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October 5, 2022

Timeline of our work in Marshall, IL. – Starting in 2012 –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On April 4, 2015

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.

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6 Comments
  • Warren J. Le Fever
    Posted at 18:11h, 04 April

    In actual fact, I saw Gary Strohm going door to door with Denny flyers actively campaigning against me. Even one of Gary’s part time employees had a bundle of flyers walking down Archer Avenue. His obsessive concept is that he is something big and if he gets me defeated the Watchdogs will leave Marshall and never come back. Wrong.
    Gary Strohm threatened me with his newspaper editorial writing a few days ago. I promptly informed several Marshall elected officials and others of his threats including John Kraft and Kirk Allen. On a level writing situation, he has never been my equal unless, of course, he could edit what I wrote and he did a lot of that when I wrote articles for public information for free and I didn’t mind. It’s when he wouldn’t let me properly inform the public on some serious issues that he had problems. Also he doesn’t entirely own his newspaper and although I don’t know how much Ron Stone owns, there are other factors to consider. When the editorial came out, I wrote this answer to it (I didn’t know about Kraft early FOIA’s):
    Anonymous Editorial: We want a SILENT Yes-Man

    The editorial written By Publisher Gary Strohm that appeared in the Advocate April 3, 2015 is a good example of allegations and distorted explanations and total forgetfulness of the past. To start with, there’s a glaring flaw in the second sentence: “As residents of Marshall, we have the opportunity to elect eight aldermen which we hope will operate the city efficiently and fairly.” NO, WE DON’T. Only four alderman seats are up for election this election. If the writer is so dumb that he can’t figure out how many seats are up for election in Marshall this election, you can figure the rest of the editorial is just as screwed up and it is.
    It’s most notable characteristic is that the name of single alderman isn’t mentioned. Gary fails to remember that many of the things this unnamed alderman did Gary Strohm himself was in favor of doing and so was the rest of the community. This alderman did NOT take anything (especially money) that wasn’t his nor did he support anyone who did. More importantly are the extremely few times he voted against agenda items by himself. Other aldermen voted with him either for or against items. He was not a loner on his voting.
    As for those costly controversies Gary mentions, let’s start with “Just in the past year, this included an investigation in which 11 member of the city’s 38-member staff expressed concern that they had been bullied intimidated and bullied by this councilman“. I have a copy of that report. The report lists no names of any city employees who supposedly gave all this information nor can it be exactly determined who said what. Mr. Strohm must have information other aldermen don’t have. The claims ARE NOT SUFFICIENT to file a lawsuit and collect, cause an arrest, nor any other disciplinary action against the alderman and the unnamed alderman was advised by his attorney do nothing about a cease and desist letter (which he did). While we are at it Mr. Strohm, exactly who are these 11 “employees”? How about a list of names? Since you seem to know who they are, please tell us…
    It’s very obvious now, from information just received yesterday, that what the unnamed alderman believed before was incorrect and that investigation was intentional retaliation for finding wrongdoing and WORSE YET, NOT AGREEING TO COVER IT UP. The unnamed alderman was told that the unnamed alderman was responsible for bringing in the Watchdogs (Illinois Leaks) to look into matters involving Marshall City matters and the unnamed alderman and others supposed that was the investigation trigger. It turns out, that is a total lie. Illinois Leaks FINALLY released the first FOIA filing they ever did. Turns out they started back in November 2012. Seems our city employees and other officials never said anything about it and so for 18 (that’s right, EIGHTEEN) months they had quietly been asking questions off and on. Then the retaliation against that unnamed alderman began and their appearance became public. How very interesting….
    It’s now even more obvious that the reason for the investigation was to discredit the alderman for election purposes.
    Then there’s this: “a lawsuit filed against a fellow member of the council which led to her resignation”. Let us remember that the unnamed alderman would not have filed a lawsuit that bagged the fellow alderman if others (specifically elected officials both city and county) had done their job properly to begin with because she would NEVER been on the council and would NEVER been on the ballot to be elected to start with. They closed their eyes and allowed a failure to qualify be elected. The result was improper use of public funds.
    Now here’s the total hypocrisy of Mr. Strohm: had the roles reversed and the alderman who resigned was totally legal found the unnamed alderman to be living outside the city, Mr. Strohm would write an editorial praising the now bagged alderman for getting rid of the unnamed alderman. The difference is that the bagged alderman voted to condone wrongdoing. She was a yes-man or yes something or other….
    The lawsuit about the copies has to do with the right to audit and the attorney who advised the unnamed alderman and did the lawsuit did not succeed. That happens. The rest of the editorial is blather. In fact, it all is…. (end of rebuttal)

