Metro-East News

Taxpayers paid $550 for Democratic politician to clear an inch of snow at township lot

East St. Louis Township paid a longtime Democratic politician $550 to clear an inch of snow that fell Jan. 15 off the parking lot at township headquarters.

On Thursday, the township board approved paying former city councilman and Democratic precinct committeeman Michael Collins for his efforts to remove the scant accumulation of snow from the parking lot at 6755 State St. in the Clyde C. Jordan Senior Center.

Collins, who finished a 50-month federal prison sentence for income tax evasion in December 2014, told a reporter he didn’t even clear the snow but instead sprinkled 20 bags of salt that cost him $15 a bag.

“Snow turns to ice, don’t it?” he said. “It was cold that day.”

A National Weather Service meteorologist said the temperature never got above 29 degrees that day in East St. Louis, making it unlikely the snow would have melted and then refrozen to form ice, especially since the ground was frozen.

When asked why it was necessary to hire an outsider to throw salt on the parking lot when one of the township’s maintenance staff could have done the same thing, Township Supervisor Alvin Parks said, “I have no comment.”

The township participates in a state-funded Earn Fare program that employs needy people for jobs, including maintenance at the township offices.

Township Trustee Edith Moore, a frequent critic of the spending habits of Parks, said she opposed the measure. When asked to comment, Moore said, “I don’t really want to get involved in this. Alvin is gonna do what he wants to do.”

Previously the board voted to limit Parks to spending only for salaries, contractural obligations and items like heating and electric bills.

Collins, 56, said he offered to donate clearing the lot but was told by Moore that he should submit an invoice, a claim that Moore vehemently denied.

“I didn’t want to get in the middle of a fight between Edith and Alvin,” he said. “But she said turn in an invoice.”

The invoice signed by Collins that was submitted to the township board listed his address as 22 Loisel Drive, East St. Louis. In a decision filed in 2012 denying Collins’ appeal of his sentence, the U.S. Seventh Court of Appeals stated that Collins’ use of the Loisel Drive address was a fraud to satisfy requirements to be elected precinct committeeman. The decision stated that it was this fraud that attracted the attention of the Public Corruption Task Force of Southern Illinois, whose investigators soon discovered that Collins had not paid more than $324,000 in unpaid back federal income taxes over more than a decade.

When Collins was released on the last day of 2014, he started serving three years of supervised release and began repaying restitution at $300 a month. At that rate, he will satisfy his remaining debt in 90 years, or around 2114.

U.S. District Court Judge Staci Yandle, with the concurrence of the U.S. Probation Office, cut one year off Collins’ supervised release, effective Dec. 31, 2016.

Asked why he would return to claiming his address was 22 Loisel Drive, Collins said, “I came back. This is where I came back to.”

George Pawlaczyk: 618-239-2625, @gapawlaczyk