Edgar Co. (ECWd) –
The Edgar County Health Department is once again plagued with financial malfeasance and disregard for the law. In 2013 and 2019, two employees were charged with theft of funds. We covered those events in the articles linked here and here.
The County Health Department Board is appointed by the Edgar County Board. The appointed Health Board members are the sole entity that can appoint an administrator for the Health Department. Janet Mason was the appointed Administrator until recently.
The Board, at least several times over the last year has held meetings without a quorum and actually took action, which is a violation of the Open Meetings Act and considered a Class C Misdemeanor under the law. Their September 2021 meeting, as an example of one of those meetings, was held without a quorum and even documented in the minutes that there was no quorum. (Minutes from 9/15/21 Meeting)
Not only did they not have a quorum, but they also voted on a budget for the Health Department. Knowing they did not have the votes to adopt it, the Administrator suggested that she would reach out to the other board members not present and ask them to vote on the budget so it can be approved. How special is it that an Administrator wants votes taken outside an open meeting, which is exactly what happened and they even documented it in the minutes?
“Mason presented to the board the proposed FY 2022 Health Department budget. After discussion, the Board of Health members who were present voted to approve the budget. Mason said she would reach out to the other board members and ask them to vote on the budget so it can be approved and forwarded on to the Edgar County Board.”
(After the meeting adjourned, Mason received an approval on the budget from BOH member Kathy Lientz, which gave the Board a quorum to approve the budget. Smith asked for a motion to approve the FY 2022 Health Department budget. McNary made a motion, seconded by Bruner and approved by all. Motion carried.)
You can’t have a quorum of a meeting that is adjourned. Nor can a person cast a vote outside of a meeting, nor does such an illegal vote give a board a quorum to approve anything, let alone a budget. Finally, board members can’t make motions and seconds when they are adjourned.
As if illegal meetings are not bad enough, money is ending up in employees’ pockets without legal authority, commonly looked at as theft of funds.
In April of 2021, the payroll records for the Administrator and her assistant indicate they are hourly employees drawing $38.32 and $32.96 an hour respectively. As hourly employees, they also receive overtime and holiday pay as hourly employees. (April 2, 2021, Payroll Record). The $38.32 and $32.96 hourly rate was consistent through November of 2021.
In December of 2021, the Administrators pay went to $39.47 an hour and her assistant went to $34.94 an hour (December 10, 2021, Payroll Record). At these hourly rates, a 40-hour work week would result in $3,157.60 and $2,795.20 every two weeks.
The problem is there are no corresponding minutes and agendas reflecting the Health Board’s approval of any such pay increase. With no board approval, it appears the Administrator and her assistant are receiving compensation outside the statutory provisions of the law.
55 ILCS 5/5-25013 (12)“Prescribe the powers and duties of all officers and employees, fix their compensation, and authorize payment of the same and all other department expenses from the County Health Fund of the county or counties concerned.”
In February of 2022, just three months after the unauthorized pay raise, the Administrator’s payroll records now reflect she is being paid a salary. Once again, we found nothing in the minutes or agenda outlining the change from hourly to salary. Those same records also include a $7,574.40 “Retro Pay” for that pay period. We could not find anything in the minutes authorizing “Retro Pay” of $7,574.00.
It appears from the record submitted by Board Member Oliver Smith, a criminal investigation needs to take place. The record fraudulently represents that the Board of Health is increasing the salary of the Administrator. The letter is dated February 17, 2022, which is over two weeks after the payroll records reflect the change. This letter not only indicates an after-the-fact pay raise, but it also indicates the person was salary, not hourly and that the Board made this increase, which is false. Clearly, this document is problematic as there are no agendas or minutes to support the claim stated.
We also note we found nothing in the minutes or agendas during this timeframe in which the board approved yet another pay increase. The new salary pay for the Administrator as of February of 2022 is $4,538.46 every two weeks, up by $1,380.86 each pay period from the prior hourly rate. That equates to a pay increase of over $33,000.00 a year with no board approval. Another way to look at this, the pay raise equates to $56.73 an hour vs. the $39.47 an hour just a few months earlier.
