Metro-East News

Prenzler denies there were county break-ins, claims innuendos in BND article

Kurt Prenzler sworn in as county board chairman

Kurt Prenzler was sworn in as Madison County Board chairman Monday by Judge Luther Simmons.
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Kurt Prenzler was sworn in as Madison County Board chairman Monday by Judge Luther Simmons.

Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler responded Tuesday to an article in the Belleville News-Democrat about suspected break-ins at the County Administration Building, saying it was “full of innuendos with no facts to back it up.”

“After two and a half months of investigating, the police found no evidence of a break-in,” Prenzler said in a written statement. “There was no break-in. There was no forced entry.”

In the article, which appeared online at bnd.com on Friday and in the News-Democrat on Sunday, County Clerk Debbie Ming-Mendoza and State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons said they believed the Madco Credit Union, located in the basement of the building, had been broken into sometime in December, after which police were alerted.

Prenzler said previously he had no knowledge of any rumors of a break-in, although he said Tuesday he could not remember telling a reporter that.

Prenzler said the story used innuendo to make a “connection” between his administration and the alleged “break-in” at the county credit union, as well as a suspected improper entry into Gibbon’s personal office.

The article reported that Doug Hulme, county administrator, and Steve Adler, deputy director of administrative services, were both questioned by police and said they had no knowledge of the matter. Both had master keys. When asked why he didn’t tell his boss (Prenzler) that police had interviewed him, Hulme said that he did and that Prenzler had forgotten.

The newspaper reported that three police agencies — the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, the Illinois State Police and Edwardsville Police Department — began investigations the day the alleged entry was reported, Dec. 15. Prenzler took office Dec. 5. A statement from the sheriff’s department referred to an investigation of “suspicious activity.”

“The BND tried to connect the ‘possible’ break-in 10 days after Prenzler’s swearing in to the hiring of his staff,” the written statement said.

Prenzler said the newspaper article contained no facts to back up any connection to Prenzler’s staff. Two master keys are held by employees who work directly for the County Board chairman. The article did not state there was a connection between the break-ins and Prenzler or his staff.

Gibbons said he was certain his office had been entered and had set a trap to prove it. Ming-Mendoza said the credit union manager came to her and said that tape she had used to surreptitiously seal a filing cabinet containing loan applications had been broken. Gibbons said he used his own money to buy a surveillance camera that he set up trained on his desk and office files.

Prenzler said he and Don Moore, a County Board member, toured the entire office building and that this left him confident that all areas were covered by surveillance cameras. He also said that he could find no way to determine the number of master keys that may be in existence.

“Based on our review, the surveillance cameras were working and didn’t record any evidence of unauthorized access,” Prenzler said. He added that he was given a copy of the tapes and plans to personally review them.

Edwardsville Police Chief Jay Keeven said that while his department’s investigation was ongoing, he saw no criminal activity. While nothing was reported taken, someone who accessed loan applications could have photographed sensitive documents containing highly personal data.

George Pawlaczyk: 618-239-2625, @gapawlaczyk

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