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Who was watching Caseyville’s finances from May, 2013 to April, 2014?

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A three-minute video clip from the Caseyville Village Board meeting on Feb. 19, 2014 has become an internet sensation, but there is more to the video clip than yelling and finger pointing, there are questions by Mayor Leonard Black about how the village is going to pay for certain items.

Caseyville Village Board meeting Oct. 16, 2013 / Photo by Roger Starkey

The Caseyville Village Board / Photo by Roger Starkey

If someone watches the entire meeting on video, they would see those present listen to Black read from a prepared statement explaining why he attempted to terminate Police Chief Jose Alvarez. One reason, Black said, was the chief’s request for an assistant chief with a salary of $60,000, plus benefits.

“I could not agree with (this request), given the state of the Village’s finance and the past history of the Caseyville Police Department,” Black said.

Alvarez later tells Black that the money for the assistant chief and proposed dispatchers is in the budget. Alvarez points to Rick Casey Jr., the chair of the Village Board finance committee at the time, and tells Black to ask Casey from where the money is coming.

Casey, though, had no one to whom he could point. Mayor Leonard Black had removed Diel and Forguson LLC as the Village Treasurer soon after taking office in May, 2013. By Feb. 19, 2014, that position was still vacant.

Casey Jr said he resigned his position as chair, in part, because there was still no treasurer by early March, when he stepped down. Diel and Forguson were brought back to serve as treasurer on March 26, leaving Caseyville without a treasurer for about 10 months.

Black said he removed Diel and Forguson because he wanted to “shake things up and get a fresh set of eyes.” He never appointed a replacement, he said, because his power to appoint a replacement treasurer was taken away from him by the Board of Trustees.

According to Illinois law (65 ILCS 5/3.1-30-5), the Mayor has the right to appoint a treasurer, “by and with the advice and consent of the city council or the board of trustees.”

Black said research is being done to determine if he can appoint a treasurer himself, without the Board’s approval. Even if he can, he said, he will probably not make a change.

An agenda item from the June 19, 2013 Village Board meeting to appoint Casey Jr’s father, Rick Casey, as a budget consultant was tabled until further notice and has not been on any agendas since the meeting. Black said Casey was not going to be the Treasurer, a positioned from which he resigned in October 2008, but a financial consultant.

Black said Casey is now working with the village, making “maybe $200 or $250 per check,” on some Tax Increment Finance projects, including an attempt to revive the Forest Lakes subdivision.

“He’s been meeting with the developer and others on that,” Black said. “I think people are going to be real happy with that project.”

Another recent attempt to revive the Forest Lakes project was unsuccessful when the Collinsville Unit 10 School Board decided against extending the TIF agreement (see related story). Casey was the Village Treasurer when the original agreement was made with the developer, Caseyville Sport Choice LLC.

Casey was removed as the TIF administrator, and subsequently resigned as Village Treasurer, in October 2008, after questions were raised about projects being worked by KMC Contracting, owned by his wife Kathy Casey. Casey presented the opinion of Chicago attorney Kathleen Field Orr that his actions were not a conflict of interest. The Village Attorney at the time disagreed. According to a published report from 2008, former Mayor George Chance said several other outside attorneys agreed with the village attorney.

A village without a treasurer

With no treasurer to watch over Caseyville’s finances for 10 months, there appeared to be confusion about how money was spent.

At a March 19 Board meeting, while asking why a police evidence clerk was necessary, Black said the General Fund was in debt more than $170,000 to the Police Pension Fund/IMRF and the Police Payback. Only two months prior, on Jan. 15, the Board voted unanimously to hire Connie Frederick as the part-time police evidence clerk. No questions were raised at the Jan. 15 meeting by Board members or the mayor about how her salary would be paid.

Black said Frederick, who was hired at the recommendation of Alvarez, recently submitted her resignation.

The cash payment for a street sweeper, approved by the Board on Jan. 22 to be paid for in lease payments totaling $85,000, was another point of confusion. The sweeper was to be paid for from the TIF1 Fund, the Water Fund and the General Fund, Jan. 22 meeting minutes show.

Black, Board members, Alvarez and Leslie McReynolds, an accounts payable clerk, discussed the street sweeper during a March 26 meeting. Black, Alvarez and Trustee Kerry Davis all expressed surprise that the sweeper had been paid for in cash without notification to the board.

Casey Jr., who was not present at the meeting, said later that paying for the street sweeper in a lump sum payment, rather than leasing, made sense because it saved Caseyville “several thousand dollars.”

There was then discussion at the March 26 meeting about the DEA account, uncertainty about the how the funds had been used, and if all of the money had been spent according to the law governing the DEA account.

“This is why we need a treasurer, this is why we need an audit,” Davis said during the discussion.

Davis was referring to an emergency audit that would be approved that day. Trustee Wally Abernathy said the emergency audit, to be performed by Siechman, Allison & Knapp, was needed to find out what was happening with the village finances.

“We want them to come in and get things straightened up,” Abernathy said.

A regular treasurer, in addition to the special audit, was also necessary, Abernathy said.

“We have water bills we’re behind on and haven’t paid. We need to get Brian Loose (with Diel and Forguson) here to get us straightened out and find out if the money’s going in the right accounts and if bills’ are being paid,” Abernathy said.

The firm of Diel and Forguson was hired on March 26 to be the temporary treasurer. There was no indication of when the term would end. Black said on Friday that he was not aware the appointment was temporary.

At both the special committee meeting and the special Village Board meeting on March 26, Black and McReynolds expressed a preference for Michael Brokering, formerly with Diel and Forguson, but noted as being with J.W. Boyle and Co. currently. J.W. Boyle and Co kept books for the Canteen Creek Drainage District while Black was a member of the district.

The emergency audit began in April and the temporary treasurer was sworn in that month.

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