Metro-East News

Secretary of state official under investigation owes $144,000 to SIUE

Candace F. Wanzo, a top official in the Illinois Secretary of State’s office, still owes Southern Illinois University Edwardsville $144,280 for a federal court theft conviction 25 years ago.

According to a written statement from the office of Southern Illinois University Associate Counsel Todd Wakeland, Wanzo has repaid $89,111 to date and still owes $144,280.

Wanzo, 55, of Centralia, was convicted in 1992 in federal court in East St. Louis of stealing $233,500 from the Edwardsville university while working as a secretary in the bursar’s office, according to court records. She was sentenced to 15 months probation and ordered to pay full restitution.

Court records show she covered her stealing by writing phony vendor checks and cashing them for herself.

Wanzo could not be reached for comment.

Wanzo is on paid administrative leave as the result of recent unnamed allegations against her in her job as an assistant to the director of motor vehicles, according to spokesman Dave Druker. She has not been charged or publicly accused of any wrongdoing.

If she had been continuously paying $416 per month from the time she was sentenced in 1992, she would have repaid about $120,000.

We are not able to provide specific information on personnel matters and investigations other than to say we take all allegations very seriously and investigate them thoroughly.

Secretary of State spokesman Dave Druker

Wanzo currently receives a salary of $87,336 in the secretary of state’s office in Springfield.

Druker, in a statement last week, said, “We are not able to provide specific information on personnel matters and investigations other than to say we take all allegations very seriously and investigate them thoroughly.”

Wanzo’s job includes checking applications for vanity plates statewide to make sure they were not obscene or otherwise offensive.

A request for documents by the News-Democrat made to the office of Secretary of State Jessie White under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act pertaining to Wanzo’s hiring in 1999 have not yet resulted in a response. Officials have five business day to provide the documents, which might answer the question of how Wanzo could have been hired by the state when she had a felony record and owed restitution to a state institution.

In 1993, Wanzo filed for bankruptcy in U.S. District Court and again in 2004. Court records from the second bankruptcy, which were filed 12 years after Wanzo pleaded guilty, showed that the university still claimed she owed them $233,391 that was unpaid. A record in the first bankruptcy file showed that she had paid just $4,125 toward restitution between 1992 and 1999, or $49 a month, when that case was officially closed.

In the second bankruptcy filed in 2004 about five years after the first case was closed, Wanzo and her attorney made a motion to close the case without paying the debt, but an attorney for the university objected, documents showed.

A compromise was reached that required Wanzo to pay $416.66 per month to the university. Court records show the second bankruptcy case was not closed until 2010 and at that time the case’s “Chapter 13 Final Report and Account” showed she had paid $19,239 to SIUE on what was then listed as a debt of $208,391. It’s unclear whether Wanzo continued to pay the $416 per month continuously after the second bankruptcy was officially closed.

George Pawlaczyk: 618-239-2625, @gapawlaczyk

Beth Hundsdorfer: 618-239-2570, @bhundsdorfer