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April 14, 2024

Shelby County – ISP Recorded Interview Of Former Sheriff Don Koonce

By Kirk Allen & John Kraft

On January 5, 2024

Shelby Co., Ill. (ECWd) –

As covered in previous articles, the Illinois State Police interviewed four people in relation to the payroll malfeasance that was taking place in the Shelby County Sheriff’s office several years ago.  While we were able to obtain the written reports of those interviews, the ISP fought us in court for years in their attempt to not turn over the recorded interviews.  This was surprising since the ISP has turned over such recordings in numerous other requests we had made in other investigations.

As expected, the statements made and the failure to follow up and validate certain things are troubling. All that aside, we now understand why the AG chose to do nothing in this case as the investigation lacked any real diligence to get the truth of the matter. It is clear, they took what was told to them as true and simply reported what was said rather than verify those claims. Had they tried to verify many of the claims they would have discovered what they were told was not accurate and in some cases simply not true.

We provided an initial article on Koonce’s interview with the ISP in this article.

The one thing that jumped out at us both in the written report and the audio recordings is what appeared to be the throwing of Rob McCall under the bus.  Both former State’s Attorney Vonderheide and former Sheriff Koonce came across as knowing very little and pointing to McCall for the ISP to get answers from rather than the actual office holder responsible.

One interesting thing we noticed in these interviews, not one person was mirandized.  Does anyone else find that odd for a criminal investigation where the suspects are not read their rights?  The law enforcement officers we know and have spoken with find this very strange.

Koonce confirmed a FOIA, which was ours, is what exposed the overpayments to deputies because they were working 70 hours but getting paid for 80 hours.

That confession flies in the face of not only the contract but also his statement that they are not hourly employees.  If they are salaried as he adamantly claimed, why would their working 70 hours vs 80 hours matter?  Notably, the ISP said nothing about those conflicting positions.

Shockingly, Koonce claims the board members on the committee were concerned over the contract and how poorly written it was yet McCall claimed the entire county board found nothing wrong with it. Again, ISP missed the conflicting statements of those two officers.

Koonce claims the whole “issue” is going to be fixed. What issue, the ISP asked, and then Koonce said there was no issue because the contract lets him change the shifts and schedules.  While the contract does permit adjustments to schedules, it does not allow deputies to work 70 hours and get paid for 80 hours.

“I’m sorry to say, I use my Under Sheriff quite a bit” (Koonce)

Let’s drive that bus right over former under Sheriff McCall.  One point Koonce made was he uses McCall for testifying at the courthouse so he can keep deputies out on the road.  Unless we missed something in basic due process, a person who was not the arresting officer is not able to testify on behalf of the arresting officers and what they witnessed.  So it begs the question, what exactly is McCall testifying about so that deputies could stay on the road?  How the ISP missed that response is beyond comprehension. UPDATE: We have learned that the Sheriff/Undersheriff can testify on the written report but only for preliminary hearings.

Koonce claimed no abuse in the payroll was taking place.  How special is that in light of the forensic auditor’s findings that specifically pointed out malfeasance with Koonce’s own son’s payroll? Notably, there has been no ISP follow-up to compare the forensic audit to the claims made that are in clear conflict.  Nothing to see here folks, move along.

Koonce claimed to have identified the problem, and once identified, they fixed it.  The truth is only after a FOIA request did he acknowledge the problem.  The first to identify a problem was a person within his own employ and our efforts dating clear back to 2017. Those early efforts resulted in the Sheriff failing to provide requested records in a clear violation of FOIA and outright lies being told in FOIA responses.

Koonce claimed McCall spoke with the State’s Attorney and instructed McCall to do whatever the State’s Attorney said to do with the guns.  That conflicts with the State’s Attorney’s interview comments. Koonce then wants to go off the record to tell them something about the gun sales and also claims he spoke with the State’s Attorney on the matter.  Notably, the state’s attorney had no memory of speaking with either McCall or Koonce. ISP never followed up on those conflicts.

Koonce claimed prior guns sold had a court order and those guns were sold at O’Herron’s.  So if his statement is true why were no such orders produced in our FOIA request?  Our research proved there was no court order allowing the sale and if there was, any such order would be in direct violation of the law because seized weapons are forbidden to be sold.

Koonce confirmed the $25.00 FFL transfer fee was paid out of the Shop with a Cop account.  Such a payment is not legal because a person’s private purchases of guns and payment of related fees are not the obligation of the public but rather the private person.  We wrote about that extensively and to date have not seen any evidence the transactions Koonce speaks of actually took place as he described them.  That account has still not been turned over to the treasurer.

Koonce then claims he was waiting for a new state’s attorney before transferring the shop with a-cop funds to the Treasure and then said they were trying to give the funds to other entities.  How special is it that there was not one question raised from the ISP about a Sheriff looking to give away donated money to the FOP union?  What does the state’s attorney have to do with transferring public funds to the treasurer?

Koonce speaks to the gun sales being his “mistake“.  If it was a mistake, why were we lied to with a claim no guns were sold? They were sold, and only after our exposure did this “mistake” get corrected.

Koonce claims no matter what hours the deputies work he has to pay them the salary that is in the contract. He also confirmed the state’s attorney had not asked her anything about the overpayments.  Nothing like burying their heads in the sand.

Koonce points to the budget and claims they have never been over budget as a response to a question about possible overpayment to deputies.  Notably, the word salad he provided contained no answer to the question asked and there was no follow-up by ISP to get the answer to their question.  We know for a fact the answer to the question is yes, deputies were overpaid on numerous payrolls and the forensic audit pointed some of those out.

In closing the interview the ISP stated they were going to have to speak with numerous other people in their investigation.  That appears to have been lip service because the records do not indicate a single deputy was ever questioned.

For those who have not read the numerous public records and facts on the payroll malfeasance and think there is nothing to see since no one was charged, spend some time reading everything linked in this article and ask yourself if there was nothing done wrong.

 

interview based on the written report in this article.

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3 Comments
  • Brian K Anderson
    Posted at 13:54h, 05 January

    ISP’s investigation skills are laughable at best. We would be better served by Columbo and the Pink Panther.. in a matter I am aware involving wages of public employees, a public official states at his sole discretion a public employee works full time for his personal businesses while being paid full time wages by the taxpayers of the public body. This has been going on for approximately 4.5 years and even continued after ISP’s interview with the public official. No follow up questions were asked, no follow up interviews were conducted, and the employee declined interiew requests. The AG opted to not pursue criminal charges. Would common sense not lead you to find the stinking skunk?

  • John Pogue
    Posted at 01:25h, 06 January

    These posts from ECWD need to be put in our local newspaper and let the public read all the facts. Maybe then the doubters can put it all in writing to the public for debate. Wouldn’t that be better than yelling in board meetings? Transparency? Give the public a chance. They would prefer to give their opinion in writing without being shouted down by a few who don’t search for the facts.

  • Kathiann
    Posted at 09:48h, 06 January

    It looks like the ISP simply turned their heads away from the information…OR they might be totally overwhelmed and cant take any more malfeasance.

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