Kendall chairman 'shocked' at subpoena : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Kendall chairman 'shocked' at subpoena|
|County grand jury seeking records as part of per diem investigation|
|by Matt Schury|
Kendall County Board Chairman John Shaw said he was "shocked" at first to find out that a Kendall County grand jury subpoenaed the River Valley Workforce Investment Board, but now believes other boards that county board members have been appointed to may have been subpoenaed as well.
"I found out when (county board member) Dan Koukol brought me a copy of the subpoena because he is on the Work Force Investment board," Shaw said, adding he heard the United Council of Counties of Illinois and the Aurora Convention and Visitor's Bureau has also been served.
As of press time neither the UCCI nor the Aurora Visitor's Bureau returned phone calls from the Ledger-Sentinel asking if they had been served with a subpoena.
The subpoena asks the investment board for copies of attendance, mileage, travel records, reimbursement expenses, stipends and per diems that 11 past and current County Board members received for attending the agency's meetings between January 2008 and July 2012.
"Everyone was surprised when it went beyond the county but obviously the forensic auditor is doing what he thinks he needs to do," Shaw said. "I was shocked by the grand jury thing."
However, the more he thought about it the more Shaw says he realized that it was probably part of the investigative process.
County Board members identified in the subpoena are: former board members Anne Vickery, Bob Davidson, Jessie Hafenrichter, Nancy Martin, Pam Parr and Suzanne Petrella as well as current board members Dan Koukol, John Purcell, Chairman Shaw, Jeff Wehrli and Elizabeth Flowers, the public document said.
Board members turn in vouchers twice each month to claim $85 per diem payments for attending meetings. They are generally on the honor system when it comes to turning in their vouchers. Records from the County Treasurer's office show board members claim thousands of dollars each year for attending hundreds of meetings.
Shaw says he now sees the subpoena as a "natural progression" in the investigation by Kendall County State's Attorney Eric Weis' office.
"I certainly was surprised right off the get-go but the more I thought about it, I said, 'Well, that's why they have grand juries,'" Shaw said. "If he (Weis) is going to follow through on this, this is a natural progression. I hate to say this."
The board members identified in the subpoena are the same ones Weis has previously identified in his ongoing investigation of per diem payments.
"This whole thing was initiated by a former county board member, I believe," Shaw said.
In April 2012 County Board member Anne Vickery took Koukol to task, accusing Koukol of incorrectly collecting per diems for meeting he attended.
"This all seems to focus on one particular person," Shaw said. "The meetings existed that he (Koukol) went to and he was told that he could do it."
Koukol subsequently volunteered to pay back any money that he may have owed for per diems he collected.
When asked if he would still pay back anything that he may owe, Koukol said he didn't want to comment yet until the investigation is complete.
"I don't want to disrespect the state's attorney in any way," Koukol said.
He added that he sees the grand jury as also a natural progression in the investigation.
"That subpoena is just a natural thing for the investigation I would have to guess to get the information," Koukol said.
He added that he didn't know why Weis had to file a subpoena.
"Yeah, I don't know that part. Maybe Kane County wouldn't release them or something," Koukol said.
Though Koukol is the current liaison to the River Valley Workforce Investment Board, he was not appointed to the position until December 2012, outside the scope of the investigation.
"I think some people have really pushed for this may be second guessing their push," he said. "I don't have anything to hide, it's all there and, I tell you what, I won two elections."
In May 2012 Weis recommended the board hire a forensic accountant to review all board member's per diem vouchers following complaints filed by Vickery and county resident Todd Milliron.
The subpoena was discovered in the board packet for the Sept. 11 River Valley Workforce Investment Board.
Weis said last week he could not confirm the existence of the subpoena or even if the Grand Jury is conducting an investigation.
Weis did say that he hopes the investigation will be concluded soon and noted that no charges have been filed.
Shaw said when the forensic audit is finished there may be an investigation but not by Weis' office.
"I believe what's going to happen is someone from the State's Attorney's office in Grundy County will then take whoever or whatever they think is worth filing in front of the Grand Jury," he said.
While it might sound bad, Shaw said this is how the process works and the grand jury will take a look at the evidence and see if it warrants further investigation.
"Or they say this is just much ado about nothing," Shaw said.
Shaw has also been scrutinized for the per diems he has claimed.
In 2011, prior to the audit and investigation, board member Martin, Shaw, Flowers and Koukol were requested to return per diems after they claimed payment for attending sexual harassment training put on by the Weis' office. Petrella said she went to harassment training but did not claim the meeting.
However, her voucher from December 2010 indicates she included a "special C.B. mtg." on Dec. 10, 2010. However, records on the county's website do not indicate a meeting county board meeting held on that day. Ferko indicated that the "special C.B. meeting" was actually the training.
Shaw said that he has heard from constituents asking him what going on an if they are in legal trouble.
"It's certainly not the best press I've ever gotten but I don't think I'm going away. I don't think I'm in trouble, I don't think I'm going to have to give any money back," Shaw said.