the ICA, which at first glance appears to do that. However, this Ordinance was not a contract as defined under Section 5. Requirement of using Section 5 as authority include the mandated provision that any contract “shall set forth fully the purposes, powers, rights, objectives, and responsibilities of the contracting parties”.

The Edgar County Resolution/Ordinance 0413 (found in this article) fell short on those requirements as follows:

  • It only authorized dissolving ECIMTD stating that ECIMTD could no longer perform those services, and
  • Adequate services could be performed by a larger Mass Transit District, and
  • ECIMTD determined it should dissolve to provide Clark and Edgar Counties the opportunity to join a contiguous Mass Transit District.
  • Then it goes on to say that the ECIMD should wind up its affairs and distribute all remaining fund to the County Treasurers of Clark and Edgar Counties.

Later, in a Resolution, Edgar County purported to dissolve ECIMTD, that the county board annexed Edgar County into RIDES-MTD on July 1, 2013, and that all assets left from dissolution of ECIMTD be conveyed to RIDES as the County’s “contribution to RIDES

Then, RIDES passes two Resolutions in June of 2013, one annexing Clark County and one annexing Edgar County. More on that later…

RIDES DID NOT HAVE AUTHORITY TO PERFORM THE ACTION

CLARK COUNTY NEVER PASSED AN ORDINANCE DISSOLVING ECIMTD

EDGAR COUNTY COULD NOT BE ANNEXED INTO RIDES

In Section 9 of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act, the legislature carved out special conditions for counties to participate in intergovernmental agreements. The main mandate is that a county can participate in the absence of specific authority, provided, that “the unit of local government contracting with the county has the authority to perform the action.” This appears to specifically and expressly prohibit any contracts or agreements where the unit of local government does not have authority to perform the action (see Section 3 of the ICA which limits cooperation in these instances).

RIDES did not have the authority to perform this action (and still doesn’t) because Clark County never voted and approved a Resolution or Ordinance dissolving the ECIMTD. See this article written in 2013. What Clark County did, instead, was what we initially stopped Edgar County from doing, which is why Edgar County re-wrote their dissolution Ordinance.

Without Clark County voting to dissolve the ECIMTD, neither Clark nor Edgar Counties could be annexed by RIDES according to law. The District must be contiguous to the county being annexed, and with Clark County not properly annexed, Edgar County is prohibited from annexing due to it not being contiguous with the District.

RIDES claims that citing Section 9(b) of the Local Mass Transit District Act make Edgar County’s claim invalid. However, Section 9(a) is what Edgar County should have used, which actually put further limits on where the remaining funds are distributed. The Resolution should still be held void.

DOWNSTATE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION ACT DOES NOT APPLY

Finally, RIDES relies on the Downstate Public Transportation Act, 30 ILCS 740, for the authority for Edgar County to give these funds to RIDES. RIDES Cites Section 2-15(b), which is wrong…the language they are using is found in Section 2-17(b) and applies only to “a County or Counties” that provide public transportation in such county or counties. Another requirement is to file 3 copies of any public transportation agreement with County Clerk and the Illinois Commerce Commission and must thereafter comply with “An Act concerning public utilities”.  The language RIDES points to only applies to counties who operate their own public transportation and have complied with the Illinois Commerce Commission rules found in Section 2-17(a). Edgar County and Clark County do not operate their own public transportation.

RIDES also cites Section 1005 of the Counties Code, 55 ILCS 5/5-1005(3):

3. To make all contracts and do all other acts in relation to the property and concerns of the county necessary to the exercise of its corporate powers.

This Section does not authorize the County to give these funds to RIDES.

SECTION 4 OF THE INTERGOVERNMENTAL COOPERATION ACT DOES NOT APPLY.

RIDES cites Section 4 of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act, failing to understand that Section 4 only applies to “administrative joint boards” or other legal or administrative entity created to “operate the joint or cooperative undertaking” – something RIDES does not meet the definition of since it is its own “unit of local government”. This section was clearly meant for entities like the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency (IMEA) which is truly a “joint or cooperative” board – or more local, the Paris Cooperative High School, another truly “joint or cooperative” board.

Mandamus cannot mandate an act in violation of law.

RIDES repeatedly asserts that both Edgar County and RIDES “falls under” the above referenced Acts. We agree. However, “falling under” those Acts means they must comply with the provisions spelled out in those Act. Giving these funds to RIDES is not allowed under any of the above Acts.




