Village Board Nabbed By State’s Attorney

October 8, 2012

Village Government

By Jed Skillman

The abuse of Executive Session secrecy has finally hit a snag.  Since the current Board was sworn in much of the Trustee’s work has been done in secret, away from public input and oversight.

The lid blew off of these closed-door practices last spring when Trustee Erik Spande went public with a tale of a seemingly unbelievable plan by four Trustees – Tim Allen, Tony Reyes, Jim Hughes and Jay Olsen – to eliminate the Winfield Police Department and outsource Winfield’s security needs to the DuPage Sheriff’s Department.

But, despite denials Trustee Spande’s story turned out to be true and was backed up by lengthy transcripts taken from nine month’s worth of these executive session meetings going all the way back to June of 2011.

Their plan exposed, the four conspirators took vengeance by placing a mark of “censure” on Spande’s lengthy record of public service and having him escorted from Village Hall by police.  Public outrage ensued and Spande has become a folk hero among Winfield residents.

Despite all the resident anger – not only over the police issue but over the continued and persistent evasion of public scrutiny – the Trustees continued doing as much of the public’s business in private as they could get away with.

Finally they’ve been caught.

Following the Aug. 23rd meeting the Board went into executive session for the purpose, as stated by Trustee Tim Allen, to discuss “appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance or dismissal of specific employees”.

However, what really went on behind the closed doors was the settlement of a lawsuit which had resulted from a blunder by Trustee Jim Hughes when he side-stepped normal procedures in an apparent effort to ease Winfield Police Chief Stacy Reever and two other officers out of their jobs.

The Winfield Register, which made the story public in a front page article published in their September 19th issue, also shared the matter with the office of the Illinois State’s Attorney.

On Wednesday, October 3rd, the Village received a letter from Assistant State’s Attorney Lisa A. Smith.  While the four Trustees involved had opened themselves up to a $1,500 fine and a 30-day jail sentence, Ms. Smith has declined to prosecute.  However she has now placed the Village Board on a six-month probationary watch list.  During that period Winfield executive session meeting agendas, minutes and records will be reviewed by the Attorney General’s office for further violation.

In a bizarre twist, the regular meeting of the Village Board was scheduled the very next day after the State’s Attorney’s letter was received, Thursday October 4th.  By further coincidence, all four of the Trustees in question were absent from the meeting, sending in excuse letters that listed business matters, family concerns, a prior engagement.

This left the Village Board without the quorum necessary to conduct official business.  Several residents who showed up at Village Hall to attend felt that the likelihood that all four of the Trustees involved would suddenly be called away was implausible.  One, maybe two, but all of them?  If all their excuses were legitimate, fine.  If any of them were hiding out to avoid taking responsibility that could be seen as nothing but a childish temper-tantrum.  They’ve got to come back at some time, if only to pick up clean laundry.

In addition it should be noted that there has been friction between The Four Trustees and the Village Attorney.  At the last meeting in September the Trustees held up payment to the Village’s law firm over a dispute.  Because of the lack of a quorum on October 3rd this bill and other have remained unpaid.  Another coincidence?

About Positive on Winfield

Positive on Winfield is a blog with articles on local issues, local events, and local interests in Winfield, IL. Positive on Winfield is the blog website of the local civic action group, Winfield United for a Better Community.

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