Metro-East News

State’s attorney wants special prosecutor to look into Sanitary District’s crashes, repairs

Bob Shipley
Bob Shipley

Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons will ask a special prosecutor to review records of crashes and repairs of Metro East Sanitary District vehicles.

Bob Shipley, the district executive director, crashed his district-owned 2011 Ford Expedition five times in three years, and three times the SUV needed fixing, it was repaired by Andy’s Auto Body & Towing, owned by the levee board president, Andy Economy.

Copies of records obtained under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act by the Belleville News-Democrat showed Shipley’s crashes have generated $18,400 in business for Economy’s shop in Madison, including $6,615 for a crash in August when Shipley backed into a parked car. In all, Economy’s shop did about $33,150 in repair work for the district in three years.

Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan issued a written statement Monday calling for a review of the ethical and bidding policies of all boards and commissions within the county because of the levee board’s practice of allowing a repair shop owned by its board president to be paid for making repairs to district vehicles.

Dunstan appoints commissioners to the board where they earn a $15,000 annual salary. Joe Parente, the county administrator, has said the county doesn’t have input into levee activities.

Referring to the BND’s reporting on Oct. 18, Dunstan wrote that, “it brought attention to need for a thorough review.”

His statement said: “It is important these taxing districts operate in a manner that follows legal, ethical and best management practices and are operated in a way that is completely open and transparent to the public.”

Dunstan said he will ask the chairman of the various boards and commission, including the levee district, to “communicate with the county,” regarding ethical and financial policy and other issues. As chairman, Dunstan appoints members to various board and can remove them for cause.

“When necessary, the county will assist those districts to make sure the proper policies are in place and best management practices, such as open bidding policies are followed,” he said.

In addition to the August crash, Shipley crashed his SUV:

▪  on May 17, 2014, when he rear-ended another car, causing $4,181 in damage to the district vehicle.

▪  on Nov. 10, 2014, when he hit a car in a Collinsville fast-food restaurant parking lot, causing $1,949 in damage to the district vehicle.

▪  on May 25, 2013, when he struck another car. The other car sustained $537 in damage.

▪  on Aug. 31, 2013, when Shipley’s SUV slid off the levee road onto a fence. The damage was minimal and wasn’t repaired.

As part of the comprehensive review of this matter, Gibbons will be seeking a special prosecutor and submitting the documents for an independent review. If further investigation is warranted, Gibbons said the special investigator can conduct that investigation.

George Filcoff, attorney for the MESD board, said he will cooperate fully with any investigation.

Filcoff said previously he will submit a motion to end the practice at the board’s next meeting on Wednesday morning.

Economy did not have a contract to repair the district’s vehicles and has said that he doesn’t vote on whether to pay his shop for repairs he makes. He could not be reached for comment.

Madison County Treasurer Kurt Prenzler, who is running for county board chairman against Dunstan, issued his own statement regarding the levee board matter. Prenzler asserted that Economy contributed to Dunstan’s campaign. Records showed Economy donated $2,500 to Citizens for Dunstan in May 2015, $2,500 in March 2011 and $2,500 in April 2008.

“This appears to be another case where ethics takes a back seat to political donations,” Prenzler said.

Prenzler called for Economy’s dismissal.

“Based on his admission, the MESD board president should resign immediately and if he refuses, the county board chairman and the county board should remove him, which is allowed by Illinois law,” Prenzler said.

Beth Hundsdorfer: 618-239-2570, @bhundsdorfer

George Pawlaczyk: 618-239-2625, @gapawlaczyk