Metro-East News

Mayor, trustees clash again on whether to fire paid consultant

Mayor Ann Rodgers said she plans to veto action taken last week by the village board, which voted 4-2 to fire her governmental affairs consultant and TIF administrator, Ray Coleman.

But Village Clerk Rickie Thomas said there is nothing about it on Tuesday night’s meeting agenda.

“She has not issued a veto in writing, so she has forfeited her right to veto it because she didn’t post the agenda in the time required by law, which is 48 hours before the regular board meeting,” Thomas said.

The meeting is at 7 p.m. at the village hall.

It was the third attempt to oust Coleman, who makes $60,000 a year as the mayor’s consultant. She successfully vetoed the action twice before.

The same three trustees who have been voting to fire Coleman again voted to terminate him — Deb Moore, James Madkins and Clyde Jackson. This time they were joined by Herod Hill, a Rodgers appointee who recently called for an investigation into the village’s TIF program. Trustees Shawn Newell and Toni Whittaker voted no.

The next day, Rodgers removed Hill as Finance Committee chairman and appointed Newell and Whittaker together.

Hill has been seeking information regarding the TIF program in Washington Park from Coleman, and Rodgers. He said he has been getting the run around, but both Rodgers and Coleman have denied his assertion.

Hill, along with Madkins, Moore, Jackson and Thomas, have been outspoken about their desire to to part ways with Coleman, saying the village cannot afford him. They said Coleman does not share paperwork with them, and that they are kept in the dark about certain bills and warrants.

Those who are making the complaints don’t understand nor do they get involved in the budgeting process, nor do they accept the work I do to keep the village financially solvent.

Washington Park consultant Ray Coleman

“Even though we have a treasurer, Coleman is the one who controls village finances. He’s made numerous bank transfers from accounts with restricted funds such as motor fuel and TIF bank accounts to make sure he gets paid,” Thomas said.

Coleman said this is not true. Rodgers said some of the trustees have not attended meetings where some of the information has been shared.

Coleman said he earns every penny he makes. “Those who are making the complaints don’t understand nor do they get involved in the budgeting process, nor do they accept the work I do to keep the village financially solvent.”

Hill has claimed that money is unaccounted for in the TIF program, but Rodgers has said the issue he is focused on occurred in 2009 before she was mayor.

Hill said $78,000 was set aside in the TIF II program but only one person got $4,000. He wants to know where the rest of the money is. “The rest of the money has been supposedly used to pay payroll and buy equipment, according to the mayor and Mr. Coleman. Why was $25,000 given to one business instead of helping six residents? We never knew the money was not in the TIF II account. We had a ghost account. Mr. Madkins always questioned where the money was. There was nothing there. That’s why he was never given the answer,” Hill said.

With regard to the TIF program accusations and giving Hill the run around, Coleman said, “That is untrue and unfounded once again. Herod and I went to Regions Bank together two weeks ago to get information about the checks in question.”

“We have been working on an internal investigation because there was a businessman who claimed he didn’t get the money he was supposed to receive. We already have the front of the checks, but the question is who actually cashed the checks? We need the backs where the signatures are contained. We are waiting on Regions and Associated Bank to provide that information.”

Thomas went one step further, saying Rodgers and Coleman have used public money for political purposes, such as lunch with political supporters. Coleman said Thomas’ statements are “totally untrue and unfounded.”

Thomas is on the April 4 ballot running for mayor. Rodgers is running as a write-in candidate after a St. Clair County uphold her being removed from the ballot by a village election board.

Recently, Hill recommended that the village not pay employees or any other bills, including the village attorney, until an outside investigation into the TIF program is done. A few days later he backed off that stance, “because we’re obligated to pay the people and bills.”

“But I am still seeking answers on the TIF program,” he said. “You have people saying they didn’t get the money that the books show they got. I just want everything to be accounted for.”

Carolyn P. Smith: 618-239-2503