Metro-East News

Gift of dirt to Collinsville mayor referred to federal authorities

The U.S. attorney’s office has referred for investigation an accusation that Collinsville Mayor John Miller received truckloads of free dirt from a city contractor and did not pay for them until months later, after a municipal employee complained.

“We received a letter from the Madison County state’s attorney bringing this matter to our attention and we referred it to the appropriate federal agency,” said U.S. Attorney Steve Wigginton.

Wigginton said he was not certain who would be investigating, but he said the usual agency is the FBI, which has a policy that it will neither confirm nor deny any investigation. An FBI spokesman said he had no immediate comment.

Miller said he was aware of the investigation and stands by a public statement he made at the last City Council meeting that he did “nothing wrong.”

“Ultimately, the truth will come out,” Miller said Monday.

Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons said the matter was brought to him in June by Scott Williams, the former Collinsville city manager who left his job July 17 after the City Council voted 3-2 not to renew his contract.

Williams declined to comment on Monday.

Gibbons said he referred the information to Wigginton’s office, along with the Illinois attorney general and the Illinois State Police. A spokesman for the attorney general’s office was not available; a spokesman for the State Police said that agency is not investigating.

The decision not to renew Williams’ contract came after two City Council members alleged ethical violations by Miller and Councilwoman Cheryl Brombolich. Council members Nancy Moss and Jeff Kypta criticized Miller for violating the Illinois Gift Ban Act and Brombolich for allegedly misusing city credit cards. Both have denied any wrongdoing.

Miller and Brombolich voted not to renew Williams’ contract, along with Councilman Jeff Stehman.

In a written statement, Gibbons said the three truckloads, or 12 tons, of dirt was valued at between $1,000 and $1,600. The state gift ban act generally prohibits public officials from accepting any gifts, although there are exceptions.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, Collinsville City Clerk Kim Wasser stated that specific documents concerning the dirt delivered to the mayor could not be made public because of an ongoing “independent investigation” requested by the Madison County state’s attorney.

Miller addressed accusations by Moss and Kypta at the July 13 council meeting by first confirming that he had received the dirt in August 2014 and paid for it recently after a complaint was filed. He said a city employee told him “I can get you all the dirt you want,” and Miller said he took that as a “friendly situation.”

“I have done nothing wrong. I fought for this country in Vietnam. I worked for the fire department for 31 years. I’ve been on the City Council 10 years,” Miller said during the meeting. “I have served with integrity and the only thing that I want right now is for this to go away so that the city can get back to its greatfulness that we have in this city.”

Moss said Monday she was not aware of the independent investigation of Miller.

Contact reporter Lexi Cortes at acortes@bnd.com or 618-239-2528. Follow her on Twitter: @lexicortes. Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at gpawlaczyk@bnd.com or 618-239-2625. Follow him on Twitter: @gapawlaczyk.

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