MACOUPIN CO., IL. (ECWd) -
Update: We want to make it clear this allegation is from the 2014 election cycle and previous tax referendum, not the most recent one.
When people start talking, let them talk. Then you know what to look for.
Shortly after we started writing articles about the City of Carlinville and its regular and routine failure to provide public records requested under the Freedom of Information Act, a local Macoupin County former newspaper owner decided to try and attack what we were writing about, claimed it was some sort of collusion to influence the election of April 2017, and attack our writing in general without even so much as one question of why the city refused to produce public records.
We wondered why he was so vocal since nothing in the articles had anything to do with the upcoming election, and why he would insist we were doing something wrong - it was almost as if he had experience doing what he was wrongly accusing us of doing. He ended up writing a letter to the Illinois Attorney General with child-like complaints and outright lies about our use of the FOIA. He also allegedly sent the same letter to the Illinois State Board of Elections. He is free to do both, we have heard absolutely nothing from either of those agencies and presume they were summarily discarded as frivolous.
After hearing of his "settlement agreement" in reference to a revolving loan obtained from Macoupin County, I decided to FOIA all the records related to that loan and any other loan he obtained from them. What a surprise contained in the county's response!
The State's Attorney had written a demand for payment letter to Ambrose, and Ambrose responded with a letter of an offer to settle the $6000 debt for $3000. Contained within the letter was a short comment about work he did without pay for the county board because the board could not have legally paid him without violating the election code, and using that "free" work to support a reduction of the debt by $1000. Below is that actual text from the letter (emphasis ours):
"I would also like to point out that we produced without payment or compensation of any kind a series of ads for print media as well as a brochure when the county board unsuccessfully sought passage of a county sales tax increase. I was recruited for that work and was told at the time that the board could not legally pay me for the work because it would involve supporting a political position in the upcoming election. I suppose I was naïve in accepting those terms without questioning where the money was coming from to pay for the advertising space used for the ads. Since I was never paid for their work, I don't think it would be unfair to reduce the amount of the debt by $1,000."
So he admits to doing work for the county board even though they acknowledge it would be illegal for them to pay him anything because it would violate the law...we suggest that it violated the law to get involved even without payment. Then, when he gets in a financial bind, he tries to obtain that payment thru the forgiveness of a certain portion of the debt owed.
The County Board accepted his offer of settlement of the ~$6,000 debt for a $3,000 payment - thus, screwing the taxpayers out of $3,000. By doing that, we suggest the county was in fact paying him, by way of debt forgiveness, for the work in favor of a referendum that Ambrose said the county board acknowledges would be a violation of law and would be considered the board "supporting a political position" using public funds.
The State Officials and Employees Ethics Act prohibits this type of activity as does the Illinois Election Code. Both prohibit using public funds for electioneering purposes, and this clearly was electioneering purposes using public funds (albeit thru debt forgiveness).
Facts about the loan:
- This was not his first loan from the county and was not his first loan with late payments to the county.
- This loan was taken out in April of 2012, with Dave signing his name stating, among other things, that Connexus was an Illinois Corporation - it had actually been involuntarily dissolved by the Illinois Secretary of State's Office more than 3 years and 4 months prior to signing the note.
- According to the meeting minutes, the loan was settled for $3k at the September 2015 County Board Meeting (see page 5).
- According to the meeting agenda, it was not on the agenda and could never have legally been called for a vote - which calls into question whether it could have been legally settled by the board since it was not on the agenda.
The referendum in question was the failed referendum for sales tax which was on the ballot in 2014.
Dave Ambrose was asked for his comments and has not yet responded to our message. Update: Dave responded at 8:34 p.m. on Sat night, May 13th. His response indicated we should contact the county board and ask if they used his free work as part the justification for settlement of the debt.