Edgar Co. (ECWd) -
The last several years have been a life changing experience for me as it relates to our work. An experience that has invigorated my love of country and a burning desire to fix what is terribly broken in this state. Our work has brought us into contact with a vast number of people and problems of which we get asked routinely, who are we and what do we do.
It is hard to put into words but we try, our work is not about us or our ability as much as it is about assuring others that their voice does matter and their actions, even if only one person, matter immensely! We know that when the citizen loses trust in their government we are doomed.
It is hard to describe, thus this article that shares the comment from a Marshal City Alderman we met several months ago. His words sums up pretty good who we are and what we do. They brought tears to my eyes! Thank you Mr. Le Fever for your kind words, your dedication to truth, and most of all, for realizing one person can make a difference, which you have!
A Special Holiday Thank-you
My answer to the Advocate article on the resignation discussed in this article is already posted below the article in the comment section of the December 17, Edgar County Watchdog article “Beverly Church resigned as Marshall Alderman.” It explains standing, and why it requires an alderman to remove another alderman in Clark County. This comment was prepared several days ago as a thank-you message to be put on my Facebook page. I never got to it. More people will see it here than ever will there. WJL
I am deeply in debt to two people I never met until just seven months ago. I saw the request for donations to their non-profit organization on the internet. I can only express my deep debt of gratitude at this time for the service they have provided for me and the citizens of Clark County and the City of Marshall. Because I am an elected official and elected officials may at any time be investigated by them because they do not play favorites, such money can become problematic. Since many untrue accusations have been hurled around about them being “paid mercenaries” and also because I have never given them any financial assistance of any kind NOR HAS IT BEEN ASKED, the only reasonable thing I can do at this time is to explain the good things they have done for us. While it is only my opinion, the facts are pretty good, too.
Kirk Allen and John Kraft, widely known as the Edgar County Watchdogs and Illinois Leaks, came into my life at a time when I was first being persecuted for not agreeing to accept and condone particularly important wrongdoing in Marshall City government. From the very beginning, I told the City Attorney that I will not condone wrongdoing even if it cost me the election. The persecution has continued up to this day. I had a local person come to my house and tell me at the very beginning that I should simply give up and quit because I don’t stand a chance. It may be true that I will be defeated in the upcoming election, but we’ll have to see.
The Watchdogs live by the same standards that I do when it comes to matters of good government. Many years ago it was my good fortune to be an informed “source” of a top investigative reporter of the Chicago Sun-Times investigating massive misuse and waste of state funds in a project that wouldn’t work. It was quite a learning experience. You start with two questions: who says and by what authority? You back up your answers with documentation. There are two kinds of government authority: the rule of law and the rule of lie. That simple difference is everything.
Do you know what you are talking about or is what you are saying hot air? Let’s do the research (that’s why they hate the Watchdogs and me) because the rule of law is facts not hot air. People lie to manipulate you to suit their own ends and desires which mostly come down to looting the public treasury one way or another. In City of Marshall, the lesson learned from the secret pay raise incident is that intertwining and convoluted family and business connections makes wrongdoing correction impossible and very unreasonable (because of retaliation) from the inside. Any effective corrective action requires outside assistance.
What Kraft and Allen do most is give people wanting to correct wrongdoing hope. I can tell you from experience that when you only have yourself, it is a very lonely feeling. When you have support of the level they give you, your feeling is entirely different. Their support gives a sense of hope that things can be turned around for the better. Their willingness and ability to stand up to bullying and other forms of negative behavior inspires others to have the backbone to do something about cleaning up the mess. They inspire people by properly informing them of government gone wrong and providing support information. They provide astonishingly good resource material for legal actions and common sense suggestions to help people who otherwise would never have known what to do (I am one of those). At least five new candidates in this consolidated election most likely would not have be running for office had it not been for the Watchdogs.