State Rep Candidate Dennis Malak’s Lies, Bankruptcy, Victoria’s Secret, Campaigning At Work (EIU) –

CHARLESTON, IL. (ECWd) –

In a post on Dennis Malak’s official campaign facebook page, he took to telling lies…about us…which is why this article was written.

For the record, the Edgar County Watchdogs had never written any articles in reference to Malak, and never intended to write any. Until Malak started making wild, unsubstantiated claims that the “Edgar County Watchdogs and Tea Party Bloggers taking mean, personal hits” – trying to gain sympathy from his followers.

After a google search, there were recently a couple of articles written about Malak:

  • From BLNNEWS.com – a site run by Diane Benjamin, who has been writing about local public bodies for several years and has a very good track record of reporting the truth, no matter what it may be.
  • From DisclosureNewsOnline – a monthly news magazine who reports on all kinds of issues, including election issues, and has been in operation for more than 14 years, and covers most of Southern Illinois, including most of the 110th District.

Neither of those publication are affiliated in any way with ECWd, and most importantly, they have the same access to all of our information that any other news publication has as evidenced on our “about us” page (here). We share all kinds of public records that we may never write about but may be of interest to others who do write.

Both BLN and Disclosure wrote articles talking about Dennis Malak’s claims that his opponent cannot be an independent voice by taking money from the Republican Party, while failing to mention his taking of money from out-of-district unions – somehow thinking that will not impact his own ability to be an independent voice – and his untruthful statements as to his reason for filing bankruptcy (here) and (here).

For his bankruptcy, which he claimed on his own campaign website was due largely in part because of his “drowning in medical bills” turned out to be inaccurate. Looking at his bankruptcy filings, only about $3,500 of the massive debts were from medical bills, while the remainder were from car payments, tons of student loan debts, house payments, and large amounts of credit cards with debt attached to them, including Ameren, Capitol One, Citibank/Sears, Discover, GE/JC Penny, John Deere Credit, Kohl’s/Capitol One, TD Bank/Target, U of I Credit Union, and a Victoria’s Secret credit card and Toy’s-R-Us credit.

It appears to me there was a lot of shopping going on with the Sears, JC Penny, Kohl’s, target, John Deere, Toy’s-R-Us, and Victoria’s Secret charge accounts. His bankruptcy filing lacked any evidence of “drowning in medical bills” due to his wife’s illness that he posted on his website, and allegedly talked about in a radio interview.

Nothing like throwing your wife “under the bus”…with the medical bills claims. If it appeared to be a true statement, it would be different. His own court filing only listed $100 per month in medical and dental expenses (page 39, item 11).

The worst part of all of the wild claims on his bankruptcy was that he blamed “the system” for his bad financial decisions, as if “the system” owed him. He actually stated that “the system failed us” and claimed he only did what he was supposed to do in life..you know…purchase everything on credit and then whine when you can’t pay it back, and blame “the system” instead of yourself.

I did make comments on the “independent voice” claims, in my individual capacity, and none of the comments would be considered “personal hits” unless talking about his own campaign donations are personal hits. I just commented that he cannot claim to be an independent voice when 96% of his campaign donations came from mostly out of district unions – just like he was attempting to make that same claim against his opponent.

We never wrote about his allegedly campaigning while on the clock at his state job at Eastern Illinois University – I personally talked to him on the phone this past summer about his campaign – while he was at work at EIU. We never wrote about all the Facebook posts that were posted during what we believe was his working hours at EIU (see his timesheet here).

We never wrote about his stance on the second amendment, even though it was quite clear with this Facebook comments where he stands – and it doesn’t seem like he stands with the vast majority of voters in the 110th on that issue, with is statements of “excessive weapons, lock boxes, gun registration fees, new taxes, etc”…. No, we didn’t write about that either.

We do wish he would explain how the ECWd took mean, personal hits about him, or even post a link to those so we can figure out what he is talking about. Until then, we will say he lied to the potential voters of the 110th.

