Bathon's sorry he got caught

December 9, 2013 

Fred Bathon, the former Madison County treasurer, said he's sorry he rigged county tax auctions. Sorry to be caught and prosecuted, more likely. Sorry to be losing his state pension and going to prison for 30 months. But sorry for the scam that enriched his political war chest? We doubt it.

He knew at the time that it was wrong to rig the auctions so tax buyers/campaign contributors could charge delinquent property taxpayers double-digit interest rates but he did it anyway. If he had run a competitive auction, the interest charged would have been a few percentage points; instead most rates were at or near the maximum 18 percent.

Bathon's attorney would have people feel sympathy for Bathon because he is a good-hearted, charitable man who has had a tough life. Sorry, the people we sympathize with are his victims -- the struggling Madison County property owners who had to pay exorbitant amounts to redeem their property. People like the Glen Carbon property owner who had to pay more than $2,000 to redeem a $498 tax bill. The court didn't chronicle their individual stories, unfortunately.

County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan released a statement after the sentencing that said he was "heartened by the fact that, once again, our system of justice worked and Mr. Bathon will now suffer the consequences of his actions."

Please, spare us the righteous act. Dunstan or other county officeholders surely knew or at least suspected the tax auction scam but did nothing to stop it. If a Republican had been running fishy tax auctions, you can bet the Democrats would have been all over it.

Maybe they just didn't want the county Democratic Party to look bad, or maybe they didn't want those campaign contributions that Bathon was raking in and funneling to other county Democrats to stop.

Bathon's fellow Democrats didn't have a legal duty to get involved, but it would have been the right thing to do for the taxpayers of Madison County.

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