Metro-East News

Charges filed in alleged attack on Prenzler; accused is son of former employee

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.

An Edwardsville man whose father once sued Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler is now facing felony charges alleging he attacked Prenzler at a church fundraiser.

Matthew Foley, 36, of Edwardsville was charged Monday with one count each of threatening a public official, battery, and aggravated battery, with the aggravation listed as Prenzler’s age of 61.

Foley is accused of physically grabbing Prenzler at a church fundraiser in Madison on March 11. Prenzler reported to Madison Police that he was pushed and shoved, then physically dragged over to a third man. The incident took place at the annual pig and lamb event at St. Mary Church in Madison, an indoor church fundraiser attended by several hundred people.

No one was injured in the incident, according to Madison Police, who investigated the allegations. The investigation was then referred to the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office, which charged Foley with the three felonies.

“Fortunately Chairman Prenzler suffered no injuries in this incident,” Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons said in a statement. “However, because of his age and the fact that he is an elected officeholder, he is entitled to special protection under the law that makes the acts alleged in his complaint and these charges felonies.” However, the incident did not qualify under the hate crimes statute, Gibbons said.

Prenzler declined to comment, stating that it is a continuing investigation.

Gibbons confirmed that Matthew Foley is the son of James Foley, a former investment manager for Madison County who sued Prenzler in 2011 alleging that he was fired for political reasons. Foley, now 76, managed Madison County’s investments in the treasurer’s office full-time and then continued after retirement for a stipend of $2,000 a month.

Prenzler defeated former treasurer Frank Miles in the election of 2010 and fired Foley in December of that year, alleging that Foley was not following proper investment policy. Foley disputed that, stating that his investments were approved by county officials and published in public records, and that Prenzler was fully aware of the investments and told him he was “doing a good job.”

Foley filed suit in 2011, alleging that he was fired instead because he was “loosely associated with the Democratic party and generally supported Democratic candidates.” The law as cited in the suit stated that firing an employee for political beliefs or affiliations is a violation of the First Amendment. The suit alleged that Foley could not have been fired for cause, because his investments brought in more than $1 million per year and Prenzler’s decision to sell the bonds after firing Foley lost the county more than $365,000.

The case went to a jury trial in June 2013. However, partway through the trial, U.S. District Judge Patrick Murphy issued a judgment in favor of Prenzler and the county, ending the trial and dismissing the jury.

“I don’t do this very often, just take a case away from the jury,” Murphy said, according to the trial transcript. “But I thought it was appropriate in this case.”

Foley ended up paying $1,482 in court costs to Madison County.

Foley also is listed as a defendant in a pending class action lawsuit regarding the bid-rigging scheme of former Madison County Treasurer Fred Bathon. Bathon served 18 months in federal prison for rigging the tax auctions at the highest interest rates to benefit the tax buyers, some of whom also went to prison.

More than 9,000 property owners who had lost money or property filed the class-action lawsuit, which alleges that Foley was an auctioneer at one of the tax sales. Foley has denied involvement. The 5th District Appellate Court affirmed in September that whether the other defendants were involved is still to be determined, including Foley.

Madison County was also a defendant in the class action suit for a while, but was removed by the appellate court, which effectively protected tax dollars from an eventual settlement or judgment.

James Foley’s attorneys could not be immediately reached for comment. Matthew Foley’s bail was set at $50,000; he has posted bond and been released from custody.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald