Metro-East News

Emails to and from Madison County development director show conflict

Pristen Poshard
Pristen Poshard

Communications between Madison County Community Development Director Kristen Poshard and county Administrator Doug Hulme broke down in the weeks before she was placed on paid administrative leave, according to emails released under a Freedom of Information Act request.

The two have not had a conversation since June 7, according to emails released by the county. Poshard was placed on administrative leave last week.

Hulme, in one email, stated he needed Poshard to call to resolve union grievances that were filed in the Community Development Department, as well as with regard to an unspecified investigation.

Poshard, in a July 13 email to Hulme, stated: “To be clear, as I have stated many times, these personnel issues are all tied to millions of grant dollars. It is extremely hard to get these grants, but very easy to lose them. Your refusal to allow MCCD to stay in compliance with state and federal guidelines and recommendations has put us in a situation where we can potentially lose considerable dollars/jobs.”

Hulme responded, “I have not seen or talked to you since June 7 and that is a long time to be out of contact with you. I scheduled a meeting in advance for this last Wednesday at 1 p.m. You didn’t call me or attend the meeting. You are more than welcome to drop by my office any time and talk, that offer has always been available. I need to be informed of your plans and rationale so I can do my job and be kept in the loop.”

County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler said Saturday that his office has been in communication with other managers in the Community Development office on a daily basis. None of them have made any statements that grants are in jeopardy, Prenzler said.

“As a county employee, if that were the case, she has a duty to tell us if there are problems,” Prenzler said.

Poshard, 43, was appointed to head community development March 15 with an annual salary of $92,000. Records showed Poshard has not been in her office since June 26.

Poshard was placed on administrative leave Aug. 3. At that time, Poshard stated she was contemplating litigation against County Board Member Phil Chapman, Hulme and other officials, but declined to comment further.

The emails show several attempts for meetings and scheduled phone conversations between Hulme and Poshard with John L. Thompson, who is the county’s compliance officer; John Gilbert, who is the county’s lawyer; and Thomas Lech, a lawyer and Poshard’s husband. But those attempts were aborted.

“As Administrator of Community Development, I will certainly have a phone call with you. As you know, I have been working outside the Hillsboro (Avenue) office and would like to be prepared for any conversation. Please provide me with an agenda or something that outlines the areas we need to discuss so that I can appropriately be prepared to discuss those matters,” Poshard stated in a June 28 email to Hulme, County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler and others.

That meeting didn’t happen.

A memo, also released under a Freedom of Information Act Request, from Hulme to Poshard placing her on administrative leave stated Hulme’s expectations, which state Poshard:

▪  Is not to engage in any county duties or activities unless expressly directed by him.

▪  Is to remain available for contact from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday regarding the investigation or other county business.

▪  May be called back to work for an additional investigatory interviews at any time during business hours.

▪  Will not discuss the investigation with any county employee or potential witness to the events being investigated, and will not contact any such persons at work or otherwise.

▪  Must notify John Thompson, the county’s compliance officer, if she is absent and unavailable for contact.

▪  Must turn in phone, keys, computer or any county equipment and not delete or destroy any paper or electronic files, data, emails, texts or logs.

The nature of the investigation was not revealed in the memo or other documents.

The emails between Poshard and Hulme illustrate a conflict.

“Real simple. I need a meeting or a call with me. Schedule it with me in advance. I need a couple of days notice at least. What works for you?” Hulme wrote in June 29 email.

“We scheduled a meeting with you today at 11 (twice) which you did not attend. Obviously, not as ‘real simple’ as you put it. We will look at dates next week and try again. Is this a meeting you want the chairman included in?” Poshard responded.

“Can you please start your day in my office at 9 a.m. on Monday. If you are on vacation then come meet me here at 9 a.m. the next day you are back. We need to meet asap,” Hulme replied.

Hulme stated in an email on July 10 that he is responsible for oversight of Poshard’s department and once again stated that they needed to meet.

“We don’t report to you in any way, you have no authority to coordinate meetings with my staff, especially without my consent, and we have complied with (the county’s) advice/demands in this regard so there is no need for your input,” Poshard wrote in a July 10 email to Hulme and Thompson, the county’s compliance officer.

The Community Development administrator’s job description written in June 2014 shows that the position reports to the County Board chairman and county administrator with oversight from the board’s grants committee.

Poshard, the daughter for former Democratic U.S. congressman and Southern Illinois University Carbondale president Glenn Poshard, was a controversial appointment for Prenzler, a Republican. Several County Board members opposed the appointment due to her criminal history, including an incident where she fired a gun through the bathroom door of a boyfriend’s home. She attributed the behavior to past childhood sexual abuse at the hands of her former stepfather.

Poshard remains on the county payroll with an annual salary of $92,000.

Beth Hundsdorfer: 618-239-2570, @bhundsdorfer