One of the big lies always put out is that “unpleasant incidents” caused by the Watchdogs and friends cause discourage good people from devoting their time and talent (?) serving on boards and other public bodies. Actually it’s just the opposite. Bad people run off the good when they want their way (translated: money for somebody) no matter what. When wrongdoing and improper management is compounded year after year, the size of the problem vastly increases. The best local example presently is Mill Creek. Had it not been for the actions of the Watchdogs, the Mill Creek park situation would have gotten worse. Instead, their involvement brought public awareness to a long term unsavory situation. A new group formed to change things. If the candidates of the new group get elected and the books get straightened up, it will be a remarkable unexpected accomplishment not considered possible (by me and a lot of other people) six months ago.
I have always believed in freedom of the press. All I want is equal say because facts win. Facts denied are the tool of the rule of lie. Probably the most important tool of assistance provided by the Watchdogs is the edgarcountywatchdogs.com site because of the difficulty getting the other side of the story in when local media prefers government gone wrong. The newspapers in Clark County are owned by one company and it takes sides so one side gets locked out and attacked. Before the Watchdogs were ever involved in looking at Marshall City matters, an article was written about the secret pay raise incident that contained a false and misleading statement that the publisher refused to allow me to correct even though I had the document to disprove it. Getting a letter to the editor in another out of town and county newspaper is not easy and out of town publication interest in Clark County matters is extremely limited. TV and radio is useful (you do what you can) but very limited because of message simplicity requirements.
To give you an idea of article distribution, the City of Marshall Web site gets about 50 hits a month, City of Marshall Facebook page gets around 3500 a month. The Marshall Advocate gets around 1850+ newspapers per issue circulated (I don’t know what the newspaper Facebook page gets). The edgarcountywatchdogs.com site gets over 85,000 hits per month. While distribution is widespread all over Illinois, enough people in Clark County check the site out to see what’s happening that I routinely meet people locally I never knew had any interest mention they saw it on the Watchdog site. The fact that some word gets around beats nothing at all.
Then there’s the lawyer problem. Unless you have been involved in government issues, you have no idea how big the problem is. Take cities, for instance: a city attorney serves his appointer the mayor. The mayor determines who the city attorney is and the city council has no say in the matter. The appointment vote is window dressing and determines nothing. Whatever opinions the city attorney gives serves the mayor before all others. If there is a difference of position between say, council members and the mayor, the mayor’s wishes come first. That’s the problem. If an alderman is not sure of the advice he is given, he has to get his own lawyer with his own money to determine whether the advice given by the city attorney is correct (if he has the time and the money).
The reality in essence is that the legal agenda is controlled by the mayor. A legal opinion depends on what the mayor wants it to be. It does not have to serve citizens, appointed, or elected officials; it serves the mayor. If the mayor has a political or personal reason to allow or disallow, the city attorney will do his bidding (it’s his paycheck). It is biased information not fair to all if it is controlled by the mayor. In closed sessions, the situation is even worse. A lawyer’s legal opinion can be total hogwash, but if the aldermen buy it (and there’s no other lawyer in the room with a different legal opinion), the mayor’s won. Those not in government wonder why things get into a mess…..
Although the Watchdogs are not lawyers and cannot legally advise, they come up with some phenomenal legal research for others to use and their tangles with lawyers are becoming legendary. No, they won’t always win (although they normally do) and the people they help who want better government won’t always win, but in the main they will and the longer they go the better they get and the credibility and integrity of the Watchdogs continues to grow and has already become widely recognized far beyond these two counties.
Here are some facts about the Bev Church matter before her resignation: Only one person from Ward 2 ever made public statements in support of her. The Mayor appointed him to replace her. At the court hearing on standing, not one person from Ward 2 was in attendance. Before May 28, 2014 had any Marshall alderman had the PTAX document that began her demise in his possession, he would not have known what to do with it. Bev Church’s seat was safe until the day the Watchdogs arrived.
Just to set the record straight, Mr. LeFever was not one of the people that contacted us to get involved in Marshall city government. Mr. Kraft was contacted by people concerned about certain things going on in their city that needed to be dealt with, and we decided to get involved. Simple as that.