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July 22, 2024

Oakland Fire Protection District – Entire Board Resigns After FOIA Request; Troubling Expenditures

By Kirk Allen & John Kraft

On October 12, 2022

Coles Co. (ECWd) –

We recently received multiple requests to investigate the Oakland Fire Protection District Trustees as it was alleged meetings were not being held as required in the Open Meetings Act and people felt something was going on that was just not right.  September 12, 2022, we sent a FOIA request for typical records any public body should readily have, such as minutes, agendas, credit card purchase receipts, Open Meetings Act training certificates, etc.

Shortly after receiving most of the requested records, we confirmed that all three trustees, Jerry Willison, Kiley Willison, and Kelsey Willison (All family members), resigned and then appointed the Chief and the EMS Coordinator as trustees.  Such appointments were not legal as once they resigned, they no longer have the power to fill the vacancy created by their resignation. Never mind the fact that the improper appointments were not done during a public meeting.  Another point on this is that the Attorney General has determined a Fire Chief cannot hold the position of trustee for the district in which he is employed as he is considered an executive officer of the district and it would be a direct conflict.

That now leaves the Oakland Fire District without any trustees which must be fixed ASAP as tax levies are due in December and if this matter is not corrected, they potentially would not have any tax revenue for their operations next year.

Records received and not received are troubling.

  • Open Meetings Act training certificates reflect two trustees had not complied with the training until after our FOIA request.
  • The minutes reflect meetings were being held at the fire station on a regular basis, however, we have confirmed that was not the case which indicates the minutes are not true and accurate when they claim the meetings were held at the fire station on given dates and times.
  • Minutes reflecting the action taken by two trustees points to a direct violation of the Officers Prohibited Activities Act and Section 4 of the Fire Protect District Act.

“Approved to pay a Bookkeeper (Kyley Willison) $7,500.00 for 2021 and 2022 for the extra work that is done for the Fire department books and Ambulance runs and bookwork. Approved by Jerry Willison and Kyley Willison”

We confirmed signed checks for payments to Trustee Kyley Willison from two separate accounts on July 18, 2022, for $7,500.00 from each account, ($15,000.00 total). There are very strict limitations placed on Trustees and their providing of services to the very District which they oversee.  These payments far exceed the limits set by law. According to the law, violations of the above two applicable statutes could constitute a class 4 felony.

More concerns are raised with the approval of a $30,000.00 line of credit in May of 2022 by the same two trustees approving the self-dealing.  A line of credit would indicate those given the approval could spend a lot of money without prior board approval.  This is the first time I have come across a Fire Protection District with a line of credit at a local bank.  There is no justification provided in the minutes.

Bank records indicate the trustees spent $8,000.00 on Fireworks, which has nothing to do with Fire Protection District operations, a requirement under the law.

As if the above is not troubling enough for the citizens of the Oakland Fire Protection District, the key record we did not receive was credit card purchase receipts.   What we did receive, bank records, raises red flags considering they failed to produce credit card purchase receipts.

Cardmember Service Payments FPD Fire Department Bank Account: (No one on the fire department had any knowledge the Fire District had a credit card)

  • 4/2/2021 $2,500.00
  • 5/3/2021 $2,000.00
  • 6/11/2021 – $1,500.00
  • 7/7/2021 $2,500.00
  • 8/3/2021 – $2,500.00
  • 9/15/2021 – $5,000.00
  • 10/19/2021 – $2,000.00
  • 11/16/2021 – $1,500.00
  • 12/15/2021 – $2,500.00
  • 1/10/2022 – $2,000.00
  • 2/3/2022 -$2,500.00
  • 4/28/2022 – $2,000.00
  • 8/14/22 – $2,000.00

Total from FPD Fire Department Fund – $29,500.00

Cardmember Service Payments FPD Ambulance Bank Account:

  • 3/15/2021 $2,500.00
  • 10/8/2021 $6,000.00 Electronic Cardmember Services Payment
  • 5/19/8/2021 -$3,500.00  Electronic Cardmember Services Payment
  • 7/8/2022 -$9,116.73

Total from FPD Ambulance Fund – $21,616.73

While there may be a valid explanation for $51,116.73 in credit card purchases in such a short window of time, we are concerned that no purchase receipts were provided for any credit card purchases and we understand the bank is not turning over the credit card statements because it has Kyley Willison’s name on the card.

The $51,000.00 question is, what was purchased that resulted in so many monthly payments where all but one resulted in a whole number for the amount owed or paid and why is there nothing noted in any minutes or agendas about these payments?

The Ambulance fund went into an insufficient fund balance to cover checks written in April of 2022 and overdraft charges were applied.

We understand the current Chief, Anthony Bennette, has been in contact with a law firm to take the appropriate steps in getting trustees appointed to the board.

We urge a formal request to law enforcement for a criminal investigation on this matter as it is clear there has been unexplained spending and spending in violation of at least two state laws that point to self-dealing. Couple that with a failure of the former trustees to provide the records pertaining to what appears to be a small fortune in credit card purchases it appears any new trustees to the district are going to have their hands full cleaning this mess up.

We will update you with a new article as this matter moves forward.

 

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4 Comments
  • Cindy
    Posted at 15:15h, 12 October Reply

    Oh, my. The grifters are scared and decided to run.

  • Justice Seeker
    Posted at 06:14h, 13 October Reply

    The level of corruption in the ISP and judicial branch will probably prevent any consequences. Under Attorney General Rauol, there has been no attempt to bring corruption in Illinois under control. Political connections and elected officials who owe others favors for getting the positions has stopped all rule of law. Judicial branch throughly corrupt and there is no justice for taxpayers who are paying a high price for the elite few.

  • Mike Gorman
    Posted at 13:16h, 13 October Reply

    Sounds like board meetings were actually just the family having a meal.

  • Does it really work this way?
    Posted at 01:38h, 15 October Reply

    They are trying to fix things up!

    Looks like they are trying!

    Just a quick “re-do their resignations”…

    According to a story on the front page of the October 13 Oakland Independant:

    “• A special meeting was scheduled to allow the Oakland Community Fire Protection District trustees who resigned last month to return for a special meeting to re-do their resignations and their appointments of replacements.” https://www.facebook.com/oakindependent/

    What does the agenda look like?

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