AG: Edgar County ETSB Violated FOIA, Twice –

Edgar County, IL. (ECWd) –

FOIA Officer stipend for Edgar County Emergency Telephone System Board: $1500

Number of FOIA complaints resolved in her favor: Practically NONE

ETSB, please demand your money back, it isn’t working.

The ETSB Coordinator failed to justify withholding public records again…not that there was any realistic justification to begin with.

A FOIA request was submitted for radio/telephone traffic of an incident involving a Sherriff’s Department employee, and the request was denied.

The AG’s Public Access Counselor had to issue two separate violation letters to the same FOIA request.

On February 9, 2017, the PAC issued a violation letter to the ETSB and asked them to provide the records. Instead of complying, they denied it again for other reasons.

She tried saying it involved an ongoing case, and that excuse failed. Several other excuses were tried, they all failed.

This most recent violation letter explains how the new reasons for denial fall short of the law, and once again the PAC asked Nanette Crippes, ETSB Coordinator, to provide the records requested back in September of 2016.

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Download (PDF, 230KB)




RIDES Mass Transit v. Edgar County – Our Opinion…

PARIS, IL. (ECWd) –

Rides Mass Transit District (“RIDES-MTD“)filed its amended complaint a couple of weeks ago in their lawsuit alleging Edgar County owes them over $152,000 – which was the remaining funds after all debts were paid from the allegedly dissolved East Central Illinois mass Transit District (“ECIMTD”).

In their amended complaint, RIDES-MTD relies on the “Downstate Public Transportation Act” [30 ILCS 740] for the county’s authority to gift its public funds to RIDES-MTD.

Our Short Version Opinion:

  • RIDES-MTD claims they spent over $635,000 purchasing a building in Paris – failing to mention the State of Illinois gave them the grant for that purchase
  • The Downstate Public Transportation Act is only meant for the State to provide funds for downstate mass transportation
  • A county can only spend money FROM other public bodies – not provide funds TO them under the paragraph cited
  • An illegal contract (a county has no authority to give funds to any mass transit) cannot be breached
  • Any written agreement must be to assist the COUNTY in providing mass transportation services – not for a stand-alone Mass Transit District to provide its own services

Longer Version below:

COUNT 1:

We will start by looking at the purpose of the DPTA as stated in its opening Section, which only concerns State funds – not local funds:

The General Assembly finds:

(c) that State financial assistance for the development of efficient and coordinated mass transportation systems is essential to the solution of these urban problems.

and

The purposes of this Act are: (b) to provide assistance to participants in financing such systems as provided in Section 7 of Article XIII of the Constitution.

We read this to mean what the Legislature wrote in the DPTA, which is that “STATE” financial assistance is needed and would be provided according to Article XIII Section 7 of the Illinois Constitution of 1970.

ARTICLE XIII. SECTION 7.

Public transportation is an essential public purpose for
which public funds may be expended. The General Assembly by
law may provide for, aid, and assist public transportation,
including the granting of public funds or credit to any
corporation or public authority authorized to provide public
transportation within the State.

We read this to mean that the General Assembly will provide for public funds and credit to corporations or public authorities to provide public transportation.

So, State financial assistance is needed and will be provided according to the constitution – meaning the State will provide the funds.

Next, RIDES-MTD looks towards Section 2-17(b) of the DPTA and relies on it for the county’s authority to give those funds to RIDES-MTD.

However, that particular Section only states that a county can apply for, accept, and expend grants, loans, and other funds FROM particular public entities – notice it never says a county can provide funds TO another public body.

(b) Any county may apply for, accept and expend grants, loans or other funds from the State of Illinois or any department or agency thereof, from any unit of local government, from the federal government or any department or agency thereof, or from any other person or entity, for use in connection with any public transportation provided pursuant to this Section.

Where does it say a county can award grants, loans, or any other public funds TO another public body?

It is a little more complicated when the entirety of Section 2-17 is taken as a whole, first is the title of the Section lacks any reference to giving any funds to another public body – it only grants a county the authority to provide for public transportation and to apply for grants:

Sec. 2-17. County authorization to provide public transportation and to apply for grants in connection therewith.

It goes on to give a county the authority to “enter into an agreement” with public entities such as RIDES-MTD, but only under certain conditions (all three of these mandated conditions are missing in this RIDES-MTD v. Edgar County situation).

  • that an agreement be entered into to assist the county in providing public transportation services (no agreement exists)
  • that once the agreement is executed, the “operator” shall file 3 certified copies with the Illinois Commerce Commission (did not happen)
  • that the Illinois Commerce Commission enter an order directing the “operator” to comply with Sections 55a and 55b of the Public Utilities Act (did not happen)

(a) Any county or counties may, by ordinance, operate or otherwise provide for public transportation within such county or counties. In order to so provide for such public transportation, any county or counties may enter into agreements with any individual, corporation or other person or private or public entity to operate or otherwise assist in the provision of such public transportation services. Upon the execution of an agreement for the operation of such public transportation, the operator shall file 3 copies of such agreement certified by the clerk of the county executing the same with the Illinois Commerce Commission. Thereafter the Illinois Commerce Commission shall enter an order directing compliance by the operator with the provisions of Sections 55a and 55b of “An Act concerning public utilities”, approved June 28, 1921, as amended. 

Finally, RIDES-MTD claims they spent $635,000 in purchasing a building in Paris – while at the same time failing to acknowledge the State provided most, if not all, of those funds thru a Grant that was initially granted to ECIMTD, but placed on hold while they attempted to dissolve, and then transferred the grant to RIDES-MTD

COUNT 2:

This Count complains of breach of unilateral contract.

  • cannot have a contract in violation of county’s authority to enter into
  • cannot give county public funds to RIDES-MTD
  • County does not have the authority to give these funds to RIDES-MTD

 
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RIDES Mass Transit District files amended complaint v. Edgar County –

PARIS, IL. (ECWd) –

A full eight days after the cut-off date to file an amended complaint, RIDES-MTD filed one in Edgar County Circuit Court.

This amended complaint consists of the following:

  • claim of “promissory estoppel”
  • claim of “breach of unilateral contract”

The lawsuit stems from the deposition of funds left over after dissolution of the East Central Illinois Mass Transit District in 2013.

We will provide our opinion on this in a future article.

Download (PDF, 1.09MB)


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Edgar County 911 violates the law once again – agreement with Sheriff declared invalid

Edgar Co. (ECWd) –

The Edgar County Watchdogs thanks Edgar County 911 Director Nannette Crippes, as she is one of the primary reasons this organization started back in 2011.  Once again she proves we can count on her for continued violations of the Freedom of Information Act as the designated FOIA officer for our 911 Board.  Sadly, even after 5+ years of exposure of wrongdoing, those who she answers to, the 911 Board, have done nothing to correct the failures of their only employee.

“For the reasons stated below, the Public Access Bureau concludes that the response by the Edgar County Emergency Telephone System Board (Board) to Mr. Kirk Allen’s September 30, 2016, request Violated the requirements of FOIA.”

I sought records pertaining to certain communications related to a potential domestic battery case involving a relative to the dispatcher, an Edgar County Corrections Officers.  That corrections officer has since been charged and we wrote about it in this article.  Proof that our request was in fact tied to a public interest as it is no secret this county has a very problematic history when it comes to corrections officers.

Director Crippes denied this Freedom of Information Request for those records, to include pointing out she deserves a vacation as a justification for not complying as outlined by law.

“I am entitled to vacation days per my contract and we do the best we can with this situation.”  (See PAC further review document)

Her response confirms yet another failure. This one of the 911 Board who has appointed this failure as the FOIA officer and provided a stipend of $1,500.00 a year, all while not ensuring a backup is in place to ensure compliance with the law. Using multiple PAC opinions as confirmation of the FOIA officers failure to comply, we can only wonder why they continue to provide additional pay to this person, let alone keep her under their employ.

More importantly, the current AG PAC ruling has exposed an orchestrated plan to avoid the release of public records by Sheriff Wood and Director Crippes.  A plan that was put in place after a prior violation confirmed by the AG PAC office in 2013.  This plan was put in play the first day her cousin took office as Sheriff.  You can see that document here.    How interesting to find the 2013 failures of compliance match almost perfectly to yesterday’s ruling, which points to a total disregard for the direction provided by the Attorney Generals PAC office. 

Of special interest to this recent rulings is the fact the PAC declared that such an agreement is not valid, as in the agreement Director Crippes entered into with her cousin, the Edgar County Sheriff.

“A public body cannot create laws to avoid disclosing public records to the public or otherwise absolve their obligation to comply with the requirements of FOIA.”

“A public entity cannot enter into enforceable promises of confidentiality regarding public records”

“The confidentiality clause contained in this agreement is void as against public policy to the extent that it conflicts with the text and purpose of the Open Records Act. A public entity may not enter into enforceable promises of confidentiality regarding public records”.

