Metro-East News

Levee board chief, whose shop fixes district’s vehicles, faces removal

Andy Economy is the president of the board of commissioners for the Metro-East Sanitary District, which maintains a system of flood-prevent levees along the Mississippi River.
Andy Economy is the president of the board of commissioners for the Metro-East Sanitary District, which maintains a system of flood-prevent levees along the Mississippi River.

The president of the levee board that serves the metro-east faces removal because he allegedly failed to properly fill out economic-interest statements regarding vehicle repairs his auto body shop did for the flood-prevention district.

Andy Economy, who heads the Metro East Sanitary District board of commissioners, must leave the board because of ethical concerns, said Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan on Wednesday.

A body shop owned by Economy, who could not immediately be reached for comment, has been paid more than $33,000 over the past three years for fixing vehicles owned by the levee district.

The levee district has paid $33,150 over three years to Andy Economy’s business, Andy’s Auto Body & Towing, to fix vehicles owned by the district. Economy serves on the levee district’s board.

As County Board chairman, Dunstan appoints members to the levee board as well as dozens of other boards and commissions.

Dunstan said he will ask the County Board at its next meeting to remove Economy. A majority vote is required.

“I will ask the board to vote for the removal of Andy Economy as a commissioner of the Metro East Sanitation District,” Dunstan said.

“We have been on this from day one,” Dunstan said.

The News-Democrat reported Oct. 17 that a total of $33,150 has been paid by the levee district over three years to Andy’s Auto Body & Towing, based in Madison. The money was to pay for the repair of district trucks and SUVs, including $18,400 to repair damage that resulted from three crashes of an SUV assigned to and driven by Bob Shipley, executive director of the MESD. In all, Shipley was involved in five accidents in three years while driving levee district vehicles. Shipley could not immediately be reached for comment.

On Monday, Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons said he had asked for a special prosecutor to investigate whether payments to Economy violated any laws.

Regardless of whether it is illegal or not, it doesn’t pass the smell test.

Alan Dunstan, Madison County Board chairman

“Regardless of whether it is illegal or not, it doesn’t pass the smell test,” Dunstan said, adding that Economy is a longtime friend making it difficult to push for his removal from the $15,000-per-year board seat he has held for more than a decade.

“He is a personal friend of mine. I’m not going to deny that,” Dunstan said, “and it hurt to have to call him up and tell him, ‘You have to resign.’”

According to copies of annual economic interest statements required to be filed with the county clerk, Economy entered “none” in all categories including the first category that asks for the name of any business where the filer owns more than a $5,000 interest that does business with a unit of local government.

Earlier, Dunstan called for a review of the ethical and competitive bidding policies for all boards and commissions to which he appoints members. He said he appoints more than 300 members to various board and commissions.

Referring to the BND’s reporting about Economy, Dunstan said previously, “you brought attention to a need for a thorough review.”

George Filcoff, the attorney for the levee board, on Wednesday presented a proposal to board members that would prohibit them from profiting from district payments to businesses they own. It could not be immediately determined whether the proposal passed at the board’s 9 a.m. meeting.

Madison County Administrator Joe Parente said the economic interest statements are filed with the county clerk but are not reviewed for compliance.

Economy also serves as the Venice Township supervisor, where his wife earns $61,000 as his assistant. It was not immediately clear whether his body shop has performed work on township vehicles, but his economic-interest statement for that office also does not reflect that he does any business with the township.

Economy also serves as a commissioner for the board at America’s Central Port, a quasi-government entity that operates a port district in the Granite City area.

Dennis Wilmsmeyer, executive director of the port, said Wednesday that Economy’s auto repair shop has been paid to repair port vehicles, but later in the day said that if he used those terms, he misspoke. He said he was checking records to see whether Economy’s shop performed repair work on post district vehicles.

Wilmsmeyer said he was in the process of locating documents for the work in response to a request from the BND.

The port district’s commissioners are appointed by the governor's office and are required to file annual statements of economic interest with the Illinois Secretary of State. Copies of Economy's statements for 2013-2015 show that he made no entries under any of the various categories, including the name of any entity or business where the filer held a position or title and “from which income in excess of $1,200 was derived during the preceding calendar year.”