The governor’s office is investigating whether a member of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board violated rules by earning outside income after he began receiving his $86,000 state salary.
It’s the second time in two weeks that issues surrounding members of the parole board have surfaced following questions raised by the Belleville News-Democrat.
Under Illinois law, anyone serving on the 15-member board cannot have other employment. The law states, “Each member of the board shall serve on a full-time basis and shall not hold any other salaried public office ... nor engage in any other business, employment or vocation.” Besides their salary, members are provided use of a state car and gas card.
But a review of bankruptcy court records by the BND revealed that on Dec. 22, 2014, nearly 18 months after joining the parole board, Eric E. Gregg, the former mayor of Harrisburg, signed a statement that his current income totaled $11,184 per month — or $4,027 more than his state salary.
The records are public and part of Gregg’s Chapter 13 bankruptcy application in federal court in Benton. The extra monthly $4,027 was entered under the bankruptcy form’s heading of income derived from “a business, profession or farm.”
Court documents show Gregg, 54, owes $8,000 in unpaid federal income taxes, $2,000 in unpaid Illinois state income taxes, or a total of $138,066 to 12 creditors.
“The administration is investigating the additional income listed on Eric Gregg’s bankruptcy filing documents and will determine any necessary action upon the conclusion of that investigation,” said Catherine Kelly, communications director for Gov. Bruce Rauner. The administration does not review a potential board member’s finances but does check criminal records.
Attempts to reach Gregg for comment were unsuccessful.
Gregg’s wife, Patti Gregg, who is a full-time teacher’s aide listed on the bankruptcy petition as a “non-filing spouse,” said the extra income was actually hers and was listed in the wrong column under her husband’s name. She said the error was discovered on Tuesday, a day after the BND made inquiries to Ken Tupy, counsel to the Prisoner Review Board.
Gregg is the second member of the Prisoner Review Board to have a bankruptcy pending in federal court in the Southern District of Illinois. The BND reported last Sunday that Vonnetta Harris, who was recommended in 2013 for the position by state Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, also has a pending Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Harris, a former East St. Louis School District 189 program coordinator, owes $11,000 to the IRS and $306,000 in outstanding student loans. The BND reported last year that Harris was seen pulling a car out of Clayborne’s Belleville home garage at 7:30 a.m., although their exact relationship is unclear.
The makeup of the parole board is highly political, and no more than eight members can be from one political party. Nevertheless, Sarah Brune, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said, “Regardless of the law and the policy on politics, you need to decide and consider heavily the merits for the promotion. The purpose of appointments to state government is to serve the voter through transparency and honesty.”
Harris is a Democrat; Gregg is a Republican.
Kent Redfield, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois, said, “Of course they should be financially vetted before they are appointed.”
“If it’s a full-time job, then you don’t want someone to have another full-time job because someone is going to get shorted. Conflict of interest and conflict of commitment are the two reasons why this rule exists,” said Redfield, who also works with the Institute for Legislative Studies.
Tupy, the parole board’s lawyer, said he could not comment on a board member’s bankruptcy, but said he was familiar with the law prohibiting non-board employment. “I read the law the same as you do,” he told the BND.
Patti Gregg said another mistake was listing her as a “non-filing” spouse. She said that she is part of the bankruptcy and that the extra income came from her operation of Southern Illinois Energy Group, a company founded by Eric Gregg and Lu Ann Walker. Walker is protesting the bankruptcy and has claimed she is owed $59,000 by Eric Gregg from the operation of the energy business. Depositions for Walker’s claim were taken Thursday in Benton.
“When he was going to go on the Prisoner Review Board we switched the business to my name,” said Patti Gregg. However, a check of Illinois Secretary of State business records showed no current listing for Southern Illinois Energy Group.
Eric Gregg was also required to file economic interest statements yearly after taking his seat on the review board. In a statement April 26, 2013, filed with the Illinois Secretary of State, he denied receiving during the preceding year of 2012 any “gift, or gifts, or honorarium or honoraria, valued singly or in the aggregate in excess of $500.” Gregg wrote “none” on the line for gifts.
However, according to a credit card statement supplied by a Harrisburg area businessman, who said he wanted to help Gregg in April 2012 when the then-mayor was hospitalized with acute diverticulitis, a complication of the small intestines that required surgery, Gregg received a lift chair purchased from The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy in Harrisburg for $1,100. The lift chair is listed in the bankruptcy case, which Gregg valued at $100.
Also, shortly after a tornado hit Harrisburg in 2012, the Saline County Mayoral Committee held a fundraiser to raise money for Gregg’s medical expenses, according to wsiltv.com. The economic interest statement for the parole board does not list this donation. Current Harrisburg Mayor Dale Fowler said the amount raised was about $5,000. It was the first and last fundraiser held by the committee.