 

 




Ron Stone Votes To Pay For Mural on Building He Owns Using Public Coffers –

CLARK CO., IL. (ECWd) –

Commissioner Ron Stone, in February of 2016, was the first person to bring up any discussion of the Clark County Park District sponsoring a Wall Dog Mural of Mill Creek Park (AKA Clark County Park District). How interesting he failed to mention during the meeting it was going to be placed on a building he owns, even when questioned by Commissioner Terry Stepp. His answer to Commissioner Stepp was convoluted at best. You can listen to the excerpt here:

It gets worse, believe it or not. Commissioner Stone also decided to vote to approve the payment of the improperly incurred liability (see article here) at the September 15, 2016 regular Board Meeting without disclosing his private interest in the project. He also went along with the discussion that it was “discussed” at a prior meeting – presumably knowing the requirements of the Park District Code that all debt incurred must be expressly approved at a meeting and recorded in the minutes of the meeting. This debt violated the Park District Code.

Commissioner Stone has failed in the performance of his fiduciary duties as Park District Commissioner in that he has perpetrated the use of the Clark County Park District’s money to pay for an improvement to his building in the amount of $5000.00. He had an obligation to disclose his interest in the building where the mural was to be painted and remove the conflict by either resigning or removing the action item from the agenda. This could be considered compensation, by way of payment for building improvements to a building he owns, which by all appearances would violate Section 4.1 of the Park District Code to serve without compensation.

Improvements to a private building owned by a commissioner is not a public purpose, and may have violated the Illinois Constitution, Article VIII, Sections 1(a) and (b) respectively: that “Public funds, property or credit shall be used only for public purposes” and “The State, units of local government and school districts shall incur obligations for payment or make payments from public funds only as authorized by law or ordinance.” There is no law authorizing the use of public funds to paint anything on a commissioners private building.

Although the mural may have a public interest on the side of “a” building, putting it on the side of “a commissioners” building who failed to disclose his interest is very problematic.  Let’s not forget the expense was not authorized under law or ordinance.

The Clark County Park District Policy Manual Section 3.6 explains that board members must  be free from self-interest: “Each action taken by a Board member in the course of their duties will be motivated by the District’s best interests and should, therefore, be free of outside influence and self-interest.” 

I don’t believe anyone in their right mind would think that Commissioner Stone’s decision to vote to pay an unauthorized expense was free from outside or self-influence.

The invoice, received and paid in violation of various laws, could rise to violations of the Illinois False Claims Act, 740 ILCS 175/3, for knowingly presenting or causing to be presented a false or fraudulent claim for payment, making false records or statements material to a false or fraudulent claim, and conspiring to do the above.

The Executive Director presented a fraudulent claim to be paid – the  Executive Director, Commissioners Ewing, Kuehnel and Stone all made statements in the September 2016 Board meeting alluding that the expense had been approved in advance – and they all conspired, thru discussion and voting, to pay the false and fraudulent claim.

From the Public Officer Prohibited Activities Act 50 ILCS 105/3:

“(a) No person holding any office, either by election or appointment under the laws or Constitution of this State, may be in any manner financially interest directly in his own name, or indirectly in the name of any other person, association, trust or corporation, in any contract or the performance of any work in the making or letting of which such officer may be called upon to act or vote.”         

Note that the Wall Dog sponsorship was not brought up until it concerned his building which is shown later in the article.

From the Illinois Official Misconduct statute at 720 ILCS 5/33-3

“(a) A public officer or employee or special government agent commits misconduct when, in his official capacity or capacity as a special government agent, he or she commits any of the following acts:

(1)    Intentionally or recklessly fails to perform any mandatory duty as required by law; or
(2)    Knowingly performs an act which he knows he is forbidden by law to perform; or
(3)    With intent to obtain a personal advantage for himself or another, he performs an act in excess of his lawful authority; or
(4)    Solicits or knowing accepts for the performance of any act a few or reward which he knows is not authorized by law.”

Here is a brief timeline for your consideration. Documents will be attached at the end of the article for your reading enjoyment.

  • July 31, 2015 Mr. Stone writes a letter to the Chamber of Commerce stating he is giving permission for a mural to be painted on the West Side of his building. (Attached)
  • August 31, 2015 Marshall Chamber of Commerce posts list of themes and locations which include the statement “Mill Creek is not currently sponsored, going at the Knights of Pythia’s Building. (Attached)
  • January 5, 2016 Marshall Chamber of Commerce posts map of murals which still shows Mill Creek going to the Knights of Pythia’s Building and still no sponsor. (Attached)

I have received confirmation from Jennifer Bishop at the Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce that the location changed due to the inability of one of the artists to paint on one of the buildings due to the texture. The Knights of Phythia location and the Strohm Newspaper locations were swapped to accommodate the artist.

