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Several former, current Kendall board members asked to pay back some per diems

Updated: February 25, 2014 8:55PM

YORKVILLE – A special committee of the Kendall County Board Tuesday voted to ask six former and five current board members to pay back some money received for attending meetings or other county-related events.

The Ad Hoc Per Diem Committee voted to send demand letters and take collection actions to recover money paid to the board members in 15 separate categories that were delineated by an investigation into per diems, which are payments made for board meeting attendance.

In each case, committee members said the categories were ones that did not meet the board’s own guidelines for collecting a per diem.

A forensic auditor, the State’s Attorney’s office and a Kendall County grand jury have been investigating per diems taken for more than a year. The investigation covered about a 3½-year period ending in about the middle of 2012.

It involves six former county board members — Anne Vickery, Nancy Martin, Jesse Hafenrichter, Bob Davidson, Pam Parr and Suzanne Petrella — and five current board members, John Purcell, John Shaw, Dan Koukol, Elizabeth Flowers and Jeff Wehrli.

Shaw, board chairman, created the Per Diem Committee to look at the investigation results and to develop new guidelines for taking per diems, or for another form of compensation for board members.

The full County Board, acting on advice from State’s Attorney Eric Weis, decided to have the Per Diem Committee make the final decision on what investigators found. Weis said it made sense, because if the full board made the decision, five board members — half the board — would have to recuse themselves.

Committee members also voted to decline collection actions in eight other categories where they decided it was legitimate for board members to collect per diems.

One of the main categories committee members voted not to recover was money paid to board members who attended meetings of outside organizations to which the board member was assigned.

These would be organizations such as the Urban Counties Council of Illinois or the River Valley Work Force organization.

Weis said there were more of these than any other category, and covered a lot of gray areas. These are meetings where a board member has no control over documentation of attendance, in some cases, the organizations do not take attendance, or even take minutes. In other cases, they might take attendance of their own members, but not of those attending from other organizations.

“This is the one we had the most discussion about internally,” Weis said. “The county board member may not have any say in how records are kept.”

The votes covered more than 500 individual meetings, but committee members still don’t know how much money is involved, or which board members match up to which meetings.

Weis said he could not put together such a list until the committee decided on the policy of per diems for certain types of meetings.

Committee member Judy Gilmour said “at some point, we’re going to need to know that.”

“The public wants to know,” she said. “We’ve just spent $23,000 on this investigation.”

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