The Cahokia Village Board on Monday night cleared the way for outgoing Mayor Gary Cornell to issue a liquor license to a businessman whom one critic said was a campaign donor.
Trustee Phyllis Pearson was the only board member to vote against the measure. She told Cornwell that it didn't make sense for him to make a motion to increase the number of liquor licenses in the village now as he is leaving office. She said that decision should be left to new mayor Curtis McCall Jr. and the new board, who take office May 4.
"Why are you dealing with that now, instead of waiting for the new administration and board to take their seats?" Pearson said. "Are you increasing the liquor licenses because the Patels gave (you) a campaign donation?”
She said Cornwell's move was a political pay back to a man named Ricky Patel, who she said in open meeting donated $5,000 to Cornwell's campaign in February. Cornwell did not respond to Pearson during the meeting. He later told a reporter that the building landlord where Patel operates his business donated $5,000 to his campaign — not Patel.
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Those voting in favor were outgoing board members Myra Gummersheimer, Courtney Moore and Kathi Carrico, and trustees Jerry Nichols and Joe Weatherford.
Patel could not be reached for comment.
Pearson said Cornwell did not want more than one liquor store in Cahokia while he was mayor and now all of a sudden he wants to double the number of licenses.
“He stripped several business of their liquor licenses. He stopped them all from selling liquor," she said. Several who lost their licenses in the past have filed suit against the village.
Pearson asked Village Attorney Carmen Durso about the status of those lawsuits. Durso said they are pending. Then Durso said that an agreement had been reached with one of the the plaintiffs. He said there has not been any movement in the case for four months, and neither he nor the plaintiff's attorney, C.J. Baricevic, know why.
Cornwell said after the meeting he didn't take anyone's license. He said he did some reclassifying. Those stores that just sold liquor got a Class H license and those that sold bread, eggs, food and other groceries got Class F licenses, which enable them to only sell beer and wine.
Cornwell said he started reclassifying the liquor licenses in 2013 "to eliminate a lot of nuisances in the community," he said. "I did not take anyone's license from them.”
"All these years and on his way out he wants to make stuff his way,” Pearson said.