The president of the metro-east levee board resigned Wednesday hours before the Madison County Board was to vote on removing him from office.
Andy Economy, who heads the Metro-East Sanitary District Board, faced removal on ethical concerns amid allegations that he failed to properly disclose economic interests regarding vehicle repairs his auto body shop did for the flood prevention district.
As reported by the News-Democrat in October, Andy’s Auto Body & Towing in Madison was paid $33,150 over three years by the levee district to repair district trucks and SUVs, including three crashes of an SUV assigned to Bob Shipley, executive director of the district.
Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons said he intended to request a special prosecutor to determine whether payments to Economy violated any laws. It was not immediately apparent whether that has been approved.
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The county board was to vote on Economy’s removal at its regular meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Earlier in the day, the levee district board met and Economy tendered his resignation, according to Alan Dunstan, chairman of the Madison County Board.
I’m glad the county board doesn’t have to vote on this. He did what I would have done: just go ahead and resign instead of forcing the board, some of his friends… to vote on it. They would have voted for it, but now they’re not in that position.
Alan Dunstan, chairman of the Madison County Board
“I’m glad the county board doesn’t have to vote on this,” Dunstan said. “He did what I would have done: just go ahead and resign instead of forcing the board, some of his friends… to vote on it. They would have voted for it, but now they’re not in that position.”
The letter was entered into the record at the county board meeting and Dunstan announced that the vote would be removed from the agenda. No further discussion took place.
“I have done my best to serve the public interest in my position as commissioner,” Economy wrote in his resignation letter. “I am proud of my two decades of public service with the district.”
In the past, Economy has maintained that he did not see a conflict of interest in repairing the cars because he did not vote on the motions and the costs of repairs are assessed by insurance adjusters, not by himself or his employees.
County treasurer Kurt Prenzler, who is challenging Dunstan for his seat as chairman, criticized Dunstan for his handling of the situation, which involved a personal friend. "The chairman claims the removal is about ethics," he said. "Where is his ethics in all of this?"
A few weeks ago, Dunstan had said he would recommend Economy’s removal to the county board. “I based that decision on the economic interest statements,” Dunstan said. “That’s a misdemeanor… I hope the best for Andy. It’s an unfortunate situation, but we’ve handled this as best we could.”
Dunstan said county administrators informed the MESD attorney shortly after the News-Democrat article was published that in the future, no board member can do business with the district. He said the county committees are also planning to reach out to the 300-plus board members and commissioners appointed by the county on various boards and commissions reminding them of proper procedures and conflicts of interest.
“We’re not just leaving it at Metro-East Sanitary District,” Dunstan said. “We will make sure they are all following procedures correctly. Hopefully this will be an isolated incident, but we will take the extra steps to make sure they are all operating in a correct fashion.”
The board also approved its annual budget, which will be $129 million, of which $46.9 million is the general fund. Another $59.5 million is special revenue funds, including the health department, Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, Madison County Museum, Veterans Assistance Commission, animal control, the Child Advocacy Center, waste management, 911 services, and other special funds such as capital projects.
However, Dunstan said the levy will be reduced by 2.3 percent for a total amount of $33.4 million. County administrator Joe Parente said only about 25 percent of the county budget comes from property taxes; the rest comes from fees, grants, intergovernmental revenue and other sources.
County Board members Mick Madison and Lisa Ciampoli voted no; Ciampoli cited her wish that the county’s surplus be used to further reduce taxes, and Prenzler said the county should cut its levy by 10 percent.
“What the chairman fails to understand is that the budget is not for him, it’s for the citizens,” Prenzler said. “These annual surpluses are unnecessary, and if the county doesn’t need the money, then it should give it back.”
Dunstan said the surplus is largely money that is being saved year to year to pay for larger, special projects. He said, given the situation with the state, he’s happy with the budget.
“I think the state would love to have a surplus right now,” he said. “The general fund will always go up because wages increase, but our (levy) went down this year.”
Dunstan said that he is worried the state will try to shift more of its financial responsibilities onto local government. “I’m proud of our financial situation,” he said. “But I have no idea what the state of Illinois will do tomorrow.”
In other news, county board member Terry Davis (D-Granite City) has resigned from the board a year before his term was to end for personal reasons. Davis was elected in 2011 and his resignation is effective Thursday.
“It has been an honor to serve with the board and to serve the people of Madison County,” Davis said.
Dunstan said he would have nominees to replace both Davis and Economy at the next board meeting. For Davis’ seat, he has to nominate a candidate of the same part.