Village trustees on Tuesday night threatened to withhold payroll until city officials investigate possible fraud in the TIF program.
The board approved a resolution with a 4-2 vote to not pay any bills, including payroll, because of concerns that money was misappropriated in the tax increment financing program. The proposal was recommended by Trustee Herod Hill, chairman of the finance committee.
Hill recommended the TIF program be suspended until an outside investigation is performed to determine who cashed checks totaling more than $367,000.
As one example, Hill said, “Out of $78,000 for the TIF two program, we gave $4,000 to Ray Coleman’s and Ann Rodgers’ supporters. The other money was spent on payroll, equipment and this and that” for purposes for which TIF money is not intended.
Rodgers is the mayor of Washington Park and Coleman is her full-time paid consultant.
Rodgers, in replying to Hill’s comments said, “That is totally untrue. That TIF money was not used for a supporter. And I will recommend that the board fully educates itself on what TIF one and TIF two can be used for.”
Ray Coleman also denies that any TIF money was used for supporters of his and the mayor’s.
“I have talked to Herod and when he talks about TIF two, I don’t believe he’s ever read the legislation,” Coleman said. “(Hill’s comments) are totally unfounded. In TIF one, individual residents get money from the mortgage interest buy down program. Those people were selected before I was ever around. TIF one covered residents in a small area.
“TIF two was created so more residents could benefit from the $4,000 grant program. But so far only one grant has been issued. The rest of the funds were used for police payroll and public works,” Coleman added.
Rodgers said she was disappointed the board passed the resolution.
“That decision was solely on Herod, but the board went along with it,” she said. “I am disappointed that the board did not want to pass payroll for our employees. They absolutely deserve to be paid.”
Rodgers said the issues with the TIF that Herod was talking about occurred eight years ago. “Payroll should not be halted because of a matter from 2009,” she said.
Hill said he has made numerous “requests, first with the mayor who directed me to the treasurer, who redirected me back to the mayor, only to be sent back to the treasurer pertaining to my concerns.” Hill said the treasurer “acknowledged my unsuccessful attempts to make contact with the checks needed to start an investigation.”
Treasurer Yolanda Clark could not be reached for comment. Rodgers denied that any exchanges occurred between her and Hill.
Being the finance chair and being of sound mind, I cannot recommend or approve the passing of payroll, bills or warrants. But what I will support is a thorough review of village finances.
Herod Hill, Washington Park trustee
“Being the finance chair and being of sound mind, I cannot recommend or approve the passing of payroll, bills or warrants,” Hill said. “But what I will support is a thorough review of village finances. And I am asking for the full support of the board members to approve or just agree that an investigation is warranted.”
Voting for the resolution were trustees Debra Moore, Clyde “Stonewall” Jackson, James Madkins and Hill. Voting against were Shawn Newell and Toni Whittaker.
Newell said the full board is in support of an investigation, but he voted against the resolution to not make payroll. An investigation could take time, he said, adding that the employees’ pay should not be held up while the board waits for information about something that happened in a previous administration.
Newell said the police, firemen and public workers risk their lives to keep the village safe and they deserve to be paid.
Moore said she voted for the resolution “because of the report that the finance chair gave us. It brought up red flags for me.”
Madkins said he voted against making the payroll because “the finance chair has his reasons.”
“How much money is in TIF two?” he asked. “Every time I ask questions of the auditor, I have been getting the run around.”
Hill, in his financial report, said, “At the January village board meeting, it was brought to the board that a past TIF debt...was still outstanding and would be reviewed by me to find out what was awarded, what was paid and what the remaining balance owed was.”
A man who received some of that TIF money showed up at the January meeting and disputed the amount the village claimed he received.
Hill said he is certain that some people might question his timing “on this very serious matter being that it is so close to a political election.”
“I may even lose some support, but I wasn’t born a politician. I was born the son of a public servant, and I intend to serve the public justly. I believe the citizens deserve some answers,” he said.
Carolyn P. Smith: 618-239-2503