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Per diem, mileage tab: $45,997 : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Per diem, mileage tab: $45,997
Letters list how much current, former board members owe county

by Matt Schury


Letters sent to 11 former and current Kendall County Board members last week state they collectively owe the county $45,997 in improperly collected per diem and mileage payments.

According to the letters released this week by the Kendall County State's Attorney's office, almost a third of that total, or $14,572, is owed by former County Board Chairman Anne Vickery.

The 11 "request letters" were released as part of a Freedom of Information Act request sent by the Record Newspapers to Kendall County State's Attorney Eric Weis and County Board member Amy Cesich, chairman of the board's Ad Hoc Per Diem Committee.

Eleven current and former board members were part of a lengthy investigation and audit by the Kendall County State's Attorney's office and a private auditing firm, authorized by the board in 2012.

Vickery declined comment for this article.

County Board members identified in the Weis' investigation and audit who received letters include Vickery, Bob Davidson, Jessie Hafenrichter, Nancy Martin, Pam Parr and Suzanne Petrella as well as current board members Dan Koukol, former chairman John Purcell, current Chairman John Shaw, Jeff Wehrli and Elizabeth Flowers.

The audit looked at per diems collected by board members between 2008 and 2012. The amounts each member owes is stated as follows:












The letters all have the same language with the amounts believed owed changed for each member. The letters indicate they are "confidential--for settlement purposes only."

The letters, on county letterhead and signed by Cesich, include minutes from the Jan. 21 Kendall County Board meeting where the board approved having Weis present the per diem and mileage audit findings to the Per Diem Ad Hoc Committee in lieu of the full board. The letters also have an excerpt from the minutes that shows the board authorizing the committee to make all settlement and litigation decisions on the county's behalf.

The board members will have seven days to contact the State's Attorney's office to discuss the amount they owe or to arrange payment, the letters state. If the members do nothing within seven days, the letters indicate that it "shall result in further action taken to collect the amount due and owing to the County of Kendall."

Weis has said his office would send out a second round of "demand letters" if his office gets no response.

Shaw: 'I don't feel that
I've done anything wrong'

Shaw stated that he is starting to resent the process, which he thinks has "gone radically out of control." He added that he also wants to know who the prosecutor is in this case.

"I'm very angry about the hiding-the Wizard of Oz scenario here-I'd like to know who's behind the curtain," Shaw said.

He recalled that in November he asked Weis if he should hire an attorney and Weis told him he couldn't advise him. Shaw said he took that to mean Weis doesn't represent him in this case.

Shaw mentioned that his attorney, Grant Wegner, responded to the letter by email and went to the courthouse to pick up appendix A, which includes a list of the meetings for which the members owe.

"I was a little shocked to get a letter from myself," Shaw said, pointing out it had the county board's letterhead on top of it.

Shaw said he believes he has paper work to back up some of the meetings they are requesting payment for. He explained that the first time he looked at the amount he owed, in December, it was about $456, and he was given a chance to respond. He noted that the amount he is now said to owe is about five times that. Shaw said he would like to see where that number came from.

"It's very peculiar, who's doing this? Who's making this up?" Shaw said.

He noted that the committee didn't have anything to do with coming up with the numbers that were in the letter.

Shaw said that he is going to fight the repayment request.

"I have been told by somebody to be a hero and just go in and pay it. I'm not going to pay it if I don't owe it. What am I stupid?" Shaw said. "I've got my family's reputation. Yes, I care about the people of Kendall County but my family is the one taking the beating."

Shaw pointed out that he is retired from the quarry business he ran and has nothing to do with the operation anymore.

"I no longer run a business nor do I own one," Shaw said.

He added that without any context to what happened people are left with the impression that he is just a thief.

"It's like I went into John Purcell's Ace Hardware and just stole one of those really fancy cookers or something," Shaw said. "Not to demean $456 but this is asinine. "I don't feel that I've done anything wrong."

The board members are allowed to collect an $85 per diem for attending committee and board meetings. In addition to the per diem, board members are also given a salary, mileage reimbursement, can become vested in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund and have the option to join the county's health insurance plan.

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 in 2012.

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.

Last year 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.

According to information the Kendall County Treasurer's office turned over to the accounting firm last year, the 11 Kendall County Board members included in the audit investigation collectively earned $642,779 between 2008 and 2012. The total included checks cut to board members for salaries, stipends and per diems.

Committee OK'D issues
on which Letters are based

In February the Board's Per Diem Ad Hoc Committee agreed to have Weis issue the letters to begin collection actions against the 11 board members named in the forensic audit almost two years ago.

The committee, chaired by Cesich, includes Lynn Cullick, Judy Gilmour, Scott Gryder and Matthew Prochaska. The five members reviewed each of the 23 counts.

The committee decided to take action on 15 of the 23 types of violations found in the independent forensic audit.

Weis said that the audit included over 500 meeting claims that fell into one of the 23 categories.

Each of the issues dealt with a discrepancy, in how, when, where or why board members claimed per diems and mileage for attending meetings. Issues also dealt with the types of meetings for which board members were seeking reimbursement. Some of the issues addressed a lack of information on vouchers regarding the meetings that were attended, as well as a lack of proof that some members attended meetings for which they were paid.

Violations and issues the committee said they would like to see the county compensated for include double billing the county for attendance at one meeting; no meeting existed and/or no agenda or record of meeting was found but a voucher was submitted for per diem payment; committee meetings where County Board chairman submitted a voucher for attendance but was not authorized to be paid for that committee meeting per the Kendall County Board Rules of Order.

Other per diem compensation issues include board members already submitting a voucher and collecting per diem for attendance at another meeting on the same day and attendance as an alternate at a meeting when no alternate was needed to reach a quorum.

The committee also felt it was appropriate that the county be reimbursed when a board member collected a per diem and a meeting was recorded and agenda was posted, but the board member was not recorded as attending the meeting.

The letters also requested that some board members reimburse the county for claiming a per diem for attendance at a meeting, training, seminar or open house authorized by the County Board chairman but where no written documentation and/or no intent from County Board chairman for the member to receive a per diem was found.

Other issues the committee said they wanted the county to be compensated for included attendance at meetings with county employees, legal counsel and/or elected officials as well as claiming per diems for attendance at internal trainings, open houses, and/or seminars.

The group also approved a return of compensation in cases where board members voluntarily attended outside entity meetings concerning projects, funding, etc., that may affect the county but the county will not take action on; attendance at meetings of an outside entity but the board member was never appointed by the County Board as a representative for that meeting.

Members who claimed attendance at interviews with applicants for employment will have to reimburse the county, as will those who claimed per diems for attendance at training, conferences and seminars both county sponsored or outside of the county. Lastly, board members who submitted vouchers but did not list a specific meeting (e.g., "Round planning") on a voucher entry will have to reimburse the county, according to action by the committee.

They are also asking for reimbursement from members who claimed per diems for attendance at a county meeting, which the board member was not required to attend. This month the committee also took action to seek reimbursement for mileage that had been collected improperly.

Payment system
remains mostly status quo

Earlier this month the committee decided not to change the way board members are compensated and upheld the per diem system. The committee had proposed paying board members a salary to reduce confusion about when and for which meetings they can claim a per diem. They also proposed doing away with taxpayer-funded health insurance and mileage reimbursements for in-county travels.

The motion to make the changes failed. Board members supporting per diems said it wouldn't be fair to pay all members the same salary if some had to attend more meetings than others.

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