Madison County Treasurer Kurt Prenzler put his words to action when he recently gave large raises to two office employees accused of taking part in politically motivated work on taxpayer time.
Prenzler told The Metro Independent on June 3 that work done by an employee in his office to assist with the investigation of St. Clair County tax sale records was completed on personal time. When told evidence suggested the work was done during regular business hours, Prenzler responded in email on June 4 to say one staffer had provided minimal assistance.
“I consider an analysis of tax sales of neighboring counties to be within my duties and responsibilities as treasurer,” Prenzler said. “Sam Borders used his computer to burn several CDs pertaining to tax sales statistics.”
Records from the compact discs distributed to the media by Prenzler at a May 30 press conference appear to show that Borders not only copied files to the discs, but also modified and printed documents. Chief Deputy Treasurer, Doug Hulme also appears to have modified documents on May 29.
Hulme attended the May 30 press conference at the St. Clair County Administration building at which Prenzler presented the results of his office’s investigation. Hulme was also present with Prenzler at a May 16 “Save our Jobs Rally,” hosted by U.S. Steel, in Granite City. The pair wore bright orange campaign t-shirts and helped hoist a “…Kurt Prenzler CPA Stands with Steelworks” sign.
Following a June 4 story by The Metro Independent, and a June 3 Freedom of Information Act request from Jack Daugherty, a Madison County Democratic committeeman, the Treasurer’s Office requested changes to already submitted timecards from Borders and Hulme. The requests were to change the time questioned in both the June 4 story and a complaint filed by Daugherty.
Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons referred the matter to the Madison County Ethics Advisor and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office on June 6. At the time, Prenzler, a Republican, said the charges were purely political.
“As far as I’m concerned, this is a dead issue until we hear back from Lisa Madigan’s office,” Prenzler said. “This is all politics.”
On June 23, Prenzler rewarded Borders with a promotion and a $4.81 per hour raise – or $10,004.80 per year. Hulme received the same raise on the same day.
Borders now receives $19.23 per hour, ($39,998.40 per year). Hulme, who was hired as an administrative assistant in January at $19.24 per hour ($40,019.20 per year), now makes $28.85 per hour ($60,008 per year).
Hulme was promoted from administrative assistant to Chief Deputy Treasurer on Feb. 24 and given a $4.80 per hour raise – or about $10,000 per year – at that time.
Borders was promoted on June 23 to replace Patricia Stanley as the operations manager. Stanley, who was given a separation agreement in May, had been working three days per week over the preceding year, although she was on leave for much of 2014.
In exchange for a lump sum payment equal to 176 hours of her normal pay, Stanley agreed to not take legal action against Madison County for matters relating to her time working for the county. The agreement indicates that Stanley was released due to restructuring and the County agreed to not take legal action.
Candace Gilstrap, Cynthia Ellis and Susan Padgett received $1 per hour raises on June 23 also. None of the other nine Treasurer’s office employees listed on the Madison County website received a raise that day.
Multiple attempts, over a six-day period, to reach Prenzler by phone and email for this story were unsuccessful. When asked if there is a current investigation based on on the information received about Prenzler’s office, a spokesperson for Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office said it is policy to neither confirm nor deny an investigation. Gibbons’ declined to comment on the current status of the complaints filed against Prenzler.