Fosterburg, IL. (ECWd) -
While we deeply sympathize with families and friends of loved ones who have died, there is absolutely no excuse for using public funds to pay for funeral dinner food. If there was a need, the board members should have reached into their own pockets and spent their own money.
Why would someone want to risk casting a cloud of contempt during times like this? It ruins whatever good memories people may have had, and for what? A few dollars?
Fosterburg Water District purchased $114.04 worth of food for Trustee Richard Johnson's son's funeral (click here). The food was purchased on November 3, 2016.
Board members Fredrick Aljets, Richard Johnson, Steve Ruppert, Robert Kercher, Eugene Feldman, Fred Bort and Steve Strohbeck voted to approve this, among other payments.
When asked for the legislative authority (that we know does not exist) used to purchase the funeral food, the District responded that it was "General corporate authority on how to conduct affairs of the district, per 70 ILCS 3705 / 5" - that language is not found in the Act.
Section 5, of the Public Water District Act, reads, in its entirety:
(70 ILCS 3705/5)
(from Ch. 111 2/3, par. 192)
The trustees appointed in pursuance of the foregoing provisions of this Act shall constitute a board of trustees for the district for which they are appointed. Such board of trustees is hereby declared to be the corporate authority of such district and shall exercise all the powers, manage and control all the affairs and properties of such district, and shall have power to adopt a corporate seal for such district.
Such board of trustees shall within twenty days after their appointment and at the first meeting in May of each year thereafter elect one of their number as Chairman, one of their number as Vice Chairman, and shall elect a Secretary and a Treasurer, neither of which shall be members of the board of trustees. They shall each perform such duties and shall receive such salaries as shall be prescribed by the board, and shall be required to furnish bonds in such sum as may be fixed by the board of trustees for the use and benefit of the district.
(Source: Laws 1945, p. 1187.)
Nope. Nothing in there about using public funds to purchase food for funerals, let alone funerals of children of board members.
Nothing in there about using public funds for alcohol-fueled out-of-state parties either.
The Constitution of the State of Illinois is the supreme law of this state, and Article VIII, Section 1 of the Constitution clearly states that "public funds, property or credit shall be used only for public purposes" - People v. Howard - and that "every citizen is bound to obey it and every court is bound to enforce its provisions."
There was absolutely no public purpose for the use of public funds to purchase this food. This action disrespects the district residents and shows how completely out of control these board members are.
If this is how this PUBLIC water district thinks they can spend public funds, each one of them in office at the time need to immediately tender their resignations. This is criminal behavior and we believe they know it. They appear to be treating it as their own little private company, with no rules on how funds are spent. There are rules, and those rules demand to be followed.
The author if this article reached out to the Fosterburg Water District's attorney, Mr. Kenneth Balsters of Bethalto, Illinois, who declined to comment when asked if the district asked for advice on spending public funds, or if he ever gave them advice on spending public funds.