The assistant to the Administrator, as of April 29, 2022, payroll records also went from hourly to salary and was paid $4,448.00 for two weeks, up by $1,652.80 each pay period. That equates to a pay increase of $39,667.20 a year with no board approval. Another way to look at this, the pay raise equates to $56.00 an hour vs. the $34.94 an hour just a few months earlier.
It appears Oliver Smith thinks it’s OK to submit fraudulent payroll information to the county as he also claimed the Board of Health moved Monica Dunn from an hourly employee to a salaried employee, yet there are no records of the Board of Health ever taking such action during this time frame, let alone approving the pay increase. (Oliver Smith letter)
As if all of this is not troubling enough, in July of 2021, Administrator Janet Mason tells the board the following: (Committee Meeting Minutes)
“Mason opened the meeting stating that she wanted to discuss her role at ECPHD. She said she would like to start thinking about taking on less responsibilities at the Health Department in order to have more time with her family who live far away. She said she is not looking at leaving the Health Department right now, but she would like the board to consider promoting Monica Dunn, Assistant Administrator, to the position of Administrator in the near future, and she (Mason) would like to stay on as the Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Administrator.” (Emphasis added)
In November of 2021, the month before the first hourly pay bump, the board approved the appointment of Monica Dunn as the Administrator effective July 1, 2022, and Janet Mason to the position of Assistant Administrator / Financial Officer. (November 2021 minutes)
How special is it that the person who is wanting fewer responsibilities and more time with family to become the Financial Officer for the Health Department and the recipient of more pay with zero evidence in the board minutes changing her compensation? This activity has all the indicators of pension spiking. All this increased compensation without board approval is not legal and if not corrected will cost the taxpayers for the rest of the life of these pension recipients. Of the payroll records we received during Mason’s hourly pay, there was not a single pay period reflecting 80 hours of work, even though overtime was being paid during that time. Many of the pay periods reflect almost as much in overtime as was paid in hourly wages, even with only 45 hours worked in a two-week period.
Is anyone paying attention? The board voted and approved a new administrator named Monica Dunn effective July 1, 2022, in November of 2021. Two months later, the January 2022 minutes have a very confusing statement.
“Smith informed the board that Mason had advertised for the Public Health Administrator position and he had received some applications. He said he searched through them, and then asked Dr. Rico to also examine them and give the board his feedback. Dr. Rico said there were some who had the education and the degrees, but none of them had any health department experience. Smith said he also saw no one with the experience required by the state. After discussion, the board agreed to stay with their initial recommendation of approving Monica Dunn as Administrator on July 1, 2022.”
Going to stay with their initial “recommendation” of approving Monica Dunn? The November 2021 meeting minutes reflect an actual appointment with an effective date for the Administrator position was voted on and approved. Why were they advertising for a Public Health Administrator when just two months earlier they had appointed a person to the position?
It is crystal clear some of the board members are not paying attention and need to be replaced and at least one has submitted fraudulent records to the county. We understand there have been at least three new appointments recently who are demanding accountability. It is our opinion that accountability will come at the conclusion of a proper criminal investigation which includes every penny taken without board approval is deducted from wages so that future pension payouts do not include those overpayments. If they allow these people to pay it back it will not show up correctly on their compensation records with IMRF and the taxpayers will be on the hook for the increased pension payments when they retire. If the criminal investigation leads to criminal prosecution, like past health department employees, these people could lose their pensions all together which would save the taxpayers a small fortune.
The County Board of Health is having a special meeting Friday, October 7, 2022, at 7:30 am in the conference room of the Health Department located at 502 Shaw Avenue, Paris, IL. We encourage all citizens to attend their local government public meetings to provide the badly needed oversite so lacking across this state.