As much as $600,000 in taxpayer money could be missing from one of the poorest communities in Illinois with no chance of getting any of it back, according to newly elected East St. Louis Township Supervisor Alvin Parks.
Parks said in an interview his goal for the township following the federal imprisonment of former supervisor Oliver Hamilton for fraud is to “turn the corner,” to better serve the public. His plan includes hiring his sister, Lauren Parks, at $40,000 a year and Lonzo Greenwood, the Democratic Party boss in East St. Louis, at $25,000 per year. Both would also receive health insurance.
Turning the corner, said Parks, means helping needy of all ages including children with “shelter, sustenance, self-esteem and sustainability.”
Parks also said in the interview he may move to replace all nine township employees. He later denied saying this, and said he would “neither confirm nor deny any hiring plan” that could come up at a special board meeting at noon Thursday.
Any hiring or firing would require the approval of at least two of the township board’s four trustees. As supervisor, Parks can vote to break ties.
There’s no way to recoup any of the missing money because Hamilton wasn’t bonded, according to Park. Hamilton, 63, is serving five years in the prison camp at the federal Marion Correctional Center for defrauding the township of $40,000.
A bond is a financial insurance policy required of many public officials that can be used to replace stolen or misappropriated public funds.
“I’m not proud of it,” said Parks, “but he (Hamilton) wasn’t bonded. I feel comfortable with my estimate of how much is missing or not accounted for,” he said.
Parks said that an obstacle facing township auditors is that the FBI still holds nearly all of the township’s financial records. Parks said the federal investigation remains open.
The BND reported in a series of investigative stories last year that Hamilton spent more than $230,000 on a publicly supported American Express card, including tens of thousands of dollars on construction supplies and gasoline, trips to Las Vegas, and gifts for friends and political cronies. The stories led to the FBI investigation.
Parks said since talking office in May as township supervisor, he has consulted with auditors and has learned that the amount unaccounted for as either missing or misspent is “way, way more” than what Hamilton was charged with or what the BND reported.
Parks said that since taking office he has learned Hamilton was using township funds in bank accounts “as collateral” to satisfy federal financial requirements for construction projects for his company, Hamilton Construction Inc. These bank funds could be missing, he said.
“I don’t want to get Oliver in any more trouble but that’s what happened,” Parks said. “The public should know. ... The newspaper just hit the tip of the iceberg.”
I’m not proud of it, but he (Hamilton) wasn’t bonded. I feel comfortable with my estimate of how much is missing or not accounted for.
East St. Louis Township Supervisor Alvin Parks
It is unclear whether Hamilton could be charged with additional crimes.
Lauren Parks served as executive assistant during her brother’s eight years as mayor of the city of East St. Louis. Parks said his sister has a master’s degree in elementary education and obtained much administrative experience working with him at City Hall.
“She has a great feel for East St. Louis,” he said.
Parks’ cousin, Tommy Dancy, was the city’s director of regulatory affairs and his brother-in-law, Rocco Goins, who is Lauren’s husband, was the director of the city Emergency Service Disaster Agency.
Asked why the public should pay $50,000 for an administrator in a township, when Parks himself is a former mayor and city manager of East St. Louis, he said, “I need help” with the day-to-day running of the township, which is now the job of city administrator Rodney Davis.
The administrator position was created by Dancy, who served briefly as township supervisor after Hamilton pleaded guilty and was banned by court order by U.S. District Court and chief judge Michael Reagan from having any connection to public funds.
Trustee Edith Moore questioned why the township, whose boundaries are the same as the city’s, needs an administrator. “He wants to fire everybody,” she said, “I don’t know why.”
Parks said the firings are intended to “get more” out of staff.
Moore said she was opposed to bringing in Lonzo Greenwood, an elected member and former president of the District 189 Board of Education, and the city’s longtime political boss, as a consultant. That job is currently held by George Laktzian, who is paid $33,000 a year and has been in the position for 41 years going back to the late township supervisor Clyde Jordan. Laktzian declined to comment.
Moore said at a special meeting held Monday night when the hiring proposals were tabled until the special meeting Thursday.
“There is no reason to kick George (Laktzian) to the curb just to bring in Greenwood,” she said. “I smell politics in the air.”