CLARK CO., IL. (ECWd) –
The special meeting was held on July 16 and the regularly scheduled meeting of the Clark County Park District was held on July 17, 2014. This article will cover both meetings.
Chairman admonished an unknown Commissioner for talking to news media and asked all of them to refer to their policy on who can talk to news media. He started reading the district policy and refererenced to talking “on behalf of the board”, but later seemed to be addressing talking to news media in any capacity, even as an individual. Does Freedom of Speech mean anything anymore?
Chairman talked about my letter (HERE) in reference to Kate Yargus remaining on as FOIA Officer for the District. I clarified that their resolution stated “corporate attorney” as FOIA officer when she was no longer the Corporate Attorney. I further reviewed the FOIA statute after the meeting and am inclined to believe a FOIA Officer MUST be an Officer or Employee of the public body, possibly eliminating a contracted attorney as FOIA officer. I sent this letter to the chairman in reference to that subject (CLICK HERE).
Chairman talked about the proposed lot leasing and said they are getting conflicting advice. They are further researching the issue however the Illinois Association of Park Districts had outlined that such a lease would be in violation of the original founding documents for the park. The key being, “public recreation”. Leasing lots for private use is hardly public recreation.
During public comment, Gary Strohm asked about removing the “non-potable” water signs in various places considering the Park was now on public water instead of well water.
Kirk Allen talked about the failure of the board to provide their director with a written evaluation according to their own policy, this policy also included what they should do if they do not want to continue the employment of the director for the next year. He also stated that the Conflict of Interest verified by the board at a previous meeting in reference to Ron Stone was a conflict that could not be overcome by a refusal to vote or an abstention. He “may be called to act or vote” and is covered under “Prosser v. Fox Lake”. The Park District Code specifically states that the Public Officer Prohibited Activities Act applies to the Park District Commissioners. That act details what is considered a “Prohibited Act” or a Conflict of Interest by a public official. It is one that can only be cured by removal of the conflicting invoice, or removing the conflicting public official from office. The invoice in question here is from the Marshall Advocate, and Commissioner Ron Stone has stated he is a part owner of the business.
Just as you cannot be interested in any contracts directly or indirectly, in invoices similar to the Marshall Advocate invoice, the same goes for the contract to “barter” for the junk van.
John Kraft continued during public comment session and stated that Commissioner Larry Yargus had “bartered” his junk van with the District and received a $2000 credit on dock fees (see this article). He stated a commissioner cannot sell items to the district, no matter how good of a deal it may be. Kraft contends this is a violation of the same statute Stone has violated and he requested Yargus to resign his position on the board.
“Status of Director Position” was moved ahead of executive session and eventually tabled.
The board entered executive session to discuss personnel and pending litigation. On their return to open session, Kraft asked the Chairman if he was planning on using the agenda item labeled “Pursuit of Attorney” to hire an attorney. He replied they were going to talk about it. Less than two minutes later they used that agenda item to hire an attorney.
Agenda items are there to inform citizens about what will be discussed or voted on at a public meeting. An agenda item of “Pursuit of Attorney” does not inform the average person they are hiring an attorney – only that they are pursuing an attorney to possibly hire at a later date. An agenda item of “Hire an Attorney” would have been a much better choice, and I have written a letter (here) to the Chairman asking that this be properly put on a future agenda, and votes taken again to hire an attorney.
There was also a report from the Chairman of a grievance recently filed.
In response to the Marshall Advocate’s most recent article on the special meeting:
–We did not attempt to influence the board’s opinion on the status of Ms. Romero’s employment. Mr. Strohm is assuming this was done to influence a vote, what he doesn’t realize is asking for resignations was a result of our research findings. Research that exposed clear violations of the law!
–Commissioner Yargus did not “give” his van to the District as reported. He sold or bartered it. The least Strohm could do is acknowledge that Yargus was in fact selling the van, not giving it – especially since he voted on the issue when he was a commissioner.
–Allen did not mention a conflict with Stone owning the building the Advocate operates out of. Where Strohm came up with that one is anyone’s guess. What he was referring to was the statement from the board that indicated Stone had a conflict of interest with the Marshall Advocate invoice. Mr. Strohm, the least you could do would be to be honest and report that Ron Stone is a stockholder in the Marshall Advocate (CLICK HERE FOR PROOF), not that he merely owns the building you work out of . That is why there is a conflict. There is a difference!
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