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March 4, 2024

U-46 School District – Batter Up!

By Kirk Allen & John Kraft

On September 19, 2015

Kane Co. (ECWd)
Over the years the pattern has become evident with public bodies and misapplication of taxpayer funds, especially school districts.  The first indicator that they know they are violating the law in this regard is typically exposed with their response to the first Freedom of Information request we file or the first meeting we attend.
In the case of U-46 School District, the second largest school district in the state next to Chicago Public Schools, the pattern has been consistent with every other school we have looked at.
When I asked for credit card statements from the school district, I was told they don’t have any.

  • “b) Request number 4, which asks for a “copy of all credit card statement for the last 12 months” does not exist. For the last 2 years, the District has utilized purchasing cards in lieu of credit cards. In the event that you are seeking statements for purchasing cards, please submit the appropriate request to me.”

The truth of the matter is they do have credit cards, but they just call them something different, and instead of providing what was asked for a second request had to be made.  Is that so they can complain about all the FOIA requests they are getting?
What was provided is in fact a credit card statement from Chase bank.  These cards are provided to certain personnel and many have used them for personal purchases in the form of credit for said purchases.
One particularly interesting statement was for South Elgin High School Principal James Edwards.  His statement for June of 2014 reflected numerous payments that raise questions as it relates to our State Constitution, Article VIII Section 1a and b.  (Click here for this particular statement page)

    (a) Public funds, property or credit shall be used only
    for public purposes.
    (b) The State, units of local government and school
    districts shall incur obligations for payment or make
    payments from public funds only as authorized by law or ordinance.

Is there a single U-46 Board member that can tell the public what public purpose Mr. Edwards $44.00 haircut has, or his attendance at an Oakland A’s baseball game, or his Starbucks purchases?  If you cannot, your Principal, an executive leader tasked with ensuring our children are educated, has broken the law and sent a message of “non-compliance is OK” to every student under his watch.
I asked if these purchases had been approved by the board and they confirmed no minutes reflect approval.  That means section 1b of Article VIII has also been violated because they did in fact make payments from public funds for those purchases, however, they were not authorized by law or ordinance.
For those that are not familiar with the legal ramifications of these particular violations, it falls under Official Misconduct and actually could be prosecuted as a felony.
After our FOIA it appears we raised some eyebrows within the District.  “U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said the FOIA request “brought to light some deficiencies in our internal processes” and there were “not huge discrepancies, but certainly discrepancies we must address”, as published by the Examiner.

Not huge discrepancies?

Let’s start with the Principal, who is suppose to be setting the example for the students.  It has been confirmed that “The use of the card for a haircut or baseball tickets is inappropriate and these expenditures have been reimbursed”, according to Mary Fergus, director of School and Community Relations as quoted from the Examiner Publication.
If it is inappropriate, is there now a level of inappropriate in the eyes of CEO Tony Sanders?  A top administrator (Edwards), who clearly knows better, has used public funds for his personal expenditures and that is illegal.  If he doesn’t know better then he should not be a principal at a school.

“these expenditures have been reimbursed”

Really?  The reimbursement report we were provided for Mr. Edwards shows he paid the school back $252.00, which doesn’t take long to see doesn’t quite match key numbers on the credit card statement.  The fact funds were paid back is a confirmation that public credit was used for personal expenses, which constitutes a crime. (Click here for reimbursement record provided)

In the case of People v. Howard, a mayor was convicted on three counts of official misconduct for using the city’s credit card for personal reasons—despite the fact that he paid those credit card bills with his own assets when they became due. His conviction was upheld by the Illinois Supreme Court.

Not only has the principal of the school violated the public trust with his spending, those in charge of fixing this matter and holding people accountable still don’t get it.

“In the past month, we’ve updated them and then we’ve re-written the process of what is allowable and what is not,” said Jeff King, Chief Operations officer – “King said the new guidelines and training will be given to P-Card holders in the next few weeks” –  quoted from the Examiner

So the “Chief Operations Officer” tells the public we’ve re-written the process of what is allowable and what is not and new guidelines and training will be given.  What good does that do when this very person has also admitted to using the cards for personal purchases with a claim each time he did it, it was in error?  (Kings spending claims covered in the documents found in this article)

Does anyone believe that the COO of the School simply keeps making errors by using the school card for his personal purchases?  The very person claiming there will be training provided, supposedly to fix these illegal acts, is the very person who is suppose to know not to do it yet he does it several times.

About now we have the minority group who will attack us claiming these “mistakes” are not crimes and we are blowing it out of proportion.

U-46’s own policy outlines that abuse of these cards, which personal purchases is in fact abuse, may result in termination and/or criminal action.

“Fraudulent use or abuse of the card will result in immediate revocation of the card and may result in termination and or criminal action and District U-46 will seek restitution for any inappropriate charges.”

The same policy outlines if a P-Card is used for personal purposes the P-Card Administrator is required to suspend or terminate the P-Card.  So clearly the Fox is in control of the Hen House because we have two top executives of the school violating the public trust as it relates to their tax dollars, and it took a southern Illinois watchdog group to expose the illegal acts.  In short, those who are suppose to be protecting our tax dollars are in fact the very ones abusing them.

It’s amazing to most parents to see how “Zero Tolerance” programs have been implemented against students, yet the policy for the adults in charge is minimized and disregarded.   Maybe it is time for the School Board to implement a Zero Tolerance policy on use of public funds for personal purchases?

What other inappropriate spending can the good people of this district point out in the 805 page credit card statements below?

One reader pointed out in this previous article there was over $800 spent at a bar, the Cadillac Ranch.  (Look at page 34 in the document at the bottom of that article)

As you review over 800 pages of credit card charges you will find a large number of them in which receipts should be asked for and said purchases should be confirmed as truly a public purpose. A brief list is provided as an example, but by no means is inclusive of all suspicions spending.

  • Hooters-Jerry Cook – (page 55)
  • Holiday Inn – In Puerto Rico (page 140)
  • STONE EAGLE TAVERN (page 441)
  • Panara Bread
  • Jewel
  • Apple Villa Pancake House
  • Breadsmith
  • Apple Itunes
  • IKEA
  • Villa Olivia
  • I-Pass
  • Jimmy Johns
  • Old Town Pizza
  • Gas & Wash
  • Shell Oil

I think by now you get the point.  This is just a brief review that points to items that should be looked into further and we suspect, considering what we have already proven, many of these expenditures have no public purpose and were in fact personal expenditures with public credit.  The reason we are confident many of these expenditures are improper is because many of these “face feeding” expenditures appear to be for one person based on the total spent.
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  • Susan Newberg
    Posted at 13:42h, 19 September

    Just spent an hour scanning through the P-Card charges. I don’t understand all the travel being charged to the public. With today’s technology video conferencing is available and should be used. Most of this travel is during the summer months and I question what is for education and what is personal. I also question what looks to be charges for t-shirts and pants. Are these uniforms that are being purchased for a public school? So very many questions about these charges. I may submit my own FOIA and request the appropriate minutes approving these expenditures. There are many questions associated with this type of free spending. Makes me very curious about my own school district and possible use of a credit card or P-card.

  • Mike Rekart
    Posted at 16:32h, 19 September

    Love your work fellas, great example of what every citizen should be doing already!!!

  • Steve Rakers
    Posted at 17:36h, 19 September

    Yeah- it figures they abuse the taxpayer and then smile at us as we ask questions.