Poor township's leader spends $230K on AmEx card
An East St. Louis Township official was charged Tuesday with spending more than $40,000 of township money on personal purchases.
Oliver Hamilton, who is the East St. Louis Township supervisor, was charged with wire fraud Tuesday in U.S. District Court.
Hamilton is scheduled to plead guilty at 10 a.m. on Dec. 1, according to court records.
A News-Democrat investigation showed Hamilton spent $230,000 on an American Express card from Jan. 1, 2012, to June 2016. The investigation found Hamilton used the credit card to pay for various personal items including Las Vegas trips, $34 car washes and flowers and gifts for his political allies.
The card assigned to Hamilton, who owns a construction company, also was used to buy paint, drywall, lumber, cabinetry, power tools, tractor tires, locks, nails and bathroom fixtures. All of these purchases were sales tax exempt.
In public corruption cases, the defense can approach prosecutors and admit to the crimes they alleged. This can limit the defendant’s exposure to additional charges and publicity throughout the court case. The prosecutor obtains a guaranteed conviction. In cases such as these, an agreement is made on the sentencing that is then presented to the judge for approval. U.S. District Judge Michael J. Reagan will preside over Hamilton’s case on Dec. 1.
“Public corruption cases should be handled with the most transparency,” said former Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith. “When you abuse a position of trust, the public should have the right to be informed of how the case is handled. There shouldn’t be any deals. The chips should fall where they may.”
Public corruption cases should be handled with the most transparency. When you abuse a position of trust, the public should have the right to be informed of how the case is handled. There shouldn’t be any deals. The chips should fall where they may.
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith
According to information filed in Hamilton’s case, the offenses took place from March 2011 through June 2016. The charges accuse him of using public money for more than $40,000 in personal purchases, and state that he “misrepresented that the use of public funds was for legitimate public purpose.”
According to a federal court document, Hamilton waived indictment. The document is signed by Hamilton and his attorney, Clyde Kuehn of Belleville. Kuehn could not immediately be reached.
Under an Illinois law that went into effect on July 15, Hamilton can no longer serve as township supervisor, which carries a $64,000 annual salary, if he pleads guilty. Hamilton also serves as a St. Clair County Board member. It was not immediately clear whether he would be removed from the County Board.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Norm Smith and U.S. Attorney Donald Boyce signed the criminal information that stated the charges.
Asked to comment on whether Hamilton can retain his position as a Democratic member of the St. Clair County Board, State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly said under state law, if Hamilton receives a prison sentence he would no longer be able to hold the office. He could also lose his position if he admitted guilt to a felony that constituted an “infamous” crime, or if he agreed as part of his plea agreement to step down.
As for the township position, a provision of state law titled “Qualification and Tenure of Township Officers,” states that if a township officeholder has been convicted in any court in the United States of an “infamous crime,” he or she may not serve. However, the law is vague on defining infamous crime and states only that they consist of, “bribery, perjury or other felony.”