“Thus, the December 1, 2014, agreement between the Board and the Sheriffs Department does not supersede the disclosure requirements of FOIA. Because the Board’s efforts to locate records did not include searching for recordings in its possession of the Sheriff’s Department’s phone lines and radio channel, this office concludes that the Board violated FOIA by failing to conduct an adequate search for the records Mr. Allen requested.”

“In accordance with the conclusion expressed above, this office requests that the Boards search for and disclose to Mr. Allen copies of any non-exempt responsive records maintained on the shared recorder.”

What we have here, based on the history of prior FOIA violations, is a willful disregard for the direction provided from the AG PAC office over the years and a disregard for the rule of law.  We now await the records requested almost 6 months ago. The PAC opinion can be viewed/downloaded below.

None of this is surprising to the residents of Edgar County who have seen their public officials operate outside the law and with immunity to the prosecution of the laws. Thus, Edgar County is the home and founding county of the “Edgar County Watchdogs”, now a nationally known organization that is helping people all over the state in the exposure of malfeasance by public officials. Thank you again Nanette Crippes.

Download (PDF, 212KB)

 

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The look into Edgar County Jail operations under former Sheriff Crippes

Edgar Co. (ECWd) –

We have been demanding public records from the Illinois State Police since 2012 regarding the two former Edgar County Corrections officers who were later convicted of felony crimes for their actions at the Edgar County Jail.  We exposed the malfeasance of Edgar County deputies involved in trying to white-wash these events in numerous articles found here.

We had been informed others were implicated in wrongdoing in the records we were seeking yet never charged.  In spite of the ISP ignoring the Attorney General’s demand for them to turn over the requested records (total of 6 recordings), we continued to demand the records be produced.

After multiple FOIA violations from the ISP over what has been years of seeking public records so that we can expose the truth to what happen under former Sheriff Crippes, the ISP now claims they only have ONE DVD regarding this case. We find that interesting, considering the officer in the DVD they did provide references another video in their possession, which was not turned over.

We will continue to fight for the recovery of those records as we believe they contain specific information about possible criminal acts by the former Sheriff, Tim Crippes.  We have been told by law enforcement close to this investigation that had Crippes won re-election the ISP was going to pursue Official Misconduct charges on him but since he lost the election that matter was not pursued.  Without those records, which they clearly do not want to release, we can not confirm what we have been told by very reliable internal sources.

Below are just a few clips from one of those numerous interviews of which these came from the only one the ISP will release.   One only need to listen to these clips to understand how bad things were in the Edgar County Sheriff’s office during former Sheriff Crippes’s terms in office.  We will release the entire video in future articles and rest assured, many of the problems exposed in this one video interview have filtered their way back into Edgar County under the current Sheriff, Jeff Wood.

Drugs in the cells?

Edgar County jail a joke – Illinois State Police – “Unfortunately, we are not investigating the county.”

Arrested for things they never did?

Just let me sleep on the job!

 

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Forbes continues shining the light on our work.

Edgar Co. (ECWd) –

Freelance Reporter Amanda Robert for Legal Newsline published her article on Forbes that shines the light on our work.  We appreciate her reporting on our work and hope that more people come to understand the importance of getting involved and holding local government accountable, to include exposing wrongdoing of local businesses doing work with those government agencies.

“One organization, the Edgar County Watchdogs, points to state officials and government entities that it says have failed to be truthful or transparent, but also to the media, which, the group believes, has failed to hold wrongdoers accountable.”

The full article can be viewed at this link.

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Edgar County Publishes Draft Airport Zoning Ordinance –

EDGAR CO., IL. (ECWd) –

Earlier this week the Edgar County Board published a draft Airport Zoning Ordinance – which has yet to be recommended by the Airport Zoning Commission – who had promised at the previous hearing to have another public hearing to receive input on this proposal.

This draft Zoning Ordinance requires:

  • PERMIT REQUIRED (from IDOT-Division of Aeronautics) for any use, construction, alteration, change in use of properties within the airport hazard zone. This includes (but is not limited to) using kites, balloons, shooting fireworks, planting vegetation, any smoke/light/reflection. Permit not required for structure, accumulation, or vegetation below 200′ – but fails to say the same for kites, balloons, fireworks, lights, etc.
  • Face a penalty of $1,000 per day, for each violation of this Ordinance
  • Other restrictions found here.

It references a letter dated June 25, 2007, but does not include a copy for anyone else to read —-> read our copy (click here).

It fails to state which State or Federal Statute/Law/Regulation  a citizen should reference when seeking information about this Ordinance.

We are assuming the Administration Code referenced is this one: ftp://www.ilga.gov/JCAR/AdminCode/092/09200016sections.html

Draft Ordinance is below:

Download (PDF, 33KB)




Federal Grand Jury Convened regarding East Central Illinois Mass Transit District

Edgar Co. (ECWd) –

We now have confirmation a Federal Grand Jury in Springfield is being presented key investigative documents related to alleged misappropriation of public funds by former employees of the East Central Illinois Mass Transit District.

A FOIA request made to Edgar County State’s Attorney Mark Isaf for “A copy of the investigation records provided by any law enforcement entity, state or federal, pertaining to the criminal investigation of alleged criminal activity by former East Central Mass Transit District employees who worked in the Paris, IL office of that public body.”

The response was most telling:

“Your request is denied for the following reasons: There are no documents responsive to your request.  The investigation was transferred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation due to forensic accounting expertise under the supervision of the United State’s Attorney’s Office in Springfield, IL, for presentation to a federal grand jury.”

So there you have it.  A Federal Criminal investigation is clearly still on-going regarding the misappropriations of funds by former employees of the East Central Illinois Mass Transit District.

 

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Illinois State Police Report On Edgar County Airport Fire Bombing – Chris Patrick, Jimmy Wells, Brian Phillips Refuse Polygraph –

PARIS, IL. (ECWd) –

November will be three years since the fire-bombing of two aircraft at the Paris Airport, located just north of Paris, Illinois in Edgar County, and the Illinois State Police report of the crime is still lacking in much evidence.

Polygraphs:

Four people were asked to be interviewed using the polygraph detection of deception examination, and only one of those four were actually interviewed, with the other three refusing.

Robert Bogue, Chris Patrick, Jimmy Wells, and Brian Phillips (owner of fire-bombed planes) were all invited to polygraphs.

On January 21, 2015, Robert Bogue submitted to the examination. Illinois State Police Polygraph Examiner reported that through this examination there were “no significant responses indicative of deception” and that “the subject is telling the truth” on the questions asked (see pages 1 and 2 of the pdf below).

The questions asked were whether or not he set fire to the aircraft, the aircraft wings, the plastic bags of aluminum and ferric oxide, and did he help or plan with anyone to do those things. He answered “no” to all questions and the Examiner’s written report indicates he was “telling the truth“.

Chris Patrick, Jimmy Wells, and Brian Phillips – all three, according to State Police reports, refused to be examined with the polygraph detection of deception examination (AKA: lie detector)(see page 16 of the below report).

Download (PDF, 1.74MB)

This is a multi-part article on the Illinois State Police Report, check back for further information.

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Edgar County Sheriff Department conveniently missing video footage of incident –

EDGAR CO., IL. (ECWd) –

We recently reported on a lawsuit (here) where an individual claims he was wrongly arrested and the handcuffs were placed on his wrists too tight, causing injuries.

After receiving what is purported to be all the video from the incident, it is evident the deputy did not keep the camera rolling … or the Sheriff’s Department did not provide all of the video we requested under the Freedom Of Information Act.

What good are cameras if they can be turned off or do not record the entire incident?

Virtually useless videos provided to us:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2gxqYOI4kE

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGFqFBj9UDQ

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRWeUi4vs7A

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Link to the radio traffic audio files provided – which has none of the interaction between the deputy and the alleged victim.

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Stacey Hawkins Pleads Not Guilty – Demands Jury Trial –

PARIS, IL. (ECWd) –

On October 18, 2016, Edgar County Corrections Officer, Stacey Hawkins, entered a plea of not guilty and demanded a jury trial.

She was charged with Domestic Battery and Aggravated Assault stemming from an incident on September 5th, where she allegedly made physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature, striking him in the face, and allegedly placed him in reasonable apprehension of receiving battery while she was armed with a deadly weapon, a splitting maul.

Both would be Class A Misdemeanors if found guilty.

Incidentally, she has yet to be “arrested” or ordered to post any bail or released without any bail at all. We have found no evidence of an arrest warrant issued in this case.

Public records here:

Follow this case on Judici (here).
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UPDATE: Edgar County Corrections Officer Stacey Hawkins Domestic Battery & Aggravated Assault With Splitting Maul Charges –

PARIS, IL. (ECWd) –

The Edgar County State’s Attorney filed an updated complaint with the Circuit Court on October 13, 2016.