  • February 18, 2016, Regular Board meeting Mr. Stone brings up the Mill Creek Mural not being sponsored and he thinks the park should cover it. This was brought up under Master Planning Committee Report and no actionable item was on the agenda to warrant an approval of the expense. Despite the Wall Dog project being on for 2+ years this is the first mention of the project at a board meeting, and it appears the issue is only raised after it concerned Commissioner Stone’s building.
  • March 18, 2016, Marshall Chamber of Commerce post Themes and Locations showing the Mill Creek Mural is still not sponsored but now going on the Marshall Advocate building located at 610 Archer Ave, which is Mr. Stone’s building per his very own letter to the Marshall Chamber of Commerce dated 07/31/2015. (Attached)
  • Sometime in April of 2016, Mrs. Murphy calls Jennifer at the Chamber of Commerce, per Jennifer Bishop, telling Mrs. Bishop that the park district will sponsor the project because “several board members said it was OK.” Obviously, this did not happen in a meeting as it was not voted on in a meeting.
  • July 6, 2016 Marshall Chamber of Commerce posts Picture of Mill Creek Mural with a note stating Sponsored by Clark County Park District. It appears that all other major donors were announced before the murals were painted.
  • September 2016  – Bill for $5000 presented to the board for payment at the September 2016 Board meeting despite the invoice being dated June 22, 2016 which was the first day of the Wall Dog event. This invoice is marked past due. When was the first one sent and who got it? Why does the park district continually lose public documents?

So many questions and so few answers from our elected officials. Shout out to Jennifer Bishop of the Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce on her transparency and her willingness to answer my questions! More people should take her lead.

I almost forgot to mention that Commissioner Stone is not just a landlord of Strohm Newspapers (who fails miserably at actually informing the good folks of this area) he is also a shareholder and receives dividends. He is consistently called on to vote on Strohm Newspaper invoices for payment and abstains from voting at the advice of legal counsel.  He knows it is a conflict and an abstention does not remove that conflict as the courts have said as much in numerous cases. He understands the issues. All indications are his motto is “It is better to ask forgiveness than permission.”.
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Follow up: Clark County Park District Spends $5,000 Without Approval

CLARK COUNTY, IL. (ECWd) –

Follow-up from this article: http://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/2016/09/clark-county-park-district-spends-5000-without-approval/

Someone had better start investing in stock in rope, because no one can keep up with the demand from public officials. On September 16, 2016 I sent the following FOIA request in order to validate what I had already discovered from my research.

In this specific FOIA request I requested:

“1. Copy of all meeting minutes from the period of October 2015 through September 2016 in pdf
format in which the Walldog project was discussed including when the project expense was
approved by the board.
2. Copy of the verbatim recording of all minutes from the period of October 2015 through
September 2016 in pdf format in which the Walldog project was discussed including when the
project expense was approved by the board.”

In reply, the Executive Director, Charity Murphy, responded that the project was discussed “briefly” at the February 2016 regular board meeting, and that she had budgeted for the expense. The only document that I had received as responsive to the request was the recording of this particular meeting. By the response received, Mrs. Murphy made it quite clear that there were no minutes reflecting the approval of the expense by the Board of Commissioners. Remember, if it is not in the minutes, it did not happen as the Open Meetings Act (5 ILCS 120/2.06(a)(3) requires written minutes to include:

“a summary of discussion on all matters proposed, deliberated, or decided, and a record of any votes taken.”

You can read the email communication below.

Download (PDF, 1.28MB)

Executive Director, Charity Murphy is well aware of the constraints put on her by law. See this article [http://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/2015/02/clark-co-park-district-commissioners-served-with-demand-to-comply-with-law/] in which a citizen served the park board and Executive Director notice of their non-discretionary duties related to spending public park district funds. The non-discretionary duty pointed out in this citizen’s letter falls under the Illinois Park District Code at 70 ILCS 1205/4-6 which states:

“No member of the board of any park district, nor any person, whether in the employ of said board or otherwise, shall have power to create any debt, obligation, claim or liability, for or on account of said park district, or the monies or property of the same, except with the express authority of said board conferred at a meeting thereof and duly recorded in a record of its proceedings. “

