If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he just might realize catching fish is hard but stealing fish is easy.
East St. Louis was on the verge of bankruptcy in 1990 when the state offered a helping hand in exchange for city leaders accepting supervision of their finances. That supervision was about balanced budgets and not spending money on luxuries when there were too few cops to investigate murders. A lot of solid financial advice and planning knowledge was imparted during those decades.
But the Financial Advisory Authority disbanded at the end of 2013 when the city paid off its debt. Sadly, our editorial predicting financial mayhem was right.
A cash management review by an accounting firm found what was either gross incompetence or a ready victim for thieves within months of state oversight ending. They reported:
• A random sample of 48 businesses found half were not paying a 1 percent city food and beverage tax and the other half were paying only sporadically.
• A $136,977 wire transfer was still not recorded five months later.
• Four wire transfers of $1.3 million were never recorded.
• Bank records on major city accounts were nowhere to be found.
• Ten months of tow reports were missing — you know, the kind of reports that Edwardsville’s former police chief bilked for $138,000 to feed his gambling habit in a city that ostensibly has its financial house in order.
All of this happened on the watch of former city treasurer Joe W. Lewis Jr., who you’ll remember was never bonded so there’s no coverage if money was lost or stolen during his term.
Hello, U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton? Illinois State Police? The smell of dead fish is overwhelming on the riverfront.