Original article (here). In the updated complaint, the name of the alleged victim in Count II was changed from Sherry Ricketts to Harold Davies. No further mention of Ricketts in the complaint.

Additionally, the Edgar County Sherriff’s Office has confirmed that Corrections Officer Stacey Hawkins was placed on administrative leave.

They also confirmed she has not been arrested yet and there are no mugshots or intake forms.

Which makes me wonder if other people who allegedly commit Domestic Battery and Aggravated Assault are afforded this same non-confrontational treatment, of if they would have been arrested, had mugshots taken, and had to post bail.

It would also be nice to know if all of her guns were seized/prohibited from owning guns like the rest of the “ordinary” people would have had done to them…have they seized her FOID/Concealed Carry Card (if she had one) and notified the Illinois State Police of the pending charges?

The amended filing also has the correct County Clerk information, unlike the previous filing.

Download (PDF, 30KB)

Reminder: “All defendants are innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.”
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Edgar County’s 2013 Airport Firebombing Investigation Hampered By 2008 Chrisman Double Murder Investigation?

EDGAR CO., IL. (ECWd) –

Failure to pay bills. Amazing real-life state of affairs of the Illinois State Government has hampered criminal investigations.

In Edgar County, it is the investigation of the 2013 firebombing of two airplanes while they sat outside a hangar at the airport located just north of Paris, Illinois.

According to sources within a state agency, one issue that could have shed light on those responsible for the double-airplane firebombing would have been access to Verizon cell phone tower data – which could not be had due to Illinois’ failure to pay their Verizon bill incurred thru the investigation of the 2008 double-murder in Chrisman. Additionally, Verizon only kept their text messages for 5 days, and other call data for 1 year, and asking for the information would have cost more money that “they” were not willing to spend.

Of course, that was only one issue with the firebombing investigation, there were other attempts at investigating, but those also failed, with one exception which will be in a later article when we post the entire investigative file.

For this issue, the State’s failure to pay the Verizon bill, it’s hard to believe they can simply ignore potential evidence because they didn’t pay a bill or didn’t want to spend the money to obtain the evidence in a timely manner.

 

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Edgar County Corrections Officer Charged – Domestic Battery & Aggravated Assault With Maul Splitter –

Edgar Co. (ECWd) –

I received a tip shortly after labor day of a domestic violence call that involved an Edgar County Corrections Officer and her sister, a dispatcher for Edgar County 911.  I was told the matter was being swept under the rug and the tipster wanted our help to ensure this did not happen.

I filed this Freedom of Information request on September 27th, 2016, with the Edgar County Sheriff.  The Sheriff’s office violated FOIA and has yet to comply with the requested 911 call and other records, nor have they provided a proper denial of the request under the law.

A duplicate request was made with Edgar County 911 Director Nanette Crippes, which also has not been responded to in compliance with the law, and is now overdue.

Once again, two public bodies in Edgar County are violating FOIA but the real story may point to the good-ol-boy system in action once again.  A system that tends to protect and ignore wrong doing when it comes out of the Sheriff’s office.

We will never know, and they will never admit if our FOIA had any influence on the matter being pursued but we have now confirmed charges have been filed against Edgar County Corrections Officer Stacey Hawkins as follows.

Count 1 – Domestic Battery – In that the said defendant knowingly made physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with Harold Davies, a family or household member of said defendant, in that she struck Harold Davies in the face. In violation of 720 ILCS 5/12-3.2(a) (2) Class A Misdemeanor

maul-splitter

File photo: Maul Splitter

Count II -AGGRAVATED ASSAULT – In that the said defendant in committing an assault, in violation of Section 12-1 (1) of Act 5 of Chapter 720 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes, and armed with a deadly weapon, a maul splitter, placed Sherry Ricketts in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery.  In violation of 720 ILCS 5/12-2 (a) (1) Class A Misdemeanor

Ironically, I confronted Sheriff Wood about the tip I received and the situation and he assured me the matter has been taken care of.  I asked what has been done and he told me it was under investigation?  I failed to understand how something that is taken care of is actually taken care of when it is under investigation?  Shortly after that discussion, I received a text informing me of the above charges being filed however I found it very strange that the Sheriff made no mention of the charges being filed during our discussion.

What has yet to be exposed is what role the dispatcher played in this call involving her sister.  It was reported to us that she had communications with her sister after the sheriff’s deputy was dispatched and tipped her off that the deputy was on the way.  It may be that matter that is still under investigation.

Another problem identified from the filing of these charges is the boilerplate document used reflects the former Circuit Clerk as the one swearing to the filing of the charges when in fact it is signed by someone else.  Contact with authorities has ensured us corrective steps are being taken to correct that issue.

We have requested the full charge sheet and mug shots from the Sheriff’s office and will update upon receipt.

Photo of Stacey Hawkins from Stacey Hawkins’ facebook page.

Download (PDF, 44KB)

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Edgar County Motions To Dismiss Lawsuit v. RIDES Mass Transit District –

PARIS, IL. (ECWd) –

A little over a month ago, RIDES Mass Transit District (“RIDES-MTD”) filed suit naming Edgar County Treasurer Don Wiseman as Defendant seeking the $152,000.00 + they believe should have been paid to them after the claimed dissolution of the East Central Illinois Mass Transit District (“ECIMTD”).

The lawsuit, here, is a two-count suit alleging “Breach of Contract” and seeking “Mandamus” (an order to force Treasurer Wiseman to write the check). In our article on this lawsuit, we covered both Counts and also wrote about Dillon’s Rule, the Counties Code, the Local Mass Transit District Act, and the fact that local governments cannot pass resolutions/ordinance which violate state law – as reasons the county could not pay those left-over funds to RIDES-MTD.

Edgar County filed its Motion to Dismiss on September 19, 2016, citing the following:

COUNT I

  • Only the Board can order the Treasurer to remit payment
  • Plaintiff failed to enjoin the Board in this suit
  • Resolution was adopted without statutory authority and is void on its face
  • Without statutory authority, the Resolution violates Dillon’s Rule and would be tantamount to a gift or grant of public funds not authorized by law and would amount to a breach of public trust

COUNT II

  • Mandamus cannot rely on a void Resolution, nor on an impermissible gift, which are illegal activities
  • Latches (waiting too long to file the lawsuit)

Edgar County also filed its Memorandum Of Law In Support Of Its Motion To Dismiss and makes for interesting reading. The County explained the need for statutory authority, the effect of Dillon’s Rule, Article VII Section 7 of the Constitution, Section 9 of the Local Mass Transit District Act, the Counties Code, how contracts cannot be made in violation of law, and how they all play a role in providing for a lack of authority to pay those funds to RIDES-MTD.

We first looked at this issue in early 2013, and again in June of 2013 where Kirk Allen’s civil rights were violated by being ejected from the county board meeting – just as he was discussing the RIDES-MTD/ECIMTD situation. The Edgar County Board passed a Resolution in June of 2013 basically saying it would give RIDES-MTD the left-over funds from ECIMTD after dissolution, and we have repeatedly talked to the board about that being a Resolution which violates state law.

On June 12, 2013, the vote on this Resolution was tabled and had to be re-worded to remove any reference to “merging” the two districts since state law doesn’t allow the merging of mass transit districts, but was later approved on June 17, 2013, with new language reflecting annexation, but still in violation of law.

On June 22, 2013, we warned this resolution was “trouble on the horizon” and would end up being a long, drawn-out thorn in the side of Edgar County, and it has been.

We wrote about IDOT’s Bureau Chief of Transit Operations letter asking the board to give those funds to RIDES-MTD, and noting the letter appears to instruct the county board to violate the law in relation to those funds.

In November of 2014, we were notified Edgar County had decided to keep the funds, as the law requires. Later RIDES-MTD would keep seeking those funds, threaten legal action, and take legal action.

On December 21, 2015, I spoke on this subject (with a correction from Kirk Allen) at a county board study session, going thru the process of dissolving, annexing, and disposing of all assets of the former district. Even mentioning each and every point made in this motion to dismiss, with the exception of the constitutional reference. Video of the December 21, 2015, meeting is here.

This is yet another case where the County Board and State’s Attorney are answering to a court instead of listening to us and researching what we point out before acting.

Download (PDF, 1.26MB)

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Edgar County Judge Denies Retrial In Fred Cox Sex Assault Case –

PARIS, IL. (ECWd) –

The Court heard Motions for Retrial yesterday in the case of Fred Cox, who was convicted by a jury last December, but whose sentencing was delayed due to inclement weather this past February, and delayed further when DNA results became available. We wrote about this in this article and again in this one.

In the courtroom were family members from both sides, members of “Bikers Against Child Abuse”, and media.

There were two Motions for New Trial – the first one claimed the Court allowed testimony from a previous conviction when it shouldn’t have been allowed – this Court denied that motion. The second involved new evidence in the form of the DNA testing results. That motion was also denied.

