County board tab over four years: $642,779 : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|County board tab over four years: $642,779|
|Report to accounting firm lists per diems, mileage, stipends|
|by Matt Schury|
The 11 Kendall County Board members included in an audit investigation by the Kendall County State's Attorney's office and recently mentioned in a subpoena by a Kendall County grand jury collectively earned $642,779 between 2008 and 2012.
That figure is according to information the Kendall County Treasurer's office turned over to an accounting firm hired by Kendall County State's Attorney Eric Weis last year.
The accounting firm of Dennis E. Czurylo and Associates LLC of Palos Heights was hired to perform a forensic audit of the County Board member's per diem vouchers.
Weis told the board at the time that he intended to have Czurylo and his firm look over three and a half years of per diem voucher information and related paperwork for all board members from December 2008 to June 2012. That time frame made sense, Weis said, because it was when the current board was seated.
Recently Weis said he expected the investigation to be wrapping up after 16 months and with over $16,000 paid to the accounting firm. No charges have been filed in the investigation and Weis has said repeatedly he could not comment on it.
Last week it was discovered that a Kendall County grand jury had subpoenaed the River Valley Workforce Investment board for copies of attendance, mileage, travel records, reimbursement expenses, stipends and per diems collected by Kendall County Board members from December 2008 to June 2012.
County Board members identified in the Weis' investigation and 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 John Shaw, Jeff Wehrli and Elizabeth Flowers.
The $642,779 in taxpayer dollars includes checks cut to board members for salaries, stipends and per diems. Information obtained by the Ledger-Sentinel from the Kendall County Treasurer Jill Ferko includes the detailed stipends the board members submit to her office on a monthly basis.
Board members received:
•Hafenrichter: $113,426 *
(*Hafenrichter's amount includes her $67,808 salary paid over a four-year period for serving on the county's Board of Review.)
Each County Board member receives a $200 a month salary ($2,400 annually). The County Board Chairman's salary is $12,000 a year. Additionally the chairman gets a $1,200 a year stipend for acting as the county's liquor commissioner. Board members also receive mileage reimbursement for any county business inside or outside the county based on the set rate from the IRS. Board members can receive health insurance through the county's insurance provider with the entire cost to be paid for by taxpayers.
Last year, the board changed some of the stipulations for collecting meeting per diems. The board agreed to raise their per diems and also did away with $3,000 stipends for the chairmen of the Planning Building and Zoning Committee and Finance Committee. Per diems will increase $10 over eight years, with an initial $5 raise from the current $85 to $90 beginning in 2016 and another $5 increase to a $95 per diem starting in 2020. Board members collect a $35 per diem for attending Kendall County Forest Preserve District meeting. The 10 member Kendall County Board makes up the Forest Preserve District Board. The board members are not allowed to claim two per diems for when the Kendall County Board and Forest Preserve District Board meet on the same day.
The board also voted to allow the County Board chairman to collect a per diem for attending committee meetings to which he is appointed but not County Board meetings.
Currently the chairman is paid a per diem for attending County Board meetings as well as the committee of the whole and Forest Preserve District meetings.
The County Board also unanimously approved allowing board members to only claim per diems for meetings they are assigned to by the County Board chairman.
'Have I made
Information turned over by Ferko's office includes the detailed vouchers board members submit to her on a monthly basis. The vouchers are mostly handwritten and in many cases include cross-outs and calculations on them totaling up which meetings they attended. Emails from the treasurer's office's staff to board members were also included asking board members to turn in their vouchers on time.
In some cases board members were paid for meeting that were later cancelled or they did not attend, the vouchers show. Board members would try to correct the errors on future vouchers they handed in.
For instance the voucher forms include handwritten notes from board members stating they were "deferring meeting" payments to the next month or asking not to be paid later for a meeting because they "overpaid", made a "duplicate" payment or were "already paid."
For instance, an email exchange from October 2011 between Vickery and Ronda Thomas, the treasurer's payroll manager, asks to have some payments "deferred" and "cleaned up."
Vickery writes, "Ronda: I was looking at my deferred pay vouchers for the county board and decided I better get these cleaned up now. Could you please pay me for last March and April's deferred meetings on your next pay period? There are a total of 24 meetings. If you do not have the copies of my vouchers handy let me know and I will drop off copies to you this evening."
An email from Thomas to Flowers in 2012 also says she got "pre-paid" for meetings.
"I prepaid for eight meetings so next month I will adjust your pay," Thomas writes.
In August 2011, Thomas emailed Flowers again asking board members for clarification if a Forest Preserve District Board meeting had been cancelled.
"That is fine I forgot about that meeting. I also missed PBZ on 08/08/11 so please remove that one as well," Flowers wrote back.
A similar email exchange in 2012 from Thomas asks Shaw to "subtract off a meeting that I overpaid you last year."
Koukol had also sent messages asking for meetings to be removed. An email from Thomas to Koukol in June 2012 seems to ask for clarification.
"Jill gave me a payroll voucher. There is a note saying Do Not Pay any of these per Purcell and You. Is it the meetings that you circled or do not pay any meeting period?" Thomas wrote.
Another note written by Koukol on a voucher for May and June of 2011 has a note that says, "Note-please don't pay per diems on these for this month. Chair of finance Anne Vickery informed board no per diem for attending committee meetings you are not on. Did not know this!"
In 2011, prior to the audit and investigation, board members 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.
A voucher turned in by Koukol dated January 2011 reflects that request from Weis with a note that says "1-13 COW-No Charge (reimbursement for harassment training chairman request)."
Shaw's voucher for the same month shows he paid the per diem back to the county as well. Flower's claimed the meeting but in a February 2011 email to Thomas she writes, "-1 meeting remove per diem for anti-sexual harassment training."
Martin's voucher from December 2010 shows she claimed a per diem for attending the training on Dec. 10 2010. The item is highlighted on the voucher.
An email exchange between Petrella and Thomas in November 2011 shows how confusing it could get for board members to keep track of meetings.
Thomas wrote Petrella on Nov. 10, 2011, saying that she would need her November payroll voucher no later than Nov. 18.
Petrella wrote back later that day asking Thomas to add a meeting to her voucher for "the 17th AACVB (Aurora Area Convention and Visitors Bureau)."
Thomas wrote that she would add that meeting. Petrella then sent an email to Thomas saying, "So Sorry, I reviewed (with a microscope) and rechecked meeting dates. I am attending AACVB for Liz (Flowers) on the 17th as you have, but also an additional RVWIB (River Valley Workforce Investment Board) meeting is on the 16th. So one more meeting. Have I made this confusing? It is to me ... thanks very much."
A handwritten note on the email indicates, "already had meeting on 16th get paid for only 1 meeting."
A reply from Thomas on Nov. 15 details how the vouchers from November were compiled.
In the email Thomas writes:
"On your November voucher I added the meeting on the 17th (AACVA) for Liz and then you told me to add a meeting on the 16th but you already have the 16th down for Animal Control, so you wouldn't be paid for the meeting you want me to add (RWIB) because you will be attending two meetings on the same day. Let me know if you wrote down a wrong date."
Petrella replied," You are absolutely correct. Thanks for the heads up and do remove it."