Will Co. (ECWd) -
Joliet Township Clerk Beth Ann May has been instructed to stay away from the Road District and to avoid all contact with Road District Staff due to a workplace violence incident.
The Township employee handbook defines violence as follows:
“Violence" includes physically harming another, shoving, pushing, harassing, intimidating, coercing, brandishing weapons, and threatening or talking of engaging in those activities. It is the intent of this policy to ensure that everyone associated with this Township, including employees and customers, never feels threatened by any employee’s actions or conduct."
We were informed a letter was sent to the Clerk by the former Highway Commissioner regarding the incident so we requested a copy of the letter. We understood the allegation was the Clerk was screaming at a Road District employee and tried to intimidate them. I sent a request to the Township for a copy of the letter.
"A copy of all communications to Beth Ann May (Clerk) which she is informed under no circumstance is she to come to the Road District Office again."
The response asserts no such document exists.
"There was a verbal conversation between the Highway Commissioner and the Town Clerk. A review of the Clerk’s personnel file, emails, and closed session minutes contained no such document or reference. The Township Attorney confirmed that he has no such document"
My follow up.
"If Mr. Burkey was the attorney may I suggest you ask him again as the communication was faxed on 8/19/2015 by him in draft form to the Highway Commissioner. It was then put on letterhead and sent back to the attorney. I would also ask your clerk again as the highway Commissioner provided it to her as well. The communication being requested was dated August 18, 2015."
As can be noted in my follow up, we knew a whole lot more about the matter before ever sending our initial request and suspected there would be a claim of no record.
The coverup crumbling:
"Per your response, I did meet with our attorney on Monday, October 21, 2019, at 10 a.m. at which time we reviewed your response from October 18, 2019. Attorney Burkey stated, he does not have a copy of the communication, nor would he have kept a copy of a draft response he prepared at the request of the highway commissioner. A letter from Attorney Burkey is attached that was received today, October 22, 2019."
So what kind of legal counsel prepares letters for their client but does not keep a copy of his work? The attorney's letter can be read at this link. As outlined, he helped to prepare the letter.
"Dear Beth Ann May, Town Clerk,
After consultation with the Township Attorney and under the laws of the State, Federal government and the provisions of the Joliet Township Employee Handbook, I am required to maintain a work place that is free from any kind of harassment or intimidation. The recent episodes in the Road District office, prior to and while I was on vacation, in which you screamed and tried to intimidate a member of my staff requires me to take action.
You are hereby instructed to avoid all direct contact with any member of my staff. If you require something from the Road District you shall deal directly with me. If I should be unavailable, and the issue is time sensitive and extremely important, you should contact the Road District through your Deputy Clerk. Under no circumstances are you to come to the Road District Office again.
I regret that your conduct requires me to take this action.
James J. Maffeo
While they claimed to not have any such letter, I was able to obtain not only the letter but the handwritten draft used to create the letter. I provided it to the Clerk and asked the following questions.
- Can you shed any light on why such a letter was necessary?
- The letter alleges you tried to intimidate a member of the past highway commissioners staff.
- What member of his staff is he referring to?
- Is the information in the letter true?
There has been no response to my inquiry but if she does respond we will update accordingly. Supervisor Vera did confirm the Clerk agreed she would not go out to the road district or communicate directly with the Highway Commissioner's administrative assistant. Such an agreement leads us to believe there was, in fact, an incident justifying the letter from the former Highway Commissioner.
"She did have a verbal conversation with the Highway Commissioner, whereby, she agreed she would not go out to the road district office or communicate directly with the Highway Commissioner’s administrative assistant."
If the allegations in the letter are true, then the Township Clerk should resign as the policy in the Township is a zero-tolerance policy that requires termination.
"Joliet Township has a policy of zero tolerance for violence. If employees engage in any violence in the workplace or threaten violence in the workplace, their employment will be terminated immediately for cause."
While some believe that elected officials are not employees, the truth of the matter is they are employees. As such, if the allegation is true, which it appears to be, why is the Clerk still employed with the Township? We understand this is not the only incident involving the clerk and are working on obtaining additional information.
Stay tuned for part XV on more exposure of malfeasance at Joliet Township.