Washington Park clerk says he welcomes state investigation into village finances

News DemocratJune 21, 2013 

— Village Clerk Ricky Thomas said he welcomes Comptroller Judy Barr Topinka coming in to Washington Park to investigate the village's finances.

Topinka on Thursday said she has asked the state attorney general's office to investigate because the village hasn't submitted required financial documents to the state for years.

Thomas said he and other trustees had a hard time getting any information out of former village trustees.

"I knew something was wrong when we could not get to look at records we were asking for. When we got some records, we called for an audit," Thomas said.

Thomas said when he requested an audit early on, he was supported only by Trustee Joan McIntosh and then Trustee Ann Rodgers. The late Rev. Dorris Davis, Trustee Stovall Hollingsworth and Trustee Jim Lenzi were on the board at the time, Thomas said.

"The state comptroller notified us that we were not in compliance with our audits," Thomas said.

Thomas said in 2012 he and Rodgers were in contact with the comptroller's office trying to get an investigation conducted on the village's finances.

Thomas said the village was notified in December that the comptroller's office would be conducting an audit, and within days, a village employee shredded about 50 boxes of documents. Thomas said he filed a police report on the matter with local police and the Illinois State Police.

Thomas said the employee should have requested and obtained permission before shredding documents.

Thomas said he also contacted prosecutors. But they didn't think the employee broke the law, Thomas said.

"The village's finances have to be gotten under control. I think the best way to do this is to bring in a commission appointed by the governor," Thomas said.

Thomas said some members of the current Village Board are in favor of that, and some are not.

"We're just spinning our wheels, paying a little here and a little there while we are steadily adding new people onto the payroll. We are not getting in any new revenue to offset what we've got going out," he said. "You have to take in more revenue than you are spending."

Asked what exactly is the status of village records, Village Attorney Eric Evans said, "All of the financial records are missing -- basically everything from the last six years. There were no audits, no check registers. There's no financial records."

Evans added, "To file certified financial records you need to have the underlying documentation. The previous administrations never filed it as required by law. We can't go back and fix it for them. There are no records."

Evans said steps have been taken to prevent future problems.

"Going forward we have procedures in place. The village is in millions of dollars of debt," he said.

Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 618-239-2503.

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