    The total effect of the nasty attacks and hideous red circle slash signs shows a distasteful image of Marshall, Illinois and unfortunately but true, we are going to find out with the election results if this is the true character of the town. Black on red on white are the colors of bullies and in this case, the colors of cowards. Unfortunately, I have talked to enough people who are so offended by the appearance of hate that they will not vote because they don’t wish to be involved in any way. These are elderly people, mostly women. I cannot predict the outcome because of the emotions of voters in a small area. However, if Mr. Denny wins, aggressive attacks and ugly signs will rule future local elections. Mr. Denny and Mr. Strohm and cohorts cannot say “We did it but now you can’t.” And of all things, tomorrow is Easter Sunday. God help us all.

  • Cathy Macke
    Posted at 19:10h, 04 April

    Thank you for this timeline and clarification for citizens of Marshall. I wish this information could be published in the Advocate, but the gatekeeper will never let that happen. If every voter could read this, it would dispel rumors and speculation that the Watch dogs bankrupt cities, just showed up uninvited, or are being funded by council members. It is my belief that if people operate according to law and policy…they don’t have to rely on mistruths, half truths and double talk to defend their actions. I am on the council. There was no verbal agreement. There was a half sheet of paper with some figures on it, that were presented as back up for the raise. Still doesn’t explain that nothing was presented to council prior to raise. Council is supposed to vote to approve all raises, and did NOT. When the increase was discovered, the Mayor, the illegal alder woman and 2 council members had illegally closed meetings to trump up a way to cover up and get enough council members to condone dishonesty. In fact, several of us asked to come to the committee meeting and we’re point blank told “no”. This is also illegal and thus the reason for the court case. Some of the city staff were allowed to attend as they were “invited”. The back door dealings worked because when the council met the next time…4 voted for the approval…Church, Wallace, Strait and Sanders. Four of us voted against…Lefever, Raisner, McKittrick and Macke. Without hesitation the Mayor sided with the guilty party and the raise stood. In a meeting at the IML, a speaker made a point to say if 50% of a council voted “no”, a mayor should do the same until more information is available or something changes. There is a potential for problem whenever there is such inbreeding and nepotism in an organization. Family members should not be seated on the same council, council should not have family members as city employees, the big dollars involved in the city utilities make it ripe for misappropriation . I am glad you looked into other financial misdial ins and can assure you that city cell phone bills had much personal time on them and international charges while on personal vacations. When I questioned, I was told “we are dedicated employees”. REALLY???? Keep looking, keep digging, keep making the connections.

  • Warren J. Le Fever
    Posted at 12:53h, 05 April

    This timeline is quite surprising considering that I never knew nor did several aldermen know that the Watchdogs had already contacted Marshall City Hall months and months earlier than we believed or were told. We had to learn it JUST NOW from the Watchdogs because no one at City Hall EVER said anything which makes it even MORE interesting. Hmmm… No telling what else is wrong. Since the Watchdogs openly say it wasn’t me and I know it wasn’t Cathy Macke nor Cheryl Raisner and Jim McKittrick is a male, I wonder who will blamed next for sending the Watchdogs checking on Marshall?

    • jmkraft
      Posted at 14:42h, 05 April

      Why would they tell any Aldermen they violated the election code by making a donation with taxpayer funds to a candidate for pubic office? – In this case, the candidate reimbursed the city, but it makes a person wonder what else taxpayer funds are being spent on.

  • nfoic
    Posted at 12:58h, 06 April

    The life (timeline) of a local #FOIA request from Illinois. via @ECWDogs http://t.co/DgvL08cvcl

  • baielala
    Posted at 20:47h, 06 April

    #opengov #transparency RT @nfoic: The life (timeline) of a local #FOIA request from Illinois. via @ECWDogs http://t.co/mbup5tNDKW

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