Shelby Co. (ECWd) –
The Shelby County board held a special meeting for the purpose of receiving the forensic audit report of the Sheriff’s office payroll. As part of that presentation, the auditor spoke about destroyed records, which we covered in this article.
After hearing the auditor speak to records being destroyed, we submitted a Freedom of Information Request for record destruction certificates. The provided records should bother most people but we are confident some board members will ignore the point.
- In February of 2020, the County Board approved a forensic audit. Records related to such an audit can not be destroyed.
- As early as April of 2020, the Illinois State Police began their criminal investigation into fraud and official misconduct which were tied to alleged payroll fraud and illegal gun sales in the Sheriff’s office.
- On May 14, 2020, the ISP conducted an interview on these matters in Sheriff Koonce’s office.
- On June 6, 2020, the ISP spoke with the former State’s Attorney regarding obtaining a special prosecutor.
- On June 18, 2020, we submitted a FOIA for the actual hours worked by deputies and corrections officers.
- On December 2, 2020, the ISP documented that prosecution was pending.
- On December 28, 2020, ISP documents the State’s Attorney is asking the Attorney General to handle the case.
- On March 4, 2021, the ISP documents the Attorney General is still reviewing the case.
- On February 23, 2022, we sued the Attorney General for records on the matter, which they are claiming can’t be released because it would “interfere with pending or actually reasonably contemplated law enforcement proceedings conducted by” the “law enforcement agency that is the recipient of the request.”
What does the timeline of events above have to do with Sheriff Koonce and McQueen seeking record destruction authorization?
We first started investigating illegal gun sales and alleged payroll fraud at the request of employees in Shelby county in 2018. We point this out to clear up the misinformation a select few are spreading by trying to claim the current treasurer asked us to look into the matter. Such claims are 100% false.
Certain triggers should have put a hold on record destruction. Those include things like a simple FOIA…….for “stupid stuff“, a subpoena, litigation, pending or anticipated.
It is clear from as early as February of 2020 to the current date that any records related to payroll from 2015 to 2020 should not be destroyed and records tied to the illegal gun sales should not be destroyed. Regardless, both former Sheriffs McQueen and Koonce requested permission to destroy records that were key to the matters listed above.
This is the point where people will say if they got permission then it’s all OK. That would be true if they disclosed the fact some of the records they asked for permission to destroy were directly tied to FOIA requests, a criminal investigation, an audit, and anticipated litigation, which it appears none of that was disclosed.
What did these former Sheriffs ask to destroy?
- August of 2021, McQueen sought and obtained record destruction permission of the Receipt Book for 2018.
- August of 2021, McQueen sought and obtained record destruction permission of 2018 attendance reports, which include vacation, sick, and personal time.
- June of 2020, Koonce sought and obtained record destruction permission of 2017 attendance reports, which include vacation, sick, and personal time.
- In June of 2020, Koonce sought and obtained record destruction permission for 2016 and 2017 Payroll Bi-monthly printouts
- May of 2019, Koonce sought and obtained record destruction permission of 2016 attendance reports, which include vacation, sick, and personal time.
- In May of 2019, Koonce sought and obtained record destruction permission for 2015 and 2016 Payroll Bi-monthly printouts
- May of 2018, Koonce sought and obtained record destruction permission of 2015 attendance reports, which include vacation, sick, and personal time.
- In May of 2018, Koonce sought and obtained record destruction permission for 2014 and 2015 Payroll Bi-monthly printouts
What jumped out at us on the first page of the McQueen request was the fact that the page included a request for truly old records which is normal, yet lumped into that requests were key 2018 records that could have shed light on the gun and payroll investigations.
While the auditor made it clear he would not speak to whether the record destruction was rightful or wrongful, we know from past experience any submission for destruction without disclosing those records being tied to FOIA requests, an ongoing criminal investigation, an audit, and anticipated litigation would be wrongful.
We are seeking comment from the Local Records Commission on this matter and will update accordingly but are confident they would have never approved parts of these requests had they known what was going on.
The question the public has a right to know, is why did they pursue the destruction of key records that are directly connected to a criminal investigation?
A copy of the Destruction Certificates can be downloaded at this link or viewed below.