State’s Attorney objected to the Motions stating they were time-barred due to being filed outside the 30 day window after verdict, Def Atty stated the clock doesn’t start until after the sentencing where the Judge affirmed the verdict and not when the Jury made its decision.

There were several lines of questioning different witnesses, one of which was the witness from the Illinois State Police Crime Lab, who testified about DNA Results and the difference between the words “indicated” and “identified”. If I recall correctly, “indicated” means there was (visual) evidence that the sample contained semen, but that it could have also been from another bodily fluid, and “identified” means that it was proven to be semen and not a different bodily fluid.

Defense argued this new DNA evidence could have changed the Jury’s decision, was in fact new evidence not available during trial, was only reported to them in February, and that they are not asking to overturn the Jury decision but rather asking for a new trial.

SA argued that this DNA was never demanded by Defense, they chose to go to trial without it, that there were four prongs to decisions on a new trial and this does not meet all four of them, and that defense has not met their burden as required in order to obtain a new trial.

Our question to both sides of this case, why on earth would you advance a sex crime case without DNA evidence when you know it’s coming?  How is justice served from either side of this matter when DNA results are not part of the trial when it appears both sides knew it was available?

The Court denied both Motions For New Trial, first because the testimony from prior conviction was allowed during trial, and that the new evidence of DNA results were not enough to warrant a new trial because the “chain of custody” of the alleged sample could not be determined, the sample could have been transferred from another source, that DNA results refer to a mixture of 2 males both of which “may” have matched another person not “did” match another person, the victim personally knew the defendant and testified she visually saw him, there was no other cases where this type of DNA evidence and the victim personally knowing the attacker, were cause to overturn a conviction or to warrant a new trial.

Is this a case that DNA evidence clears the convicted but procedural rules take precedence?

Sentencing will continue to a date to be set in October 2016. An appeal to the Appellate Court is likely in this case.
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Edgar County Treasurer sued by RIDES Mass Transit for $152,150.49

PARIS, IL. (ECWd) –

We wrote in December 2015 about RIDES threatening a lawsuit (here) and explained the situation pretty thoroughly.

RIDES-MTD filed the lawsuit a couple weeks ago.

The bottom line is that you must follow the law when dissolving a mass transit district (“MTD”), the county lacks authority to give any funds leftover to the new MTD, resolutions that violate law are invalid, MTDs must be dissolved lawfully and counties can only be annexed into a new district according to law.

The key elements we question are:

RIDES Mass Transit District sued Edgar County Treasurer for Breach of Contract

In a two-count complaint filed on August 8, 2016 and naming Edgar County Treasurer, Don Wiseman, as Defendant (in his official capacity), the RIDES-MTD based out of Harrisburg, Illinois, are complaining of “Breach of Contract” and also suing for “Writ of Mandamus”.

This is resulting from the alleged dissolution of East Central Illinois Mass Transit District, and Edgar and Clark County annexing into RIDES Mass Transit District in 2013. It is also another of the “lasting legacies” of former Edgar County board chairman Chris Patrick who obviously thought laws did not apply, thought that he was in charge, and nobody could change decisions made by the board. He resigned shortly after being elected.

So, let’s take a look at the lawsuit (below), shall we?

COUNT ONE – BREACH OF CONTRACT:

The suit claims breach of contract because Edgar County passed a Resolution saying they would give all left over funds from ECIMTD to RIDES-MTD upon annexation into the new district. (¶ 5)

The suit acknowledges two check were sent to the Edgar County Treasurer as proceeds from the dissolution and sale of ECIMTD assets. (¶ 7 and 8)

The suit claims it purchased a building in Paris “on reliance” of the money to be transferred to RIDES from liquidation of ECIMTD.

RIDES finally prays for judgment against Edgar County Treasurer in the amount of $152,150.49 from the June 17, 2013 resolution, plus costs for the suit.

COUNT TWO – MANDAMUS:

This COUNT is asking for the Court to order the Edgar County Treasurer to immediately pay the funds to RIDES, based on their assumption of the “validity” of the June 17, 2013 resolution.

Now we can examine the statutes governing counties and mass transit districts.
As a reminder: We are not attorneys and this is not legal advice,
it is simply our interpretation as we read the various laws that may or may not apply to this situation.

DILLON’S RULE

First and foremost, Illinois is a Dillon’s Rule state, and as such, local governments have and can yield only those powers granted them by the Legislature and contained in law. No matter how much it is wanted or needed, it cannot be accomplished without an enabling statute authorizing it.

COUNTIES CANNOT MAKE LAW

Second, a Resolution or Ordinance cannot be enacted that is contrary to state law. A local government cannot make “law” and any such attempt is automatically invalid on its face and unenforceable – no matter the form it takes.

TREASURER AND CONTRACT

The Treasurer did not make any contract, is not permitted by law to make a contract with a mass transit district, and could never breach a contract he is not a party to and did not make. The County Board passed the Resolution, and they are solely responsible for any breach of the Resolution (“contract”). Failure to comply with an invalid and unenforceable Resolution cannot be considered a “breach of contract”, because the contract must first be a valid contract, capable of being breached. This was not such a contract. This was never a contract to begin with.

The June 7, 1013 Edgar County Board Resolution

This Resolution purports to state that “all assets received by Edgar County Treasurer upon the dissolution of the East Central Illinois Mass Transit District shall be transferred, assigned, and conveyed by the County Treasurer to Rides Mass Transit District as the County’s contribution to Rides Mass Transit District.”

So this Resolution says the county will give the funds to RIDES, now we must find out if the county has the authority to give these funds to RIDES (see Dillon’s Rule, above), or if any other law stipulates how the remaining funds are to be distributed.

The Local Mass Transit District Act – Section 9 – Dissolution

This Section was changed on June 1, 2015, to eliminate the requirement that a County approve of the dissolution and to eliminate the wording “or other adequate services are or can be made available”. Where the remaining funds go and to whom they are paid remains essentially unchanged, other than allowing payments to municipalities in whole or part within the district – previously is was only if those municipalities “created” the district.

The only option was to dissolve the current district, and dispose of its assets according to law (Section 9 of the Local Mass Transit District Act). Then, if needed, annex into an existing contingent mass transit district according to other provisions of the Local Mass Transit District Act.

any funds remaining after the sale and disposition of its property shall be disposed of by payment to the treasurer of the county or municipality which created it…

According to our sources, RIDES has been repeatedly asked to provide proof thru any enabling statute that authorizes the county to distribute those funds to RIDES. No answer has ever been provided, other than simply reciting the invalid Resolution from June of 2013.

We are confident this lawsuit will fail on a Motion to Dismiss. The law is clear. The county applied the law properly in relation to this situation. Had the past board chairman took the time to listen to us prior to approving the Resolution, it would have never been approved in the first place, and we would not be discussing this lawsuit three years after the “dissolution” of ECIMTD.
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Convicted By Jury, DNA Results In Motion For New Trial, Still Locked Up –

PARIS, IL. (ECWd) –

Following up on a previous article (here) which could turn out to be a case of wrongful prosecution and conviction, the Illinois State Police Crime Lab has provided the DNA testing results from samples taken from the underwear provided following allegations of predatory sexual abuse of a minor.

Fred Cox, 61, was found guilty on December 16, 2015 of felony predatory criminal sexual assault / victim under 13 years of age, and has been in the Edgar County Jail awaiting sentencing since that time. Sentencing was originally scheduled for February 2016 but had to be postponed due to bad winter weather closing the courthouse.

Since then, the DNA testing results have been returned, there was a hearing scheduled for July 26, 2016, for a Motion for Leave to file Motion for New Trial. The hearing on that motion was postponed until August 24, at 2:15 p.m. where an evidentiary hearing will be heard. Fred Cox is still in custody.

DNA sample was taken from Fred Cox, who was the neighbor and was convicted by a jury – and Robert Burton, who is the boyfriend of the child’s mother and has not been charged with anything.

The DNA results are below, and they consisted of:

  • a major haplotype identified as matching Robert Burton and does not match Fred Cox
  • a minor haplotype identified which Burton and Cox both can be excluded
  • a haplotype identified as matching Robert Burton and does not match Fred Cox
  • a major haplotype identified as matching Robert Burton and does not match Fred Cox
  • a minor haplotype identified which Fred Cox cannot be excluded (but is expected in 1 in 5 African American males, 1 in 3 Caucasian, or 1 in 3 Hispanic unrelated males). Robert Burton can be excluded from this minor haplotype
  • Fred Cox and Robert Burton cannot be excluded from the test in which 77% of unrelated males cannot be excluded
  • a haplotype identified from which Robert Burton cannot be excluded, and Fred Cox can be excluded
  • a major haplotype identified from which Robert Burton cannot be excluded, but Fred Cox can be excluded
  • a minor haplotype identified from which both Cox and Burton can be excluded

We are not experts in reading DNA test results and offer no opinions on them other than to say they are below and you can read them for yourselves.

