ATLANTA, IL. (ECWd) -
Bottom line? The Secretary of State declined to make the Library repay the Live and Learn Grant, but it did acknowledge everything we wrote about the grant application and the process surrounding its receipt. Additionally, the Atlanta Public Library District taxpayers saved $200,000 during this process, and we believe the savings were a direct result of complaints sent to the Secretary of State.
Several months after we met with the Illinois Secretary of State's General Counsel to lodge a complaint about the Atlanta Public Library District's alleged misuse of a State Library Grant, and an allegation of fraudulent grant application(s), the SOS issued a letter to the Library demanding repayment of "Live and Learn" grant funds (here). WAND's Doug Wolfe produced a story on the Library (here).
The Atlanta Public Library District appealed the demand for repayment, and a Hearing was held in Springfield, Illinois (here) - we attended that Hearing and broadcast it live for those who could not attend. During that Hearing, [former] Library District Trustee Bill Thomas stated under Oath that he never wrote any checks to himself, but we provided copies of checks he did write to himself (here).
After a lengthy review of the Hearing testimony and several additional Motions from the Library District, the Secretary of State's Hearing Officer and its General Counsel have issued an Order stating the following:
- William Thomas' financial interest in the building during the term of the grant constituted a breach of the terms of the grant application
- The breach on the part of the Board of Directors was not a material breach to the intent or purpose of the contract
- Even though the grant application required Deed of Ownership or Long Term Occupancy, the terms of the actual grant did not state that requirement
- Thomas should not have allowed himself to be placed into a position where questions could be raised regarding his influence on the Board's deliberations
- Without more evidence, the Hearing Officer could not find that Thomas violated the Public Officer Prohibited Activities Act
- The Library should not have to return the funds previously granted by the SOS
- The decision is appealable according to the Administrative Review Act
The Hearing Officer did not mention Bill Thomas lying under Oath about never writing any checks to himself, and never mentioned that no payments were ever received after the first "lease."
It appears substantial weight was given to the "gifting" of the building to the Library, which in our opinion was only for the purpose of staying out of trouble.
This Hearing was strictly about the Live and Learn Grant and not about the other issues we have written about.
Read the Order below or download it (here):