MARSHALL, IL. (ECWd) -
The following is a timeline of our work in Marshall, IL., some of our findings, and hopefully will dispel the rumors that a certain person talked us into looking at Marshall - and the rumor that we will go away if he is beat at this election. Far from it!
We never endorse any candidates, we simply publish what we find and try to make changes for the better of the citizens.
March 24, 2012 - I sent my first FOIA to the City of Marshall asking about a campaign donation the City of Marshall made. As you can see in the FOIA request, not only did I request the records, but it was apparent that someone in city hall had contacted the campaign that received the donation - otherwise they would not have asked for my contact information. (Read it here) The way I see it, if the city contacted the campaign because I requested information, what else were they trying to hide? Or was it simply an attempt at intimidating me into not asking for any more information...?
November 10, 2012 - Kirk Allen sent his first FOIA request to the City of Marshall asking for invoices from a Paris company. (Read it here)
After these initial FOIA requests, and there were more during this time period, we concentrated on Edgar County, Paris, and other places with the intent of returning to Marshall.
Last spring I was contacted by a female from Marshall that told me about some problems going on within city government. We finished up a project we were working on in Iroquois County and we decided it was time to look at Marshall again.
April 28, 2014 - I sent a FOIA request for all financial transactions between Jan 2013 and April 2014. There were many more that followed, including information about the city's agreement with the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency for us to use in our researching of Naperville, IL. .
During this process of looking at local governments, we typically start with their financial records, match them up with the meeting minutes, look at the elected official's statements of economic interest - which will tell us if they have any conflicts and also tells us what their home address is. We have started looking at utility bills also because late payments on those are a disqualification of office.
Sometime that summer, an Alderman referenced a discrepancy with paychecks and that there appeared to be unauthorized raises given out. I verified that using the meeting minutes, and even wrote a letter to the mayor, which he responded to and explained the pay raises were a "verbal agreement" with the former mayor (Read the letter here).
Sometime in May of 2014, the Mayor, along with an employee, decided to "investigate" and retaliate against the alderman that spotted the unauthorized pay raises. This is where the $27,000 legal bill comes in - pure retaliation. The attorney used minor things that happened 3 years prior to somehow try and come up with something to pin on the alderman that spoke out against the pay raises. If this was not the case, why wait 3 years to complain, and then only after you illegal pay raises were found out? Anyway, NOTHING was founded with any of the fake complaints against the alderman - although some minor policy changes were approved by the council.
Meanwhile, after looking at the alderman's statements of economic interests, I noticed that Bev Church's statement did not match up to a physical home address, so I started checking in to that. What I found was that she was issued a voter registration card for the address of her business. I then looked at her real estate tax information and quickly found out she had claimed a Senior Citizen Homestead Exemption for her actual residence, and it was not within the Marshall city limits - making her ineligible to remain in office. I wrote the Mayor a letter (Read letter here) asking him to save Mrs. Church and the city some embarrassment and ask her to resign immediately. He must have thought I was joking...because nothing happened. That was when I showed up to a city council meeting and publicly read the information I had compiled on Bev Church and asked her to resign immediately. She decided not to, and an Alderman with courage took the unprecedented step of filing a lawsuit to eject her from office.
After several months of embarrassment to the city, and learning that all the alderman and the mayor knew she did not live in the city, they continued to defend their violations of election law and municipal law. Bev Church finally resigned knowing she would lose in court and be ejected. The sad part, and it shows her character and the character of her husband, is that even her resignation did not acknowledge she did not live in the city - Quite the opposite! What a sad excuse for moral and ethical behavior.
Since this time, a new semester at EIU has started and my class schedule does not allow me to attend the city council meetings - but that changes at the end of this semester in early May. Afterwards, both Kirk and I will be at the Marshall City Council meetings discussing other items we have found, but in the meantime, I would like to publicly thank the person that initially talked to me about the city, and to also thank Alderman LeFever for having the moral and ethical courage to take a stand and right the wrong of a person acting as an alderman when she did not live in the city.
This leads me to the "No LeFever" signs that had been posted around town. It is quite obvious that Mike Church and Gary Strohm had lots of fun putting those signs in place - and that Rob Denny did not speak out against the embarrassment those signs brought to the city. Denny even publicly stated that he basically had no problem with the illegal pay raises and the lawsuit to oust the usurper of office was unnecessary. Those statement alone should show everyone that he has no intention of being nothing but a yes man for whatever the rest of the council wants, and it will be at the detriment to the residents of Marshall. How can anyone condone such offensive violations of the law and claim to be responsible?
Finally, I urge everyone reading this to take what is published in the Marshall Advocate with a grain of salt. Strohm has refused to print anything opposing Denny - which shows where his ethics are... and he is actively campaigning for Denny and against LeFever - which almost all respectable printed newspapers refuse to get involved in.