Charges say employee took thousands from Wood River Levee District

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Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity.

The secretary and treasurer of the Wood River Levee and Drainage District was charged Wednesday with theft of more than $10,000 and official misconduct.

The charges against Jamie Butkovich, 37, of Wood River, came a day after Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler asked for an audit of the levee district.

Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons, a Democrat, accused Prenzler, a Republican, of playing politics, saying an investigation was already underway when Prenzler called for a forensic audit of the district on Tuesday. A financial person with the district noticed missing money in early September, launching a police investigation, Gibbons said.

“The investigation which lead to these charges began early in September and has been ongoing since that time. Based on information reviewed by investigators, it appears the defendant took steps to conceal the theft. Fortunately, the missing funds were uncovered with the help of a financial adviser, who notified the district,” Gibbons said.

On Tuesday, Gibbons criticized Prenzler’s public call for a forensic audit of the district.

“It is highly irresponsible for any public official knowing that an investigation is underway to discuss it in public. Doing so creates the real possibility of undermining the success of the the investigation and potentially causing harm to the outcome,” Gibbons said.

“I think we still need the forensic audit. When you are dealing with complicated financial matters, it’s important to have a third party look at it,” Prenzler said.

Steve Adler, head of the nearby Metro-East Sanitary District, said he learned from people with Wood River connections that workers at the drainage district reported paycheck irregularities. When he arrived at the Wood River Levee and Drainage District on Monday and the office was closed, he contacted Prenzler.

“Chairman Prenzler was elected with the full understanding that he would be active in rooting out corruption,” Adler said. “It’s important the public knows what’s going on in their government, their money and their elections. Sunshine is always the best disinfectant. If any public official disputes that, voters need to compare their record of fighting public waste, mismanagement and corruption with ours.”

Adler, a Republican, is running for Madison County Clerk against Democrat Debbie Ming Mendoza.

“As director of the area’s largest levee district, I am uniquely qualified to help the chairman look into this issue,” Adler said.

Prenzler said Tuesday that Ron Carnell, a Wood River levee district board member whom Prenzler appointed in June, told him on there could be a misappropriation of levee district funds and police were investigating.

Butkovich’s bail is set at $50,000. According to the Levee District’s website, she worked for the district for seven years.

Beth Hundsdorfer: 618-239-2570.