Township trustees stripped Supervisor Alvin Parks of his power to spend taxpayer money unless he takes it only from a petty cash box.
The vote at a special board meeting Wednesday was 3-2 with Parks voting against the measure, which virtually prohibits his ability to spend without first getting board approval. The exception is a $200 a month emergency fund.
A second issue involved Parks’ failure to obtain a legally required performance bond. However, he called a News-Democrat reporter a few hours after the 10 a.m. meeting and said he had just obtained a bond. The bond cost $5,100 — times the usual amount, he said.
Parks said the higher cost was because of the notoriety of the township caused by former supervisor Oliver Hamilton, who is serving five years in federal prison for defrauding taxpayers of $40,000 through his personal use of a public credit card. Such a bond is usually required upon taking office, which Parks did in May.
“This handcuffs the township supervisor from being able to operate,” an angry Parks said about the spending ban. “There is nothing about it that makes sense.” He is paid a salary of $60,000.
At the session, the three-member majority voted for a spending moratorium because of what they said was Parks’ unauthorized spending to beautify the township’s offices at the Clyde Jordan Senior Citizens Center at 6755 State St. With board approval but with a bidding process that turned up just one bid, Parks authorized the spending of $9,850 to a landscaping service owned by Bill Mason to replace rotted timbers with stonework and decorative shrubs.
Spending excluded from the moratorium included payroll, utilities, contractural obligations and costs for the daily operation of the Clyde Jordan Food Bank.
“We do not have the money to live lavishly,” said trustee Edith Moore, who led opposition against Parks’ failed efforts to get his sister and the city’s Democratic Party chairman hired at the township.
Moore joined trustees Willie “Rico” Moore and Scott Randolph in voting for the moratorium. Trustee Troy Mosely joined Parks in voting against it.
Under Hamilton as supervisor, trustees were not shown a list of how taxpayer money for the month was spent until after it was spent. Hamilton ignored a trustee resolution passed in 2012 to limit credit card spending to $1,000, and sometimes ran up monthly bills exceeding $10,000 for items unrelated to the township, according to a BND investigation.
A second discussion at the meeting concerned Parks’ lack of a performance bond, which is required under Illinois law for most elected and appointed officials who deal with public money. Such a bond provides a guarantee for the public that money that is misspent can be recouped from an insurance company.
Belleville attorney Mike Wagner, who represents the township, said at the meeting that without a proper bond Parks could not sign checks or obligate the township for any contract or long-term spending.
“How can you keep spending when you don’t have a bond as designated by state law?” Edith Moore asked during the session.
Parks was asked by a reporter during the meeting’s public comments portion why he didn’t have a bond. “That’s being worked out,” he said.
A former East St. Louis mayor, Parks since his election as supervisor has undertaken a clean-up project at the township offices, sometimes joining in the work himself. He said he used Earn Fare workers who are paid by the state to clean windows that he claimed haven’t been cleaned in more than a decade and to scrape gum off the sidewalks near the front entrances to the offices.
“I just wonder what we really want this place to be,” Parks asked during a long public statement about his vision for the township during which he touted food giveaways for needy persons for Thanksgiving.
Edith Moore said the board needs to control all spending and cited what she said was Parks’ misuse of the petty cash fund. She said that during October he had dipped into it five times for a total of $1,000 when the limit was supposed to be $200 a month.
“We did not approve a thousand dollars,” she said. “A thousand dollars is not petty cash.”