Metro-East News

Former levee board president voted to approve payments to himself

Former Metro East Sanitary District board president Andy Economy voted to approve payments to his own auto body shop and personally prepared estimates for the cost of labor and repairs to district cars.

Economy previously told the Belleville News-Democrat he didn’t vote to make payments using taxpayers’ money to benefit his body shop.

Economy said he didn’t intend to mislead anyone and hadn’t realized he had voted to pay himself. He also said he forgot that he had prepared some repairs estimates for hail damage to district vehicles.

“I don’t remember voting to pay those bills when I had something before the board. I think that happened only a few times,” Economy said last week in an interview.

Economy recently resigned from the levee board following a series of news stories in which the BND reported that Economy’s business was receiving public payments. He had been on the board since 1998.

At the time, Economy said he abstained from voting when a motion was presented to the board to approve payments to his body shop, and that the actual repair amounts were set by insurance appraisers, not him.

But copies of board minutes showed that of 17 meetings, Economy voted 12 times to approve payments to himself. And several copies of estimates for the cost of labor were written and signed by Economy personally.

As for the estimates, he said this occurred because of the press of business during a harsh hail storm when the levee board could not get outside adjusters to respond.

“It was all covered by insurance. It did not cost the taxpayers,” he said.

I don’t remember voting to pay those bills when I had something before the board. I think that happened only a few times

Andy Economy, former Metro East Sanitary District board president

Records for 2010-15 supplied under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act showed that during this period, when Economy earned $15,000 a year on the Metro East Sanitary District board, his business — Andy’s Auto Body & Towing in Madison — received $48,454 in payments from the district, including $5,500 for the sale in 2013 of a 9-year old Chevy S-10 pickup. The truck’s mileage was 114,324.

Economy also serves as the supervisor of Venice Township and makes about $40,000 per year in that job.

Economy was forced off the levee board two weeks ago by Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan, who intended to present a resolution calling for Economy to be removed. He resigned hours ahead of the removal vote.

Dunstan’s primary concern was that Economy hadn’t listed the board payments to his business on county economic interests statements that he signed, as required by state law.

Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons said last week that he has requested a special prosecutor to review payments to Economy and that request has been granted, but no one has yet been assigned to the case. Gibbons said previously he wanted an outside prosecutor to determine whether any laws were broken by having Economy’s body shop to business with the levee board.

$48,454Amount Andy’s Auto Body & Towing received from Sanitary District board

$5,500Amount Economy received for selling a 9-year-old truck to the Sanitary District

$4,400Amount paid by the board for America’s Central Port to Economy’s body shop

The minutes from past levee board meetings show that no other board member questioned the practice of Economy voting to pay himself over the six years covered by the records.

Board Executive Director Bob Shipley could not be reached for comment.

Curtis McCall, the Centreville Township supervisor who has been a levee board member for three years, said Economy’s votes to pay himself and failing to complete economic interests statements mean little.

“I’ve known Andy to be nothing but the ultimate professional. I think this is a damn shame, what is being done to him. He’s a man of integrity. I’ve seen nothing but professionalism from him,” McCall said, adding that he voted “no” when a levee board resolution was presented to accept Economy’s resignation, which passed.

“To me, it’s about being a person that’s gonna do the will of the people,” McCall said. “In my short tender there, Andy has shown me nothing but that. It’s unfortunate that he’s being forced out. And, I don’t blame the News-Democrat. You guys are doing your job. I blame the damn politicians that won’t stand up for him.”

Levee board attorney George Filcoff said he was aware that Economy had voted to approve board payments to himself, but said he assumed that all of the costs had first been approved by outside insurance appraisers. Told that Economy wrote up some of the estimates, Filcoff said, “He was getting paid what the insurance company was paying for damage. That’s it. That’s what I thought it was.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office is aware that economic interest statements filed by Economy in connection with his position as a board member for America’s Central Port in Granite City did not include about $4,400 paid by the port board to Economy for auto repair work.

Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said that Economy’s economic interests statements concerning his position on the port board, which is a gubernatorial appointment, will be reviewed.

“While we will not comment on any specific allegations, as part of our new compliance program, we regularly review whether state appointees have fully complied with their legal obligations and will take any appropriate action necessary,” Kelly said in a written response.

Kelly has said the new review process was put in place after the BND reported in August that two members of the state parole board had not properly filled out mandatory state economic interests statements. One board member later resigned and the other was removed from the parole board.