Caseyville Township trustee seeks investigation into supervisor's spending

News-DemocratNovember 2, 2013 

AP GRAPHICS BANK

A Caseyville Township trustee says the township supervisor misspent township money on meals, gift cards and parties. But the supervisor, Bruce Canty, says the allegations are false and an attempt to replace him with the trustee's political ally.

Trustee Rick Donovan said he has filed complaints with the Fairview Heights Police Department because Canty spent township funds on meals and gifts for employees and himself, and hid the expenses from the board.

Canty denies the allegation and said the board approved the expenses after reviewing receipts of each purchase

Fairview Heights Police Lt. Steve Evans said the department received the complaint and was not able to substantiate whether a crime occurred. St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly said he could neither confirm nor deny a complaint made to his office.

The meals and gifts were purchased prior to Donovan joining the board in May. Donovan said he randomly selected six months of invoices from 2012 and early 2013, and found what he believes to be more than $3,200 of misspent township money. About $1,700 of that was spent at Sam's Club to purchase candy, coffee and other goods. The remaining $1,600 was spent for meals at local restaurants and gift cards for birthday and holiday parties.

"This is clearly a violation of taxpayer funds...and also misleading the board," Donovan said. "I would view it that any taxpayer funds that are used for something other than feasible operations of this township is in excess. This is taxpayer money. That's like me reaching into your pocket, going out and eating on it without permission to do that."

Canty said those purchases were approved by the township board, and he follows the board's direction. The board chose to stop paying for such purchases this past summer after Donovan disputed the expenses.

Canty provided copies of the receipts signed by board members and said the township has received clean audits since he took the helm in 2006. Canty served as clerk for 16 years prior to becoming supervisor and described the current board as "toxic."

"It's all political," Canty said of the allegations. "The board is the local legislative branch. They create the rules and ordinances, and I enforce them as the supervisor. They want to do both. That's where the rub comes in."

Donovan was elected in the spring. Three of the board's five members, Don Chrismore, Dorothy Moody, and James Lemansky, were trustees at the time the purchases were approved. As supervisor, Canty is also a voting member of the board.

Chrismore said the disputed expenses were grouped with up to 50 receipts under the line item "Office Supplies" and he did not realize the township was paying for parties and gifts.

"The board did approve the bills. They were just listed as supplies," Chrismore said. "The only thing I saw was some hams bought for employees. I never did see the dinners. As far as I'm concerned, if they want to do that they should take up a collection, not use township funds."

Lemansky said he was "very shocked" when he learned of the purchases.

"When something is under 'Office Supplies,' I more or less sign off on it because I figure its things they need for the office," Lemansky said, adding the stack of receipts is nearly two inches thick per week. "I was very ashamed of myself when Donovan delved into this. It would still be going on if it wasn't for Rick. ..."

"This has probably been done in the past for years and years and years. When we started questioning and found out it was true, we immediately stopped it," he said.

Moody could not be reached for comment.

The board oversees a $1 million annual budget, as well as the township's extensive sewer system. The rift in the board comes at a time when some residents in the Weinel Hill neighborhood are struggling to pay a $2,500 township fee and at least $2,000 in related costs to tap into a new sewer line.

Canty said the allegations stem from an attempt from Donovan to force him to retire from the position he's held for six years and orchestrate better-paying positions with the township for Donovan and Township Clerk David Jacknewitz.

If the supervisor seat were open, Canty believes Donovan would push to replace him with Jacknewitz, a political ally, and then seek the clerk seat for himself.

Trustees receive about $19,000 in compensation, while the clerk receives about $28,000. The supervisor position receives about $54,000 in compensation.

"Donovan asked me two or three times--'Don't you think you should retire?' That's a threat," Canty said.

Donovan denied the issue was politically motivated, and said he investigated after a bill didn't seem right listed under "Office Supplies." He said he understands how trustees "inadvertently" approved the expenses.

"He couldn't be further from the truth. I have no ambitions whatsoever to be township clerk," Donovan said. "For one thing, the clerk doesn't have a vote. As far as I'm concerned, it's a moot position on the board. You wouldn't have any power to do anything for the residents as a clerk. My intentions were to get elected, be a viable representative for the township, and do my fiduciary duty as a watchdog for residents. If offered the position (of clerk), I wouldn't take it under the circumstances."

Jacknewitz said he planned on fulfilling his term of four years as the township clerk.

"This is my fourth decade of service for Caseyville Township. I plan on being the clerk until something else opens up like any other political figure. I am not trying to push anybody out of anything. I know nothing about this. I ran for the clerk's job and am trying to be the best clerk I can be at this time," Jacknewitz said.

Donovan said he has also filed a police report after audio recordings of closed-session board meetings went missing from the township building. Donovan says the tapes were last seen in Canty's office and were replaced with recordings from seven years ago.

Canty said he did not touch the tapes, and Jacknewitz was responsible for the recordings.

The recordings were kept in a drawer in his office, according to Jacknewitz, and he would be asking the board's approval on Thursday to purchase a locking, fireproof cabinet to keep the recordings and written minutes from the board's meetings.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

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