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Further and more detailed background information is reported in Disclosure News Online (here subscription required) or is available in their print edition available in Paris at the Circle K gas station (by Burger King) or at the Country Junction gas station in Kansas, IL.

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Fred Cox – DNA does not match, but still in jail –

PARIS, IL. (ECWd) –

I attended two court hearings this month for the case of Fred Cox, 2014CF121, found guilty on December 16, 2015 of felony predatory criminal sexual assault / victim under 13 years of age.

We received information that DNA evidence tested did not match defendant, and attended the next available court hearing. According to family members of defendant, there has been notification twice that DNA did not match, and that the State apparently knows whose DNA did match.

Timeline as we know it:

  • The offense occurred in June 2014
  • December 16, 2015 a jury found Defendant guilty – with testimony presented of prior conviction from around 20 years ago
  • Sentencing scheduled for February 2016 – was cancelled due to snow storm
  • A few weeks after sentencing hearing cancelled, notice was received that DNA was found in victim’s underwear and that it was being tested to see if it matched defendant
  • April 2016 – verbal notification came back that the DNA did not match defendant
  • May 2016 – cause continued until June 7th
  • June 7, 2016 – hearing postponed until June 28, 2016 awaiting official DNA testing results
  • June 28, 2016 – verbal notification came back that the DNA did not belong to defendant, however, it did belong to another person who has allegedly been identified. Also, the underwear that was tested did belong to the victim (we received a report that the mother of the victim stated she may have given the police department the wrong pair of underwear to test)
  • Next hearing scheduled for July 18, 2016 where hopefully the official written DNA test report will be available. State’s Attorney Mark Isaf informed the Judge that the lab stated it would be available by July 8, 2016.

For today’s hearing, SA Isaf stated the official lab results should be available by July 8, 2016 and that a new hearing should be scheduled. Defense Attorney McGrath stated that defendant’s medicine and prescriptions had expired, that he had lost a lot of weight while in the Edgar County jail, and that he needed to be able to see his doctor to obtain a new prescription. The Court allowed furlough for defendant’s wife to take him from the county jail to his doctor appointments and immediately back to the county jail. A minimum of 72 hours notice to the Sherriff was also required.

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Attorney General says Edgar County Board violated Open Meetings Act –

EDGAR CO., IL. (ECWd) –

The Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor has issued a determination on a complaint filed alleging an Open Meetings violation from a meeting held on October 26, 2015.

The AG PAC determined that the Edgar County Board violated the Open Meetings Act four times in the same meeting. The AG-PAC has requested the county board make the audio recordings available for certain portions of that meeting because they were improperly discussed in a closed meeting.

Among the violations listed are:

  • The Board has acknowledged that no minutes were approved or maintained for either the open or closed session of the October 26, 2015, meeting. Accordingly, this office concludes that the Board violated section 2.06( a) and 2. 06( b) of OMA by failing to approve and keep minutes of that meeting.
  • we conclude that the Board violated section 2( a) of OMA by holding improper closed session discussions on items 1 and 5 pursuant to the section 2( c)( 1) exception.
  • During the closed session, the discussion was described as involving negotiations” with a lessee, but the Board did not discuss the setting of a price for the property. Rather the Board discussed the process for and potential scope of an agreement. Accordingly, we conclude that the Board violated section 2( a) of OMA by holding an improper closed session discussion on item no. 6 pursuant to the section 2( c)( 6) exception.
  • the Board did not record and enter into the closed session minutes findings that litigation with either matter was ” probable,” because, as described above, there were no minutes kept. Accordingly, we conclude that the Board violated section 2( a) of OMA by holding an improper closed session discussion pursuant to the section 2( c)( 11) exception.

The PAC also stated that:

With respect to items nos. 4, 5, and 6, which took place after the State’ s Attorney left the meeting, this office does not discern that the discussions consist of potentially privileged communications and therefore requests that those portions of the closed session recording be released. We also request that the Board prepare minutes for the open and closed sessions of the October 26, 2015, meeting in accordance with section 2. 06( a) of OMA.

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Edgar Co. Local Governments owe the State over $166,000 in overpaid PPRT –

Edgar County, IL. (ECWd) –

The local governments in Edgar County owed the State of Illinois a total of $166,119.51 in overpayments the state made with the personal property replacement tax back in 2014.

A list of all Edgar County overpayments are below, with the School Districts, City of Paris, and County governments making up the majority of the overpayments.

There is no schedule for repayment to the state at this time.

Edgar                               EDGAR COUNTY 0231010023 20,238.31
Edgar BROCTON VILLAGE 0232400010 262.34
Edgar CHRISMAN CITY 0232400016 1,149.74
Edgar HUME VILLAGE 0232400038 55.67
Edgar KANSAS VILLAGE 0232400040 225.61
Edgar METCALF VILLAGE 0232400051 273.15
Edgar PARIS CITY 0232400063 22,667.65
Edgar REDMON VILLAGE 0232400070 24.87
Edgar VERMILION VILLAGE 0232400089 46.00
Edgar BROUILLETTS CREEK TOWNSHIP 0233020010 144.34
Edgar BUCK TOWNSHIP 0233020012 104.68
Edgar EDGAR TOWNSHIP 0233020025 323.63
Edgar ELBRIDGE TOWNSHIP 0233020027 929.25
Edgar EMBARRASS TOWNSHIP 0233020029 104.68
Edgar GRANDVIEW TOWNSHIP 0233020033 85.74
Edgar HUNTER TOWNSHIP 0233020038 46.00
Edgar KANSAS TOWNSHIP 0233020040 495.43
Edgar PARIS TOWNSHIP 0233020063 2,574.50
Edgar PRAIRIE TOWNSHIP 0233020068 229.76
Edgar ROSS TOWNSHIP 0233020073 714.04
Edgar SHILOH TOWNSHIP 0233020077 206.35
Edgar STRATTON TOWNSHIP 0233020082 159.95
Edgar SYMMES TOWNSHIP 0233020084 303.55
Edgar YOUNG AMERICA TOWNSHIP 0233020095 456.09
Edgar BROCTON FPD 0235100082 129.87
Edgar CHRISMAN FPD 0235100131 400.10
Edgar HUME FPD 0235100322 93.13
Edgar KANSAS FPD 0235100336 311.02
Edgar METCALF FPD 0235100434 133.94
Edgar PARIS FPD 0235100533 1,998.13
Edgar PARIS-UNION UNIT SCH 95 0237250950 35,496.18
Edgar SHILOH CUSD  1 0237260010 25,175.03
Edgar KANSAS CUSD 3 0237260030 7,024.88
Edgar PARIS CUSD 4 0237260040 14,682.31
Edgar EDGAR COUNTY CUSD 6 0237260060 17,032.98
Edgar BROUILLETS CRK TWP RD & BRIDGE 0239020010 205.61
Edgar BUCK TWP ROAD & BRIDGE 0239020012 102.40
Edgar EDGAR TWP ROAD & BRIDGE 0239020025 581.57
Edgar ELBRIDGE TWP ROAD & BRIDGE 0239020027 2,072.33
Edgar EMBARRASS TWP ROAD & BRIDGE 0239020029 394.90
Edgar GRANDVIEW TWP ROAD & BRIDGE 0239020033 158.07
Edgar HUNTER TWP ROAD & BRIDGE 0239020038 154.42
Edgar KANSAS TWP ROAD & BRIDGE 0239020040 634.65
Edgar PARIS TWP ROAD & BRIDGE 0239020063 4,008.44
Edgar PRAIRIE TWP ROAD & BRIDGE 0239020068 264.61
Edgar ROSS TWP ROAD & BRIDGE 0239020073 1,028.73
Edgar SHILOH TWP ROAD & BRIDGE 0239020077 600.11
Edgar STRATTON TWP ROAD & BRIDGE 0239020082 272.42
Edgar SYMMES TWP ROAD & BRIDGE 0239020084 308.01
Edgar YOUNG AMERICA TWP RD & BRIDGE 0239020095 1,034.34

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Edgar Co. Airport – IDOT – Division of Aeronautics suspends airport grant work for second time in 18 months –

EDGAR CO., IL. (ECWd) –

For the second time in the past 18 months, and in a move reminiscent of what we reported in September of 2014, when we wrote about the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) calling a work stoppage on all work related to the Edgar County Airport grant application, the Illinois department of Transportation, Division of Aeronautics (“IDOT-DA”), has once again asked the county to temporarily, “suspend all activity on state and federally funded development projects at Edgar County Airport“.

The major issue on this suspension of work is what we pointed out to the Edgar County Board, who quickly dismissed it, and then we reported to IDOT-DA, that the statute the Edgar County Airport was operating under requires county zoning in order to expand its landing fields, etc.

