Two Collinsville City Council members accused the mayor and another councilwoman of “serious breaches of ethics,” including alleged misuse of city funds and accepting a gift from a company that has city contracts.
In a news conference Thursday in front of City Hall, Councilwoman Nancy Moss and Councilman Jeff Kypta said Cheryl Brombolich, who was elected to the council in April, used city funds for personal purchases when she was the city clerk until last year. They also said Collinsville Mayor John Miller violated the Illinois Gift Ban Act by accepting truckloads of dirt for his backyard from a company that has several city contracts.
“We would be part of a coverup, we felt like,” Moss said, explaining why they were speaking out publicly.
Moss and Kypta also accused Miller and Brombolich of “directly affecting the continuing employment of City Manager Scott Williams” by calling for his termination after Williams’ investigation of the allegations.
“Scott Williams should not have to pay with his own job for investigating and dealing appropriately with the ethical failures of Mayor John Miller and Councilwoman Cheryl Brombolich,” Moss said. “Scott Williams has performed his duties while city manager, and before that as police chief, with integrity, skill and fairness. He should not be punished with this kind of treatment for doing the right thing.”
Brombolich could not immediately be reached for comment. Miller and Williams declined to comment.
Alleged misuse of city funds
Brombolich, 52, “used her city-issued credit card and other city accounts for personal purchases and services and had concealed those transactions” while holding the position of director of operations and city clerk, according to Moss and Kypta.
“It’s a betrayal of trust,” Moss said in an earlier interview.
The News-Democrat began requesting documents related to these accusations about Brombolich in May. The requests were denied by the city. The BND is appealing that decision in Madison County Circuit Court.
Moss and Kypta said publicly that Brombolich attempted to “coerce” Finance Director Tamara Ammann “to cover up her (Brombolich’s) misuse of city funds” after the city’s finance department “discovered spending irregularities” and reported them to Williams.
“When the director of finance refused to hide those violations, Cheryl Brombolich abruptly resigned her position and repaid the money to the city in lieu of facing discharge, thus avoiding possible loss of thousands of dollars of accrued benefits,” Moss said, reading from a prepared statement.
Brombolich, the daughter-in-law of former Collinsville mayor Gene Brombolich, resigned as director of operations and city clerk on Sept. 15, 2014.
Collinsville Police Chief Steve Evans said in May there had been “no criminal investigation” into the alleged misuse of city funds by Brombolich.
Brombolich was endorsed in the April election by the Collinsville Fire Department along with Miller and Councilman Jeff Stehman. She began her term as city councilman on May 11.
“Although one of her campaign issues was her support of transparency in city government, she never disclosed any of this to the voters,” Moss said Thursday, reading from a statement.
Moss said in an earlier interview she is concerned about working with Brombolich on the City Council because of “character issues.”
“Cheryl had the authority to do certain things and she did the wrong thing and covered it up for a while,” Moss said. “I thought that she would just go quietly. I never dreamed that she would run for office in this city.”
Former City Councilman Mike Tognarelli said in an earlier interview that Brombolich’s actions as director of operations and clerk “showed a blatant disregard for the personnel policy, the credit card policy and the purchasing policy, in general.”
“These acts don’t say much for her integrity to serve on the council,” Tognarelli said.
Allegations against the mayor
Moss and Kypta alleged that Miller, 67, violated the Illinois Gift Ban Act by requesting “several loads of topsoil worth hundreds of dollars” to be delivered to his backyard in August 2014.
“The dirt was provided by a landscaping company that has received large city contracts,” Moss said.
They contend Miller did not pay for the dirt until 10 months later, after a formal complaint was filed by a city employee and Williams investigated.
Miller and Brombolich both have called for firing Williams, whose contract is up in September, Moss and Kypta said. They said these actions have been “suppressed” because they occurred in the closed session of the June 22 City Council meeting.
Kypta said he felt the move to get rid of Williams was “like a vendetta.”
“They came in knowing they wanted to get rid of him, for whatever reason I don’t know. He’s very thorough on his job. He doesn’t hold anything back. When somebody messes up, he’s there to discipline them,” he said.
Moss and Kypta said Williams should not be punished “for doing the right thing.” Letting go of Williams, they added, would have a negative effect on city government.
“Terminating the city manager’s employment for doing his job ethically and properly would send a terrible message to the public and to current employees and department heads,” Moss said.
The councilmen said they each visited Miller prior to holding the press conference.
“We separately went to see the mayor and we urged him to reconsider the decision (about Williams),” Moss said.
The reason, Moss said, that Miller and Brombolich gave the Council for why Williams should be terminated is that “employees don’t like him.”
“Well, I just read a survey a couple days ago that said that 61 percent of employees think that they have a bad boss,” she said.
Moss said Williams has had “measurable results” in improving the city.
History of allegations
While there has not been a criminal investigation into the council member’s accusations against Brombolich, police did investigate her in 2006 for allegations that she stole money from the Collinsville Lady Kahoks Basketball Booster Club, according to a police report. She was responsible for financial recordkeeping for the club for several years prior to the allegations.
A police report obtained by the BND reveals that a witness stated there were several discrepancies in the financial records of the club after the witness took over for Brombolich, and it appeared as if money was missing.
Brombolich told police she “had many personal situations in her life that made her forget to pay bills,” according to the police report.
The witness stated Brombolich appeared to have used a debit card assigned to the Booster Club account, which no one was previously aware of, for personal reasons. The witness discovered transactions in Florida, the dates of which did not coincide with club activities.
Brombolich’s lawyer told police Brombolich used the Kahoks’ credit card on her trip to Florida but it was “for reimbursement that she felt that she was owed,” the police report states.
She “fronted money to the booster (account) and took it back later,” according to the police summary of the interview. In a follow-up interview with police, Brombolich stated that the money she put into the account was in cash. There would be no record of it.
Williams was the Collinsville police chief at the time of the investigation, which did not result in any criminal charges.
Call to action
Moss and Kypta called for residents to think about the direction they want the city to take: “Open and honest or headed down a road to secrecy and corruption.”
“We are encouraging the good people of Collinsville to consider these facts and to let their voices be heard by the City Council,” Moss said.