Below is the extracted portion of audio of the meeting in which the Wall Dog Project was discussed under committee reports when raised by Commissioner Stone, but never approved, for a whole 1 minute and 20 seconds. Enjoy!

https://youtu.be/dS9LGpQJpYo

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Clark County Park District Spends $5,000 Without Approval –

CLARK COUNTY, IL. (ECWd) –

sponsor-neededDuring the September 19, 2016 Clark County Park District regular board meeting, it was discovered by Commissioner Turpin that they were approving an expense to the Marshall Chamber of Commerce in the amount of $5,000.00 for the Wall Dog Project. Mr. Turpin questioned whether this item was approved prior to the expense. The Executive Director, Charity Murphy, replied that it had been budgeted and had been “discussed” in prior meetings. Commissioner Turpin pointed out that just because it was budgeted does not mean the expense was approved. Commissioners Kuehnel and Ewing concurred that the “discussion” happened around April 2016 or later. When Commissioner Turpin further questioned the Executive Director on the commitment form for the project (which he personally was aware of as he has property which was solicited for a Wall Dog mural), she replied she did not sign such form.

This is where the term “trust, but verify” comes into play. I have, since this meeting, fact checked the statements made in this meeting. Just imagine what I found. There are no minutes nor director’s reports which mention anything about the Wall Dog project let alone spending $5,000.00 for the project. Shocking right?! I went back to the middle of 2015 just to make sure that Commissioners Ewing and Kuehnel were not just mistaken on the dates of the discussion. Please note that, if it is not in the minutes, it did not happen.

During my fact finding mission which included a visit to the Clark County Park District Office I discovered the following sign just sitting there, waiting to be seen by a truth seeker such as myself.

It appears someone committed to the project, tried to get a sponsor, failed, and then stuck the residents with the bill. This someone committed to the project, without apparent authority. In my opinion, the Clark County Park District Board of Commissioners should get to the bottom of who authorized the project and do what is necessary to hold that person accountable for unauthorized expenditure of public funds under the Illinois Park District Code 70 ILCS 1205/4-6 which states:

“No member of the board of any park district, nor any person, whether in the employ of said board or otherwise, shall have power to create any debt, obligation, claim or liability, for or on account of said park district, or the monies or property of the same, except with express authority of said board conferred at a meeting thereof and duly recorded in a record of its proceedings.”

Someone had to instruct the Marshall Chamber of Commerce to bill the Clark County Park District for the mural as evidenced below. This is a copy of the invoice presented to the board to pay on September 15, 2016.

The board did vote to pay this although they should not have, as it is an expense made in violation of Park District Code. However, they paid it on the false statements provided by the Executive Director and Commissioners Kuehnel and Ewing. Someone must be held responsible for this negligence or it will continue to happen again and again.

Download (PDF, 61KB)


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Truth Pill For Marshall Residents: Don’t Listen To Your Public Works Director –

MARSHALL, IL. (ECWd) –

According to Gary Strohm, Cory Sheehy, Marhsall’s Public Works Director, stated that they had “lost” the $8,500 “annual donation” they usually get from the Park District because of the Edgar County Watchdogs.

We thank them for admitting once again that we were right in forcing the Clark County Park District to follow the law. At least they are following one section of the law, we still have lots of work to do down there.

The City of Marshall could no longer keep raping park district tax payers after we exposed the district’s unlawful distribution of “grants” to local parks. If those local parks need funds from the park district they need to annex into the park district, otherwise there is only one way for the park district to use public funds in local parks not under their control.

We  wrote about that in October of last year (click here). Section 8-5 of the Park District Code explains that there needs to be a “joint recreational program” in place in order for the district to use its public funds on other parks. In the previous article we gave suggestions on what a local park needs to do in order to qualify for the funds. It appears Marshall didn’t think they needed to follow the law – and now are blaming us because they got caught. We were proud the park district was so eager to abide by state law, although we wonder why they picked this one to follow instead of all the other they continuously violate.

Message for Sheehy: Tell Mayor Tim Sanders to quit giving public funds , property, and credit away to the Marshall Cemetery in violation of law. I know, your attorney wrote a B.S. opinion and said it was OK, but next time ask him to sign a paper saying he will defend his opinion free of charge and pay back the City of Marshall all the funds illegally sent to the cemetery when he is proven wrong in court. That is at least $10,000 each year – $1,500 more than the park district was giving you in violation of state law.

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