The state should be looking at other counties to see how many of them have the same issues. IDOT would then have to come up with some type of legal opinion and decide whether or not to keep funneling money into these airport projects that are in violation of state law. I do not believe the FAA will allow its funds to be used in violation of state law, but I guess we will have to wait and see.

There are other outstanding issues related to federal grant assurances (agreements to do certain things for a defined time-frame after receiving the grant) that need fixed, like getting rid of preferential treatment of certain t-hanger leaseholders, among others.

The grant work stoppage from 2014 was issued because the county reported numerous items in the grant application that were simply untrue – by a wide margin (here). the board was instructed to resubmit its justification for the grant in order to be considered. They resubmitted it, but still had untrue statements and projections listed in the application – not to mention the statute the airport is operating under, that I had to sue the county in order for them to officially state which statute it was, requires county zoning for expansions, something Edgar County does not have (read this article).

The lawsuit is a prime example of county board member Mike Heltsley’s “utterly useless spending” comment in a recent letter of his. The utterly useless spending was the Edgar County Board actually going to court to try and tell a Judge they did not have to tell the public what statute they were operating the county airport under. Let that one sink in for a minute…yes, the Edgar County State’s Attorney actually argued against giving me a copy of that statute. So, yes, Heltsley was right on the utterly useless spending, but it was the County who willingly spent the money. The county ultimately provided the statute and paid my court costs.

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Edgar Co. Board sued under Administrative Review Law –

PARIS, IL. (ECWd) –

The Edgar County Board, and each individual board member, are the subject of a lawsuit pursuant to the Illinois Administrative Review Law. The suit was filed on December 30, 2015, exactly 35 days after their final decision to purchase the renewal insurance policies for property, casualty, and workman’s compensation insurance – without placing it our for bid as required by the Illinois Counties Code.

All final decisions of a county board are subject to review by the Court. This one will be reviewed.

The suit is asking the Court to overturn the board’s decision to purchase the insurance coverage because the decision is contrary to law, the Counties Code, which mandates that purchases over $30,000 be placed out for bid and awarded to the lowest responsible bidder.

It also alleges the board abused its discretion in the purchase since they disregarded a mandatory provision of law requiring the purchase to go out for bid (unless it is an emergency).

Plaintiff Kraft is seeking to have the board’s purchase decision overturned and reimbursement of his costs in bringing the suit.

Background of actions prior to bringing this suit:

November 20, 2013, after several months of back and forth on the fact that the county was required to bid out their insurance, the board bid their insurance and approved insurance contracts for the lowest successful bidder. You can see it at the 23:36 mark in this video.

In 2014 they decided they would skate by without being held accountable to the law, and approved a one year extension.

In 2015, after several months of being asked if they were going to bid the insurance out (without an answer), they approved another one year renewal, which violated state law for the second year in a row.

Their own actions and knowing, willful failure to comply with state law is what landed this in the hands of the Court. Please contact them and let them know you don’t appreciate their disregard for the law.

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IDOT District 5 – Free Rent and Property Tax Avoidance ?

PARIS, IL. (ECWd) –

According to a recent document dump from the Illinois Department of Transportation in relation to a Freedom of Information Act request about certain things happening at the District 5 IDOT Headquarters, it appears they are allowing a private business to utilize office and customer space within D-5 Headquarters Building in Paris, Illinois – and failing to report the non-public use of the tax exempt property to the Edgar County Tax Assessor.

Here is how is appears to be working:

There is a little known Credit Union by the name of “Paris Hi-Way Credit Union” that is receiving either free rent, undocumented rent, or rent without a lease. For the moment, I will assume there is no rent being paid simply because there is no rental agreement or lease agreement.

Not only is no rent being paid, the Credit Union is using the utilities of the people of the State of Illinois – your untilities.

Paris Hi-Way Credit Union
13473 Il Highway 133
Paris, IL 61944

That is the same address as the IDOT District 5 Headquarters in Paris, Illinois.

IDOT has authority to lease real estate

IDOT has the authority, under law, to lease real estate they deem they will not use for a period of time:

Sec. 2705-555. Lease of land or property.
    (a) The Department has the power from time to time to lease any land or property, with or without appurtenances, of which the Department has jurisdiction and that is not immediately to be used or developed by the State; provided that no such lease be for a longer period of time than that in which it can reasonably be expected the State will not have use for the property, and further provided that no such lease be for a longer period of time than 5 years, except as provided in subsection (b).

The problem is, there is no lease, at least they cannot find one.

Real Estate Tax Exempt Status?

Next, real estate owned by the State of Illinois, or any other government body is exempt from taxes…unless it is not being used for public purposes. For example, if a public body with a government owned building were to lease out office space to a private business, that office space would be subject to real estate taxes, and those taxes would be the responsibility of the private business (the leaseholder).

Searching the Edgar County Assessor’s website, this real estate is listed as 100% tax exempt. There could be several reasons for that, including the State’s failure to notify the county that a portion of their real estate was no longer being used for a public purpose.

The Property Tax Code explains procedures to use in situations such as this:

 Sec. 15-55. State property.
    (a) All property belonging to the State of Illinois is exempt. However, the State agency holding title shall file the certificate of ownership and use required by Section 15-10, together with a copy of any written lease or agreement, in effect on March 30 of the assessment year, concerning parcels of 1 acre or more, or an explanation of the terms of any oral agreement under which the property is leased, subleased or rented.
    The leased property shall be assessed to the lessee and the taxes thereon extended and billed to the lessee, and collected in the same manner as for property which is not exempt. The lessee shall be liable for the taxes and no lien shall attach to the property of the State.

It is clear that the State agency only has to provide copies of leases for 1 acre or more of leased property, however, any leased property (no matter the size) shall be assessed and the lessee held responsible for the taxes.

Additionally, annual certifications must be filed with the county and they must also comply with Sections 15-10, 15-15, and 15-20 of the property tax code.

Short of some obscure  law that we can’t find, the operation of a private business in a state owned facility without a lease is a violation of the law.  In addition, not paying property tax on the business space used robbed the taxpayers of this county their portion of applicable property tax to go towards services for the public.

Indications are that this type of activity is not limited to District 5.  We are working on gathering the rest of the information to see how many other operations with this same pattern is happening state wide.

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Edgar Co. Facing Lawsuit Over Excessive Compensation To Elected Officials –

Edgar Co., IL. (ECWd) –

UPDATE: Dec. 28, 2015 – To clear up some misunderstandings, it is our position and belief that the county elected officials, other than the county board, were not aware insurance was not part of their compensation, and were actually told that insurance was part of their compensation (even though it is not). The county board, on the other hand, did know it was not and they were told it was not, but kept receiving it anyway.

On December 22, 2015, I filed a lawsuit [2015-MR-59] in Edgar County Circuit Court seeking injunctive relief to immediately stop payments to Edgar County elected officials that are in excess of their compensation as set by county board resolutions.

Every elected official in Edgar County has taken advantage of this and it must be stopped.

To “clear the air” on the definition of compensation:

Sec. 20-101. As used in this Article:
    (1) "Compensation, benefits or remuneration" includes regular compensation, overtime compensation, vacation compensation, deferred compensation, sick pay, disability pay, sick leave, disability leave, medical, dental, optical or other health benefits, pension or retirement benefits or any other pay, compensation, benefits, or any other remuneration.

At issue is the county (the taxpayer) paying for insurance coverage of some type or another for elected officials when the resolutions setting their compensation did not include it as compensation.

We have been after the county board since prior to the 2012 election, when we first noticed the resolution setting compensation for county board members did not include insurance benefits. They were told again and again, but chose to ignore it.

We recently published a series of articles, ( here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) exposing this and understand that all but one county board member has suddenly decided to not participate in the insurance program. Karl Farnham JR. is the lone hold-out and is still having the county pay for his insurance.

During a recent Freedom Of Information Act request for information on the dollar amount of insurance benefits that Karl Farnham had received (in excess of the compensation resolution), it came back that as of November 30, 2015, taxpayers enriched Farnham by $17,231.99. He continues to receive the payments, so now it is more than $17,231.99 that has been paid from taxpayer funds that should never have been paid – and to just one person – there are more…

Back to the lawsuit, among others,

  • I am asking for an injunction to immediately stop paying for elected official insurance.
  • For a declaration that the resolutions passed by the county board are the only resolutions and the only authorized compensation.
  • For the Court to order full and complete repayment with interest.
  • For the Court to order treble damages (3 times the amount received).
  • For the Court to order a penalty of $2000 per event, or for each and every monthly receipt of unauthorized payment.
  • For the Court to order Edgar County to pay my costs in bringing the suit.

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RIDES Mass Transit District Threatens Lawsuit Against Edgar County –

EDGAR CO., IL. (ECWd) –

On December 15, 2015 I submitted a request for public records to RIDES Mass Transit District, for all communications between them and Edgar County.

I received an answer the same day.

