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May 29, 2024

Misinformation Is Alive And Well In Shelby County – Grant Funding In Jeopardy Due to Failures Of The County Board

By Kirk Allen & John Kraft

On August 12, 2021

Shelby Co.  (ECWd) –

Shelby County appears to be fast-tracking it’s way to being the poster child for problems in local government. As it stands, a lot of money is at risk due to clear failures by the county board.

For years we have begged officials to ask “Say’s Who and With What Proof?”  If those questions would get asked, a lot of time and energy would be saved, not to mention embarrassment.

The Shelby County State’s Attorney sent the following communication to the Treasurer August 2, 2021:

“I have been notified that the county airport may lose GATA grant funding because the questionnaire in the GATA portal was not completed or signed by you as required in your official capacity as Shelby County treasurer.  The paperwork was due in May and if it is not completed within the next few weeks, the county will not be eligible to receive grant money.  My understanding is that certain questions on the questionnaire may only be answered by the county treasurer and the funds will not be paid without a signature from the county treasurer. 

Please advise whether this is accurate and, if so, your reasoning for refusing to complete the questionnaire and for refusing to sign the relevant documents.”

One would have thought before sending such communication they would have first reviewed the required duties of a County Treasurer, which by the way has nothing that even remotely implies her duties include anything related to the Grant Accountability Transparency Act.  Whoever notified her of the alleged failure of the treasurer should get a dose of rumor control education.

The response was priceless.

“State’s Attorney Kroncke,

Attached please find the minutes from the October 2019 Board Meeting.  The minutes from this meeting clearly define who was appointed to be the GATA Coordinator for Shelby County.  Unfortunately, when Jared left the county, the board failed to appoint his successor.  To my knowledge, there is nothing in the statutes that govern the office of County Treasurer that places that responsibility on me.  If you are aware of a statute that does place that responsibility on me, please advise.

I have explained to Steve Wempen and others that I will not submit the questions on behalf of the county because in the past they have not been answered truthfully.  Jared Rowcliffe signed and submitted these in the past.

I would recommend that the Board appoint a coordinator for the county and that person be someone who is familiar with grants and is a major recipient of those grants. Steve Melega and Alan Spesard are the largest beneficiaries of grants awarded to the county and they have the most experience with grants.   I would also recommend the county become compliant with GATA internal controls.

Thank you,

Erica Firnhaber”

While there appeared to be an effort to try to blame the Treasurer for grant funding being in jeopardy, it appears to have backfired and now exposed what some could consider grant fraud, which is what it’s commonly called when answers provided are false or not truthful.

Jared A. Rowcliffe was appointed to be the Grant Accountability Transparency Act (GATA) Coordinator in October of 2019.  That being the case, maybe someone could explain the following:

  • Who appointed Rowcliffe as the County Chief Financial Officer, which is what is reported on the ICQ log for June 4, 2019?
  • Who appointed Rowcliffe as the County Chief Executive Officer, which is what is reported on the ICQ log for June 4, 2019?
  • Why is Rowcliffe submitting GATA information on the ICQ log on June 4, 2019, when he was not the GATA Coordinator?
  • Why is Rowcliffe still listed as the County Chief Financial Officer on the 4/15/2020 ICQ log?

What questions have been answered that were not truthful?

  • Do the procurement policies and procedures include:
    a. Written standards of conduct covering conflicts of interest and governing the actions of employees engaged in the selection award or administration of contracts supported by grant awards

    b.Conflict of interest policy forbid employees, management or officers to participate in the selection, award or administration of a contract supported by a grant award if he or she has a real or apparent conflict of interest
    c. A written policy that forbids contractors who develop or draft specifications, requirements, statements of work (scope of services) or Request for Proposals excluded from competing for such procurements

Answer: Policies include all of the information

The truth of the Matter: The County has no procurement policy and procedure as confirmed in our Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of it.

  • Does the organization have a Fraud awareness program?

Answer: YES

The truth of the matter: The county has no Fraud Awareness program as confirmed in our Freedom of Information Act Request for a copy of it.

  • Does the organization have ethics and standards of conduct training?

Answer: Yes

The truth of the matter: The county has no ethics and standards of conduct training as confirmed in our Freedom of Information Act Request for a copy of it.

  • Has management implemented an anonymous process for reporting fraud that includes Whistle Blower protection?
    a. Fraud Hotline, via website or anonymous calls
    b. Internally through employees

Answer: A and B

The truth of the matter: The county has not implemented any anonymous process for reporting fraud that includes whistleblower protection, whether through a fraud hotline, website or anonymous calls, nor internally through employees, as confirmed in our Freedom of Information Act Request for copies of the information.

  • Does the organization provide instructions to the employees on what to do when they find fraud, waste and/or abuse?

Answer: Yes

The truth of the matter: The county has not provided instructions to the employees on this matter as confirmed by our Freedom of Information Act request.

A copy of the last two years of questionnaires can be viewed here and here.

While there appears to be a rush to appoint a GATA coordinator to lock in grand funding, one can only wonder how those key questions are going to get answered in light of the fact the county lacks proper controls that were lied about in the past.  According to the agenda for tonight’s meeting, they are going to vote to appoint the County Treasurer.  Most should know by now she is not going to lie on those questionnaires so it might be an interesting evening tonight when this comes up for a vote.

Is the new GATA coordinator just going to answer the same way to get the money even though the truth reflects no programs are in place?  Is there going to be any accountability to the taxpayer for grants being issued even though all indications are the ICQ’s contained false information for the past two years?

It’s Shelby County.  We predict nothing will be done to hold anyone accountable for the past false responses on the ICQ’s and it will be full steam ahead to get the grant money, misinformation be damned.

I hope they prove us wrong.





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1 Comment
  • PK
    Posted at 20:37h, 12 August Reply

    Yah, that’d be a nice change of pace.

    I’m curious if the grant monies in question are competitive. In order to participate fairly under the Freedom of Information Act, Shelby County would be required to have:

    1. A procurement policy and procedures
    2. A fraud awareness program
    3. An ethics and conduct training program

    Provided the grant monies are non-competitive, Shelby County government agencies would still be required to have:

    1. Procurement policies and procedures
    2. Fraud awareness programming
    3. Ethics and conduct training

    I believe the ECWd’s complimentary training event held at the Shelby County seat less than a year ago delivered on portions of items 3. Perhaps SA Kronke or her staff can call all the similarly formed county governments in Illinois to find out if they have proof of “Yes” answers on the required documentation, program, and training. Until then, I can wonder which of Shelby County’s peer organizations is best-in-class for demonstrating GATA controls.

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