Metro-East News

Fourth bankruptcy case linked to state parole board members

The bankruptcy of a former Jefferson County state’s attorney, who earned a salary of $141,500 when he was the county’s top prosecutor, brings to four the number of bankruptcies for people serving on the Illinois Prisoner Review Board.

Gary D. Duncan, who was appointed to the parole board in March by Gov. Bruce Rauner, was Jefferson County’s top prosecutor in 2005 when he filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy repayment plan, which allowed him to keep his house while paying $1,300 a month to satisfy about $102,000 in unpaid credit cards, medical bills and other debt, according to federal court records.

At the time he filed for bankruptcy, Duncan, 68, reported he took home $7,650 each month after deductions and state pension payments. As a member of the prisoner review board, he earns $86,000 a year, or $7,157 in gross pay each month.

Duncan, who left office in 2009, could not be reached for comment.

Appointments to the 15-member parole board are highly political, and state law limits the number of members of any one party to eight. The bankruptcy rate for the current board is 27 percent, compared with 0.5 percent among households for the population at large, according to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Questions raised by the BND led the governor’s office to begin investigations two weeks ago into the federal court bankruptcies filed by two other board members — Adam P. Monreal, a Chicago attorney and former Cook County assistant prosecutor, and Eric E. Gregg, the former mayor of Harrisburg.

The BND also reported that Vonetta Harris, a former program coordinator in East St. Louis School District 189 who was appointed to the parole board in 2013, filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case in 2015 in which she stated she owed $11,000 to the IRS and $306,000 in student loans.

State Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, recommended Harris to the board. In December 2014, the newspaper reported spotting Harris leaving Clayborne’s garage at 7:30 a.m., but their relationship remains unclear.

The BND questioned an annual income of $38,673 Monreal reported in 2011 in his Chapter 7 bankruptcy at a time when he was chairman of the parole board and made $91,400, according to state comptroller’s office records.

The newspaper also revealed that Gregg reported $48,000 in income in addition to his parole board pay in his 2013 Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing. State law prohibits board members from receiving income outside their state salary.

Gregg has since contended in a court case brought by a creditor that the extra income should have been listed for his wife, Patti, a full-time teacher’s aide. In federal court filings, she was listed as a “non-filing spouse.”

In a Chapter 7 proceeding, the filer’s debt usually does not have to be repaid. In a Chapter 13 proceeding, most or all of the debt is repaid but creditors cannot raise interest rates nor contact the debtor. Monreal and Duncan kept their homes. Gregg’s residence does not appear to be in danger of seizure. Harris reported living with her parents in Swansea.

“The investigations into the documents filed by Eric Gregg and Adam Monreal during their individual bankruptcy proceedings are ongoing. Any necessary action will be taken upon the conclusion of those investigations,” said Catherine Kelly, a spokeswoman for Rauner.

Rauner did not respond to written questions about whether Monreal or Gregg were still hearing parole cases.

“Obviously, if they are (hearing cases), that is a concern,” said Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Edwardsville.

Kay said the governor’s office should conduct “a quick and prompt” investigation to address the concerns.

“We should be very careful in the state of Illinois who we appointed to these boards because many of them, not all, but many have a tremendous amount of responsibility,” he said.

Harrisburg businessman Charles Will said he tried to alert Ken Tupy, general counsel to the parole board, to what Will said was Gregg’s alleged misstatements on an economic interest statement required for his appointment to the parole board in 2013. Tupy referred questions about the matter to the governor’s office.

In an interview, Will said he telephoned Tupy, who referred him to Daryl Jones, then a senior legal adviser with the Illinois Department of Corrections responsible for investigating “ethics” violations. Jones himself was named to the parole board by Rauner in March. Jones could not be reached for comment.

According to a copy of an email from Jones to Will dated Sept. 27, 2013, Jones wrote, “As per our telephone conversation of today, this is my email address. If you have the opportunity, I would appreciate any supporting documentation regarding the situation you brought to my attention (about Gregg).”

Will was among several Harrisburg citizens who initially tried to assist Gregg when he became ill and needed emergency surgery. But when Will obtained a copy of Gregg’s economic interest statement required by the state, it listed “0” on a line used to report gifts of more than $500 during the year preceding his appointment to the parole board. The BND obtained a copy.

Will said this caused concern because he claimed he paid for a $1,100 medical lift chair to be delivered to Gregg’s home and was aware that a fundraiser held for his benefit netted about $5,000 for his medical bills, which Gregg thankfully acknowledged in several news reports. There also were local news stories that stated Gregg continued to receive his mayor’s salary for several months after he was appointed to the parole board.

Will said he provided documentation requested by Jones, including a credit card statement showing the $1,100 payment, but never again heard from him. He supplied a copy of the credit card bill to the News-Democrat.

“When I didn’t hear back I figured they were just protecting their own. I never heard a thing,” Will said.

Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at bhundsdorfer@bnd.com or 618-239-2570. Follow her on Twitter: @bhundsdorfer. Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at gpawlaczyk@bnd.com or 618-239-2625. Follow him on Twitter: @gapawlaczyk.

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