What I was interested in was any information they may be using to try and pry money out of Edgar County, money they are not authorized by law to obtain, and Edgar County is not authorized by law to give. This request came after obtaining to “opinion” from IDOT’s Bureau Chief of Transit Operations (in this article), Mr. John Marrella. His letter purported to say that any left over funds from the dissolution of the ECIMTD was to go to RIDES, which violates state law.

RIDES responded to my request by providing the documents sent to Edgar County Board Chairman, Jeff Voigt, and Edgar County State’s Attorney, Mark Isaf.

Within the documents was a letter from the attorney for RIDES-MTD complaining the county board violated a resolution it passed over two years ago promising to transfer the left over funds from ECIMTD to RIDES. The only problem with the resolution, and we brought it up at the time, was that the county cannot give, or transfer, the leftover funds to RIDES. Such a transfer of funds would be a violation of law.

The Local Mass Transit District Act is very clear on the issue in Section 9. Discontinuance.

CORRECTED THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH (12/20/2015):

(a)    Whenever the Board of Trustees of any District shall determine that there is no longer a public need for its transportation services or that other adequate services are or can be made available, and that it should terminate its existence and services, it may by resolution so certify to the participating municipalities and counties which created it. If the participating municipalities and counties approve of such discontinuance, they may by ordinance or resolution, as the case may be, authorize the District to discontinue its services and wind up its affairs. A copy of such ordinance or resolution or both, shall be filed with the county or municipal clerk or clerks and the Secretary of State. After payment of all its debts and settlement of all obligations and claims, any funds remaining after the sale and disposition of its property shall be disposed of by payment to the treasurer of the county or municipality which created it, or if created by 2 or more municipalities or counties, by payment to the several treasurers, first, to repay in whole or pro rata, funds advanced to the authority, and the balance, if any, pro rata according to the length of scheduled transportation route miles operated in the several municipalities and unincorporated areas of the several counties during the preceding calendar year.

In the case of the East Central Illinois Mass Transit District (“ECIMTD”), which is made up of Clark and Edgar Counties, …The funds remaining after settling all  obligations and claims shall be paid to the Treasurer of each county, on a pro rata basis, within the boundary of the district. This was brought up to the board during public comment at the June 17, 2013 Edgar County Board Meeting.

Those comments were ignored, you know, because they have always done thing their way, the law be damned.

The letter from Mr. Marrella specifically states that ” The Department [IDOT] now considers the grants related to East Central Illinois Mass Transit District operations settled and closed.” OK, Fine. IDOT has set in motion the authority for ECIMTD to “pay over, on a pro rata basis, the funds remaining, to the Treasurer of each county [Clark and Edgar]” as mandated by the Local Mass Transit District Act.

Any issue with RIDES-MTD thinking they could get their hand on those funds is not valid. RIDES “annexed” (more on that later) Clark and Edgar Counties into their Mass Transit District because there was no mass transit district serving those two counties, therefore, there were no funds to transfer to them. The Local Mass Transit District Act expressly covers the issue [in Sections 8.1 and 8.5) by not providing authorization for one district to annex another district, and no authorization to “merge” the districts. We suspect this is because the taxpayers in one district should never be responsible for the debts of another district.

To the issue of the so-called Resolution passed by the Edgar County Board. There is no authorization within the Counties Code giving a county the authority to pay money to, grant money to, gift money to, or transfer money to, any Mass Transit District for any reason. The Resolution is not a legally binding Resolution and is unenforceable.

RIDES’ position has been that the taxpayers of Edgar County have never contributed funds to the ECIMTD, all their funds came from grants, and the counties have no right to any funds remaining.

Our position, and it should be the position of Clark and Edgar counties, is that RIDES has no claim whatsoever on the monies since it annexed two counties that were not served by a mass transit district, the taxpayers of the counties did contribute financially to ECIMTD thru contributions made by their respective townships on an annual basis (with taxpayer funds), and the law governing mass transit districts mandates monies remaining after dissolution be given to the county treasurers (Clark and Edgar).

To that end, we pray the county board make the right decision, based on law, and refuse to hand Edgar County funds over to RIDES-MTD.

The dollar amounts involved include $152,000 cash, plus the remaining funds from the sale of ECIMTD property, plus the recovery of the real estate illegally sold by ECIMTD to PEDCO, who them sold it to NAL for a hefty profit. Additionally, RIDES has ‘leased” two transit buses from Edgar County which the county is not receiving just compensation for.

“Never let us be guilty of sacrificing any portion of truth on the altar of peace.” ~ J. C. Ryle

RIDES-MTD (WinCE)




IDOT’s Bureau Chief of Transit Operations Giving Questionable Advice –

PARIS, IL. (ECWd) –

This article is simply another in the long line of problems created when the Edgar County Board refuses to follow the law, even when that law and their proposed actions are pointed out to them well in advance of any decision they make.

East Central Illinois Mass Transit District, you might remember them as the now-defunct, transit district headed up by an appointed board who rubber-stamped everything put in front of them, leading to criminal investigations of their director’s theft of funds. Charges have yet to be filed, but don’t hold your breath waiting.

We have been watching and writing about this issue for over 2 1/2 years and still cannot understand how this is allowed to continue.

Back on May 7, 2013, after discussions of the pending sale of public property owned by ECIMTD, I sent this letter showing them [ECIMTD] what they were about to do was in violation of state law, the Local Mass Transit District Act, which tells them the process to use when selling property or real estate. They went ahead with the sale anyway and shafted Edgar County residents in the process.

In June of 2013, the now-disgraced and former board chair Chris Patrick had Kirk Allen ejected from the county board meeting just prior to him exposing the unlawful dealings of the transit district, and at the same meeting where a crucial vote was to take place to dissolve the district (here).

June 22, 2013 we published an article explaining there was trouble on the horizon due to the way the district was “dissolved” and “annexed” into RIDES-MTD, a southern Illinois transit district.

Please keep in mind that the Edgar County Board could have replaced the ECIMTD board members at any time, but chose to let it crumble.

Later, the ECIMTD sold the rest of its property at auction to the highest bidder, paid all of its bills and outstanding debt, and was left with money in the bank. Nice, right? Not so fast!

Of those remaining funds according to the Local Mass Transit District Act, ECIMTD was required to deliver all funds remaining to the county or counties, on a pro-rata basis, for them to do as they please with the funds. This wasn’t how RIDES-MTD, our State’s Attorney and county board (at the time), or the Clark County Board thought it would go because there was “an agreement” between the former transit district and RIDES for RIDES to receive the monies. A check was written that was intended by RIDES to be a pass-through to RIDES. It violated the law, we exposed and proved it, and the Edgar County Board decided to keep the monies [$150,000+) that rightfully belonged to Edgar County.

There has been a back-and-forth disagreement since then, and Clark County has not received their funds yet.

In steps IDOT’s Bureau Chief of Transit Operations, Mr. John Marrella. He writes a letter purporting to say the left over monies go to RIDES-MTD, but he doesn’t actually say it, he hints at it with language designed to support the position of RIDES.

The problem is, it is our opinion that the advice violates state law, particularly the Local Mass Transit District Act which mandates all remaining funds be divided between Clark and Edgar Counties, for use by their county boards. With the dissolution of ECIMTD, the “project” was also dissolved when IDOT stated all the accounts with them were settled and closed.

Upon reading the letter, I fired off an email to the media relations department of IDOT with a list of questions and a FOIA request for the grant audits listed in the letter.

No response to my questions, and a denial of my FOIA request stating the audits were “internal audits” and not subject to release. The problem it that they already released them to an entity outside of IDOT, making them public records since IDOT cannot grant any person of entity exclusive access or dissemination rights to IDOT records.

Now we have a letter essentially telling the county to violate state law, and a refusal to provide the records quoted within the advice to violate state law.

This is why laws must be followed. I expect this to continue for several more years, and may even involve a lawsuit, but Edgar County will win in the end. This could have been avoided had the Edgar County Board done the right and lawful things back in 2013, but it was more fun to violate the law…you know, because they have always done things this way…

JohnMarrella

IDOT’s Bureau Chief of Transit Operations, John Marrella

 

 




Alan Zuber and Bushue Human Resources Contribute to Violating County Board Bidding Requirements –

Edgar Co., IL. (ECWd) –

It wasn’t much more than a year ago when the Edgar County Board, finally, after significant prodding, realized there was a legal requirement to place its insurance contracts out for bid. This requirement is codified in state law.

At least three times this year, I asked Alan Zuber, the Edgar County Board Insurance Committee Chairman, if they were going to place the insurance out for bid.

We learned the answer at the November 25, 2015 County Board Meeting. They approved contracts for property, casualty, liability, and workman’s comp insurance without placing them out for bid.

After learning about this insurance approval I submitted a request for public records asking for proof of advertising for insurance bids. The answer, was that the insurance was not put out for bid, and the reasons were based on information proved to Mr. Zuber by Bushue Human Resources.

