By: Diane Benjamin
Last night I made a road trip to Atlanta Il for their Library Board meeting. This is a Board under investigation for numerous items including grant fraud, improper disposable of cooking oil in a sewer, and failure to perform audits and report financial information to the Comptroller. The main offender is their Treasurer – Bill Thomas who hasn’t attended a meeting in many months. His daughter did park her car on top of the grate disposal site last night, it didn’t help keep the stench from permeating the area. Read the previous story about this issue HERE
The Edgar County Watchdogs have written many stories about this Board. See this list HERE This library operates a museum and the Palms Grill in addition to “leasing” a building from the Treasurer.
A LARGE group of citizens are outraged by what has been discovered, somewhere between 30 and 40 were at this meeting. One prominent resident, Amy Wertheim, spoke at 1:50 outlining some of the new items investigated. It’s not surprising the Treasurer refuses to attend meetings and answer questions! Several citizens spoke after Amy outlining even more problems. I spoke before Amy concerning what they call a Treasurer’s report. The numbers don’t balance, but they later voted to approve it anyway.
The real fun started at 17:45.m The Board chairman asked for a motion to approve paying bills through January! The Board then voted to authorize the guy under numerous investigations to write whatever checks he wants! Not only is that a stupid practice – it’s illegal! Bedlam ensued when first Amy called a point of order, then I told them the motion was illegal. At 19:15 I asked the Board to resign, the Board Chair said he would ask me to leave, I told him to call the police which he “pretended” to do. I never saw an officer arrive. I did had numerous citizens who would have happily been arrested with me and others checking their wallets for bail money. Bill’s daughter, who is employed by the Library, declared the practice perfectly legal.
Open Meetings Act introduction:
By the time the Board gets around to informing citizens at a regular meeting, the checks Bill Thomas is going to write are long cashed! As I noted, the financial reports they voted on don’t balance. July showed receiving a $20,000 grant with a note saying it was transferred to savings – but the transfer out wasn’t shown. I wonder what “savings account” got that money? None of the cover sheets listing Revenues and Expenses matched the supporting documents, yet the Board voted to allow Thomas to write checks at will!
More fun ensued at 24:20 – Union Hall project. This is the building Bill Thomas has been renting to the Library (a conflict of interest) for $1000. It is also the building under investigating for grant fraud because a State grant was received years ago based on a false contract saying the library was buying the building from Bill. Payments, other than ones marked lease, have never been made under that contract.
Bill Thomas and his wife have decided to donate the building to the library! First they had to vote to stop buying the building and stop lease payments. So which was it? Buy or Lease? All payments were clearly marked LEASE. A question from the crowd concerning whether Bill’s possible loan on the building came with the donation wasn’t answered. That would also be illegal.
The entire meeting only lasted 30 minutes. It should be included in textbooks for how not to conduct the public’s business.