Poor township's leader spends $230K on AmEx card
A federal investigation is underway into East St. Louis Township finances, according to a subpoena.
The subpoena was served Friday, soon after the BND reported Township Supervisor Oliver Hamilton spent $84,970 on a township credit card during an 18-month period.
U.S. Attorney James Porter was not immediately available for comment.
Township officials would not release a copy of the subpoena, but township attorney John Sabo acknowledged the subpoena in a conversation with Illinois Press Association lawyer Don Craven.
Craven believes the subpoena is a public record. He asked Sabo for a copy, citing a court ruling that says such subpoenas are public records.
“His first inclination was that the township would not release any documents that would interfere in an ongoing investigation,” Craven said.
On Tuesday, BND reporters first sought a copy of the subpoena from Sabo, who is with the law firm Clayborne, Sabo and Wagner. “Go to the U.S. attorney” in Fairview Heights, he said. He declined further comment.
His first inclination was that the township would not release any documents that would interfere in an ongoing investigation.
Don Craven, Illinois Press Association attorney
Both Township Supervisor Oliver Hamilton and township office manager Yvette Johnson acknowledged their office had received a subpoena requesting financial records, but declined to provide a copy. Hamilton also said, “Go to the U.S. attorney.”
The News-Democrat published a story online Friday about Hamilton’s use of a township American Express Card. Township financial records released under a Freedom of Information request showed $84,970 was charged on the card during an 18-month period. The purchases included trips to Las Vegas and Los Angeles, $34 car washes, thousands of dollars and tools and building materials, and gifts and flowers for political allies.
Requests to the township for proof that any personal purchases on the card were reimbursed resulted in a copy of a single uncanceled check from Hamilton’s personal checking account for $382 — the cost of his wife’s ticket for one of two Las Vegas trips.
The records also showed payments of $47,500 for lawn maintenance and cleaning to Padron Construction, a company operated by Earnest Walker, who lives in a boarding house owned by Hamilton at 1232 Cleveland Ave. in East St. Louis. Hamilton also operates a construction company, Hamilton Contractors, out of the same address. Padron Construction was dissolved by the Secretary of State in 2014 for failure to file an annual report.
The financial records showed purchases of more than $33,000 in construction materials and tools, cleaning supplies and tractor tires, and more than $11,000 in gasoline. Hamilton told reporters the building materials were for repairs at township offices, and he needed to buy the supplies for poor contractors who couldn’t afford to purchase the materials themselves.