Metro-East News

East St. Louis Township Board proposes financial reforms; consultant resigns

Members of the trustee board have proposed a series of financial reforms that promise to transform East St. Louis Township from a target of state and federal corruption investigators to an open and honest handler of taxpayer money.

During a board meeting Thursday night, newly appointed Supervisor Tommy Dancy appealed to the public: “Give us time, folks. We are going to get this right.”

The four-member board and Dancy voted to accept the resignation of financial consultant June Hamilton Dean, the sister of former township Supervisor Oliver Hamilton. Hamilton Dean, who is an East St. Louis City Councilwoman, was paid $33,000 a year by the township.

Oliver Hamilton resigned in December after pleading guilty in federal court to wire fraud. A BND investigation found Hamilton used a publicly supported township American Express card to make $230,000 for such questionable purchases as tires for his construction company’s tractor, ten of thousands of dollars in building supplies, $40,000 in gasoline, trips to Las Vegas and gifts for his friends and political cronies over a four-year period.

The BND also reported that Hamilton received a $25,000 public grant to rehab a boarding house he owns, and that his former girlfriend, the mother of his child, steered contracts to his construction company from the city Housing Authority.

June Hamilton Dean was one of two other township officials to face state corruption charges. She also had a credit card paid for by the township. She was not at the meeting and could not be reached.

The board has abolished all credit cards except for a single Shell gasoline card used by bus drivers for the Clyde Jordan Food Bank, which is operated by the township.

The board also terminated Ernest Walker, who for years was paid to mow grass and clean the township offices at 6755 State St., even though a company he said he owned was not registered with the state. Walker, who operated an unlicensed boarding house for Hamilton, was paid $2,300 a month. Walker could not be reached.

Led by Trustee Edith Moore, who is facing a state voting fraud charge unrelated to the FBI investigation of the township, and Trustee Troy Mosley, the board has proposed:

▪  Presenting all expenditures in detail to the trustee board for approval before they are paid.

▪  Reviewing the township employee payroll to isolate those workers who were hired without board approval.

▪  Establishing detailed financial reports in separate accounts for all township income.

“We are trying to get a handle on things that weren’t handled before,” Moore said.

A review of financial records obtained by the BND through an FOIA request showed that just a few days after Aug. 10 —the day the FBI raided the township offices and took all of its computers — Hamilton continued his usual spending on the township’s American Express card. He charged $95.11 at the Walmart in Collinsville and gas purchases for $40.58, $100 and $27.09. He often paid more than $200 for gas in a single day.

Payroll records show Kelvin Ellis, a felon who served time in a federal prison for witness tampering in a case more than a decade ago, was hired. Federal investigators say he tried to have a witness killed. Police actually conducted a sting where they staged a fake photo showing what appeared to be the dead witness, a woman, lying on the ground at Frank Holten State Park.

Ellis was hired as a “planner/grant writer” at $1,800 a month or $21,600 per year.

That’s the same salary paid for more than a year, until recently, to Robert Eastern III, a member of the East St. Louis City Council, who was hired to work as a security guard at the township offices at 6755 State St., to protect senior citizens who came to eat lunch at the township lunch program.

Previously, Eastern III told the BND that he hadn’t been showing up to work because of an ongoing medical emergency with a close family member. He said that despite not showing up, he continued to receive his monthly check. Dancy said Eastern III no longer works for the township.

Hamilton faces sentencing March 1. A plea bargain calls for him to serve a year and a day in federal prison and repay at least $40,000, but a judge could change those terms.

George Pawlaczyk: 618-239-2625, @gapawlaczyk

Beth Hundsdorfer: 618-239-2570, @bhundsdorfer