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Suarez responds to accusations she was a Chemetco insider

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A day after a press conference at which candidate for Madison County Treasurer Marleen Suarez called for the current treasurer, Kurt Prenzler, to resign, Prenzler held a press conference of his own to call for Suarez to drop out of the race.

Marleen Suarez at an Oct. 1, 2014 press conference / Photo by Roger Starkey

Marleen Suarez at an Oct. 1, 2014 press conference / Photo by Roger Starkey

At a Wednesday press conference, Madison County Board Member Kelly Tracy and Suarez presented evidence of what may have been an illegal tax sale to benefit a Prenzler ally. Prenzler presented information Thursday from a 2003 bankruptcy court case that he said showed Suarez’s husband was accused of receiving a fraudulent transfer during the preceding.

Suarez said Prenzler also accused her husband’s company of receiving a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency stating that it is required to assist in the clean-up of the Chemetco site on Illinois Route 3 near Hartford. Prenzler also called Suarez was an insider with the company that was found to be polluting nearby Long Lake, she said.

Prenzler did not respond to a direct request for comment or to provide The Metro Independent the same invitation to the press conference, the press release and supporting documentation his office provided to other news outlets, so it cannot verify the exact allegations made by the treasurer.

Suarez said Prenzler’s accusation that she was an insider with the company shows his ignorance of the legal system. Prenzler was admitted to the Illinois Bar Association in 1981, but later voluntary relinquished his license to practice.

“The term ‘insider’ is used differently in bankruptcy proceedings than in other court cases,” Suarez said. “It does not involve criminal conduct, stealing or fraud.”

In this case, her husband’s company, B. Garcia trucking, was listed as an insider by the bankruptcy trustee, who alleged it received preferential payment of bills. Chemetco was owned by a distant cousin of her husband, Suarez said.

Suarez may have been named as an insider because her name was on loan documents of her husband’s company, B. Garcia Trucking, she speculated. The bankruptcy trustee dismissed the suit naming Suarez as an insider in 2005.

B. Garcia has been in contact with the EPA, as have 114 other parties, as part of an inquiry to determine if they provided hazardous materials, Suarez said. The company has not been identified as responsible for clean up, Suarez said. The company delivered sand to Chemetco, Suarez said.

“We are confident that B. Garcia trucking will not be found responsible in any way,” Suarez said.

The trucking company vehemently fought the allegations of preferential payments, or fraudulent transfer, and eventually settled with the trustee for about $100,000, Suarez said, while calling B. Garcia a victim of the Chemetco bankruptcy.

“To this day, they are still owed money for services that were provided to Chemetco but never paid for,” Suarez said. “My husband paid his subcontractors out of his own pocket so they could receive payment.”

Suarez called the timing of the press conference and the allegations from an incident a decade old, “suspicious.” Wednesday, Prenzler’s former chief deputy, Jeremy Plank, questioned the timing of the Suarez’s and Tracy’s request for investigation in Prenzler’s 2013 tax sale.

“They had two years to bring this up, why do they just now do it?” Plank said. “The timing is curious.”

The accusations are being made, Suarez said, because Prenzler cannot run for reelection on his record.

“Since he has taken office, he has cost the taxpayers of Madison County millions of dollars through lawsuits, a botched tax sale and poor investment decisions,” Suarez said.

Suarez said she would put her business expertise, background and ethics against Prenzler’s any day.

“I do not have any failed businesses in my background.  I do not have a business with years of violations directly affecting the safety of children.  I do not have a history of debtor lawsuits resulting from botched real estate deals in another state.  Prenzler has all of this, as well as a history of mismanagement and ethical violations in the Treasurer’s office,” Suarez said.

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