Imagine having dozens of energetic teens available for a couple summers in East St. Louis and the money to put them to work. That could be about 120 days worth of vacant lots being cleaned, little kids being mentored, elderly folks’ homes being spruced up and park equipment being painted.
That would be a teen army for good, and in a city that desperately needs it. Plus, that is two summers’ worth of paychecks that can help those youths pay for college or otherwise advance their educations.
Sounds like a fantasy, because what really happened is the kids got about $232,644 over two summers while East St. Louis Township leaders misspent or pocketed about $800,000. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources was so clueless with grant money intended to “further recreation and conservation” that it was misused to the tune of $44,216 the first year to be rewarded with a much larger grant that was looted for $357,940 the second year.
Prosecutors are on the money trail, with loan fraud charges filed against former township consultant and former East St. Louis Councilwoman June Hamilton Dean. She and her brother, former township supervisor Oliver W. Hamilton, got a $200,000 loan without the town board’s OK and proceeded to spend it.
Oliver Hamilton is now in prison for five years for stealing from the township. Feds nailed him for stealing $40,000 from taxpayers, but BND reporters found $230,000 in American Express spending that appeared to have little to do with township business and a whole lot to do with Hamilton’s private businesses and personal pleasure.
Again, if our reporters can scratch the surface of East St. Louis Township and find $800,000 improperly spent through a summer jobs program and $230,000 in questionable spending on a credit card, then a detailed forensic audit of the past decade is demanded. These are tax dollars being used like people’s mad money.
And it again points out the folly of townships, especially when they mirror city boundaries like East St. Louis, Godfrey, Granite City and Alton.
If you are lucky, you get a little incompetence and inefficient duplication of a minor effort to help some of your poor residents. What is more likely is corruption, whether it be theft or just hiring your family and softball buddies.