So, parting from what was established just the prior year or so, as an acknowledgement that bidding out insurance was required, Mr. Zuber apparently goes out of his way to find something, anything, that he can use to avoid bidding the insurance. He writes an email to Bushue Human Resources asking them if it had to be bid out, and then takes what they respond with as if it proved bidding was not required.

Bushue was more than happy to provide the information, with the statement that they are not attorneys and the board should consult with the State’s Attorney on the issue, and that they could certainly bid it out annually if that is what the board wished – while explaining how much time and work it would take. Additionally, and Bushue didn’t mention this, the contract with Bushue has to be bid out if it exceeds $30k per year.

Zuber and the insurance committee now had documents that seemed to support their stance that it doesn’t need bid out, or at least they would use them that way. The first one is even a statute that explains the exception to bidding…the only problem is the statute provided was the Illinois Municipal Code, which does not apply to a county and does not contain the same language as the Counties Code. I stopped reading it after reading the title, “Illinois Municipal Code”. Didn’t take me long to figure out it did not apply to Edgar County.

Next was a “Legal Brief” explaining bidding requirements. I stopped reading it after the second paragraph because it was dealing strictly with municipalities – not counties. If you open the documents, and read the highlighted parts on pages 1 and 4, you can clearly see the legal brief actually states that counties must bid out contracts over $30k. The Insurance Committee probably “didn’t see” that part…

Finally, Bushue provided Zuber with a “Ten (10) Guidelines to Municipal Contracts” document for him to use. He should have simply deleted the document, because the title itself tells him it does not apply to counties. Read it if you like, but it is worthless for this subject as it does not apply.

I sent Mr. Zuber an email asking him to fire Bushue Human Resources for the bad advice they gave him. It would have been much better if they had provided nothing at all, because what they did provide does not apply to counties. It is a shame that our tax dollars paid for this advice.  You would think a company in the business of assisting public bodies obtain insurance could at least provide sound, applicable justification for questions like: “Do counties have to advertise for insurance bids?” The answer is YES!

The Illinois Bar Association website has this Attorney General Opinion:

Informal Opinion No. I-12-006, issued June 14, 2012 – Application of County Competitive Bidding Requirements to the Purchase of Health Care and Liability Insurance

Section 5 1022 of the Counties Code generally requires that all purchases of services, materials, equipment, or supplies in excess of $30,000, other than professional services, must be by a contract let to the lowest, responsible bidder after advertising for bids in a newspaper published within the county. Whether the professional services exception to section 5 1022 applies is determined on the basis of whether the services require a high degree of professional skill or judgment or there is a need for confidence, trust, and belief in the person rendering the services. Neither contracts for insurance coverage nor contracts for insurance broker or agent services involve the provision of services requiring a high degree of professional skill or judgment, nor is there a need for confidence, trust, or belief in the person rendering the services. Accordingly, the competitive bidding requirements of section 5 1022 of the Counties Code apply to securing and renewing health care or liability insurance coverage and the use of designated agents to secure or renew the insurance coverage. 55 ILCS 5/5 1022 (West 2010).

The Counties Code requires bidding in Section 5-1022, I am not pasting all the ways to competitively bid it for counties, but I will say that waiving the requirements with a 3/4 vote is not listed in the counties code:

Sec. 5-1022. Competitive bids.
    (a) Any purchase by a county with fewer than 2,000,000 inhabitants of services, materials, equipment or supplies in excess of $30,000, other than professional services, shall be contracted for in one of the following ways:

The problem now, is what to do about it. We know that Mr. Zuber knows it has to be bid out, and that for whatever reason he, and the board, simply decided to find a way not to bid it, and failed. You cannot have been an educator and principal as a career and not know what the counties code means when reading it – especially when you were on the insurance committee the last time it was ironed out.

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Karl Farnham Makes Things Up – Prairie Press Prints It –

Edgar Co., IL. (ECWd) –

Karl Farnham came up with some pretty good excuses, the problem is they are not true.

Well, one thing was true, that a lawsuit would have been filed if Sheriff Wood would have been reappointed to the ETSB board.

Other than that, everything else is false. Farnham was quoted as saying “the vast majority of county residents” feel the sheriff was a good asset to the ETS Board – which we know to be false, since it cannot be proven to be how the “vast majority” felt about it when Farnham made the statement. He obviously doesn’t care about a unanimous vote of the county board saying they are not authorized health insurance – but he now makes a false claim about how the “vast majority” of county residents feel about the ETSB members?

We have submitted a request for records to support the statement about how a “vast majority” of the county residents feel – but we already know there is no such proof to be had.

“The AG Opinion was non-binding” – wow. What a fool he is for that statement. It is well-known the AG opinion was written as a legal opinion, and that a binding opinion was never requested from the AG, which is duty bound to provide legal advice to the States Attorney when asked, which they did. Are we to believe Karl knows more than all the attorneys at the AG’s Office, since he then stated he believed there was no conflict with the Sheriff on the ETS Board?

He’s only voting on money controlled by his department, not personally” was the next quote by Farnham. Why did Farnham change the story line now? The last articles written quoted him and the 911 Coordinator saying something completely different about how the money was controlled.  The fact is, Farnham’s statement is one reason it makes it a conflict; the sheriff was voting on “money controlled by his department“…while serving on the board of another department (votes on the amount of compensation to provide to his other department)…meaning he could not give impartial faithful service to both, no matter how much he thinks he could.

Farnahm is one of the same board members that didn’t think disgraced former Chairman Chris Patrick selling concrete to the county was a conflict. We all know how that turned out for him.

Farnham is the same board member that when exposed for selling guns illegally during his time as Sheriff responded with “its past the statute of limitations”, which basically was an admission with no regard for the fact it was illegal, other than he can’t be held accountable for it now.

Well prior to the actual re-appointments to the 911 Board, Kirk Allen provided a simple solution to the Sheriff sitting on the 911 board being a conflict.  County Board Chairman Voigt was told they could still have the same input from the county sheriff even if he was not on the board. Sure, he wouldn’t be allowed to vote on things, but if what the ETSB honestly wants is input, they can have that without the sheriff being on the board and serving in a conflicted position as is clearly pointed out by the Attorney General.

Previous article from us on this subject Sep 21Sep 21Oct 29

Karl-Farnham (WinCE)




Edgar Co. Board Meetings – Hot Topic: Elected Official Health Insurance –

Edgar Co., IL. (ECWd) –

Published November 12, 2015 –

If you relied on local media to report the happenings in respect to county business, you would have missed a very important issue this month – health insurance for county elected officials.

Previously we have reported on board member Karl Farnham participating in the county employee health insurance program, in violation of every law covering the subject and more…, we reported on board members Mike Heltsley, Alan Zuber and Mark Isaf (State’s Attorney) taking payments for ‘opting out’ of the program, another violation of established law – We even reported on the board’s attempt at justifying their receipt of health insurance payments with the passage of a resolution purporting to adopting previous resolutions that do not exist, and how the board acted on this issue of self-serving, but fails to act on other issues.

What has been unreported, until now, is my filing a “Notice of Intended Application for Quo Warranto” (below) with the State’s Attorney, who should recuse himself since he is conflicted in this, and also filing with the Illinois Attorney General’s office, asking them to intervene and prosecute this receipt of compensation in excess of the Resolutions setting their compensation. I also asked that the AG file suit for recovery of all funds paid in excess of the salary setting resolutions.

This notice is a requirement prior to filing in Circuit Court. The Attorney General and State’s Attorney must be served with this notice, and be given the opportunity to either act, or decline to act, prior to a citizen filing the Application in Circuit Court.

So, after this Notice was sent, we have verbally been informed that no payments went to Isaf, Voigt, Bruner, Zuber, Heltsley, Patrick, or Griffin, who have all decided to declined to continue receiving “opt-out” payments and Medicare Reimbursement payments. This saved the county taxpayers around $5,740.00 just in this month alone. Thank you!

During the November 10th Edgar County Board Meeting, Karl Farnham refused to answer the question asked if he was still getting insurance paid thru the county.

The lone hold-outs (we understand these are still being paid) are Karl Farnham (County Board Member), Jeff Wood (County Sheriff), and Don Wiseman (County Treasurer), who are each receiving around $456.00 per month in excess of the compensation set by resolution. This equates to over $16,400.00 in the next year ($1,368.00/month). These are the three receiving the actual health insurance where Edgar County taxpayers foot part of the insurance bill each month.

It has been close to a month since the “Notice” was sent out, and they have 60 days to reply to me as to whether or not the SA or the AG will take action. If they decline, I will take the action in Circuit Court…just as I wrote on August 15, 2015 (here).

Study session from Monday, November 9, 2015:

.

Edgar County Board Meeting from November 10, 2015:

Notice of Intended Application for Quo Warranto filed October 15, 2015:

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