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SA to release per diem investigation findings : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
SA to release per diem investigation findings
Five current, six former county board members focus of probe

by Matt Schury


Kendall County State's Attorney Eric Weis is expected to speak publicly for the first time next week about an ongoing forensic audit investigation into Kendall County Board members' per diem payments and mileage reimbursement.

The County Board's Per Diem Ad Hoc Committee will hear from Weis during their next meeting on Thursday, Jan. 30 at 4 p.m. at the Kendall County office building.

"I'm ready to present some of the findings or some of the recommendations to the committee or to the board," he said.

On Tuesday the board voted 8-0 to authorize Weis' office to present the audit's preliminary findings to the committee in lieu of the full board.

The board also voted 8-1 to authorize the Per Diem Ad Hoc Committee to make all settlement and civil litigation decisions on the county's behalf related to the audit findings.

"We have not concluded the entire forensic audit investigation. However, we are prepared to move forward to bring some recommendations and some findings to the committee or to the County Board," Weis said.

Board member John Purcell voted "present" and Elizabeth Flowers abstained from voting when the board decided to have Weis present his audit finding.

Purcell cast the lone no vote on having the committee make a decision on potential settlements and litigation and Flowers abstained from that vote as well.

Current board members included in the audit and investigation are Purcell, Flowers, Jeff Wehrli, Dan Koukol, and Chairman John Shaw. Former board members included are Anne Vickery, Bob Davidson, Pam Parr, Jesse Hafenritcher, Suzanne Petrella and Nancy Martin.

Weis told the board that he felt more comfortable having the committee hear his initial findings and decide on what legal action should be taken, since the five board members on the committee are not included in the investigation. Board members on the Per Diem Ad Hoc Committee include committee chairman Amy Cesich, Scott Gryder, Matthew Prochaska, Lynn Cullick and Judy Gilmour.

If the full county board was to vote on any potential civil action or settlements, Weis said it might present a conflict of interest since five of the board member are included in it. Weis said they would have to abstain and it would present an awkward situation.

"I think it's the cleanest way. I think it's the easiest way and I think it avoids any appearance of impropriety," he said. "I think in presenting to a committee that has no interested party on (it) ... makes sense. I think it makes it more easy to have an open discussion."

The audit and investigation that began in 2012 have examined how board members collected compensation for attending meetings and mileage reimbursement. It involved a forensic audit provided by a private auditing firm as well as an investigation by Weis' office.

It was learned this fall that a Kendall County Grand Jury also subpoenaed records and minutes from boards and commissions county members sit on. Kendall County Sheriff's deputies also interviewed some board members about how they collect per diems.

"The reason I formed this committee ... was the fact that we all know that there's a problem here with the honor system and it didn't start with this board it started a long time ago," Shaw said, adding that he also wants to give the committee time to "work on the remedy" to the issue. "We know errors have been made."

Cesich reported that it has cost the county over $22,000 so far to have the forensic audit performed by a private company.

During discussion, Purcell said he was in favor of postponing the vote so that the board had more time to discuss if they wanted the committee making decisions on behalf of the full board.

Weis he didn't mind if the board wanted more time but noted that the board does often authorize committees and staff to take action on their behalf, including when eminent domain is involved.

The next meeting of the Per Diem Ad Hoc Committee was originally scheduled to take place Jan. 24 but Gryder said that he was unable to attend so Cesich changed the meeting to next Thursday to accommodate him.

Shaw said that we was OK with having the committee make a recommendation but wanted to make sure that a full complement of the committee was there for such an important discussion.

The entire County Board could still be present at next week's committee meeting. All County Board committee meetings are open to the public under provisions of the Illinois Open Meetings Act. Board members who are not on the Per Diem Ad Hoc Committee and are under investigation may attend if they wish. It is not clear if those board members will show up for the meeting.

"If you wish to attend the Per Diem Committee meeting and listen to the recommendation but not participate in the discussion, obviously you are open to do that," Weis said.

The committee can hold their discussion in closed session if they like, Weis said, but he recommends they hold the meeting in open session since it has taken so long for the findings to be made public.

"I don't plan on talking about specifics of individuals at this point but recommendations as a whole as to what you want ... how you choose to handle it, that's really up to you," Weis told the board.

Asked about possible criminal litigation against board members, Weis said that was something he, as State's Attorney, could bring forth if he thought it were necessary.

"Criminal decisions are made by the State's Attorney statutorily. That decision is made by me ultimately if there is any criminal activity," he said.

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