Kendall County per diem investigation discussion begins
By Steve Lord firstname.lastname@example.org January 30, 2014 6:10PM
Updated: March 3, 2014 5:10PM
YORKVILLE — A special ad hoc committee studying how Kendall County Board members are compensated began looking this week at the results of a two-year investigation into per diems and mileage taken.
State’s Attorney Eric Weis, speaking to the Ad Hoc Per Diem Committee, declined to name specific names, and specific amounts of money involved, in the investigation that looked at per diems taken by board members for about a 3 1/2-year period ending in about the middle of 2012.
Per diems are payments given to County Board members for each meeting they attend. The investigation included five former board members — Anne Vickery, Nancy Martin, Jesse Hafenrichter, Bob Davidson and Suzanne Petrella — and five current members, John Purcell, John Shaw, Dan Koukol, Elizabeth Flowers and Jeff Wehrli.
Weis outlined a number of areas the Ad Hoc Per Diem Committee has to decide on before the state’s attorney can even decide how many board members owe how much money.
“I cannot give you a total dollar amount until you decide,” Weis said. “Some things are not crystal clear.”
But Weis did outline seven different categories which he said were almost crystal clear violations of the board’s rules on collecting per diems.
“There are monies I think should be recovered from board members past and present,” he said.
Weis stopped short of saying if any of the per diems that might have been taken wrongly was a criminal action. He said the money would be recoverable from the board members in question, whether it was through criminal court charges, or through civil court.
“They are two separate things,” Weis said. “If someone submits a payout twice, is it criminal? It could be. But if the issue is, they’re not a good record-keeper and it was submitted by mistake, it’s not criminal. Recovery of the monetary amounts is not tied to criminal or civil.”
The seven areas Weis outlined as ones he thought were obvious transgressions were:
Double billings, where someone took a per diem twice for the same meeting.
No meeting existed. These were cases where the auditor could find no agenda or minutes for the meeting, but a board member claimed a per diem. In some cases, the meetings were canceled, but a board member submitted a per diem for it ahead of time.
The full board chairman was paid for attending a committee meeting.
Claiming a per diem for a second meeting on the same day.
A board member was a committee alternate and attended the meeting, but was not needed there to make a quorum.
Payments were made without vouchers or signatures.
Meetings were attended, but there is no proof in the minutes or agenda that the board member attended.
Weis also outlined other situations that were not so cut and dried. He also went over issues the Ad Hoc Per Diem Committee should look at for the future of how per diems are collected.
Weis said the forensic audit of the per diems is substantially over. That would cover the areas the board is considering. Weis declined to say if there is any criminal investigation going on, and whether that is finished or not. “You don’t concern yourselves with that, that’s up to me,” he said. “I’ll tell you when it’s over.”
The five Ad Hoc Per Diem committee members — the five current board members are not subject to the investigation — agreed money should be recovered. But they did not decide on any specific cases yet, because they said they would go over them, one by one.
Weis said he has not discussed any of the cases with specific board members because he needed to find out what the board wanted to do first.
“Mistakes were made by members,” he said. “I think the board members want to correct it. The question is, was it a mistake by the board member, or by the board as a whole?”
Committee members decided to hear Weis’ information in open session, because the investigation has been so well-known. They could have gone into closed session, Weis said. By staying in open session, the five board members waived their attorney-client privilege with Weis.