Topinka calls Washington Park a 'disaster area'; calls for investigation of finances

News-DemocratJune 20, 2013 

Judy Baar Topinka

AP

Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka said Thursday she has asked the state attorney general to investigate the Village of Washington Park after it failed to submit required financial reports for the last seven years.

Washington Park Mayor Ann Rodgers could not be reached for comment.

Local governments are required to file certain annual financial reports, audits and tax increment financing reports with the office of the comptroller, which serves as a repository for the records.

Washington Park, however, has not filed its reports in seven years and has never filed a report for its TIF program, which was created in 2004, according to Topinka.

Topinka said her office has "upped the ante" in regard to compliance by municipalities across the state. "It's been steadily rising," she said. "We are at 97 percent now."

For the last two years, she said her office has worked to try to get Washington Park to comply with the state law. "We have been very aggressive about this," Topinka explained. "We want to post these things (online) and live up to our transparency promises."

She said the state can't get "anywhere" with Washington Park. "We have had everything from lack of cooperation to cooperation," Topinka said.

From the financial standpoint, she described Washington Park as a "disaster area. We can't get any (financial) material. They don't have any material," she said.

The state sent an independent auditor from Kujawa and Batteau in Pinckneyville to the village at the end of April, according to Topinka. "He came back, and said, 'I can't do anything, because nothing from nothing is nothing," she said. "They don't have any records. They don't have any bookkeeping to speak of. They don't have receipts. They don't have bills showing what they owe."

Topinka said her office has taken the financial issues in Washingon Park "as far as we can" and had to call in the attorney general's office. "It's a rarity for us to go to the attorney general," she said. "Usually, we can straighten it out on our own with our own auditors ...We are up against a wall on this one."

Topinka said this is "uncharted" territory for the office of the comptroller. "We will assist the attorney general in whatever way we can. We will work cooperatively together on this," she said. "We can't afford to take chances with public money."

Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued a statement Thursday: "We're going to talk with the comptroller's office to assess what the outside auditors observed and then reach out to criminal authorities to determine the appropriate next steps."

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or jforsythe1@bnd.com.

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or jforsythe1@bnd.com.

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