With no action items on the agenda of a special South Jacksonville board of trustees meeting on Monday, all of the noise came from public comments.
Trustees listened to a half hour of comments that included many of the same faces that have spoken at meetings since a WLDS-WEAI News special report in March reported details of a 2014 Illinois State Police investigation into alleged wrongdoing by several village officials.
One of the speakers, Mike Woodyard of the Morgan County Watchdogs group, highlighted findings posted on the group’s Facebook page earlier Monday that it claims shows Village Attorney Allen Yow coordinated with the Attorney General to ensure prosecution would not occur.
Included in the posting is a memo apparently sent to all staff, personnel and officers about a month after state police attempted to interview village clerk Linda Douglass, who was investigated for theft.
Yow is shown in the memo to direct all requests from state police and the attorney general’s office for information to his office, and he would forward those documents to the village. In addition, the memo shows Yow forbidding any document to be given to investigators without his approval.
The memo indicates Yow consulted with Kathleen Duhig of the Attorney General’s Office to come to that decision. Duhig’s name was on the AG memo that precedes the 2014 ISP report indicating there was “insufficient evidence” to file charges.
Although Yow and other attorneys of Rammelkamp-Bradney Law Firm were informed by state police last year that the village may have been a victim of a crime, former mayor Gordon Jumper told ISP officials that Douglass sought counsel based on the recommendation of the village attorney.
Here are comments Woodyard made last night:
“Consequently, because the former mayor chose and Mr. Yow chose to defend some other people, the village has incurred quite a bit of expenses,” he says. “In the August 7th board meeting minutes of 2014, Mr. Jumper stated that the village had incurred $15,000 in legal expenses. I would highly encourage this board to go back and try to recover those expenses.”
Woodyard also pressed for further action from village trustees to do what’s right for the taxpayers of South Jacksonville.
“I’m still not convinced if you ever get a forensic audit in here- and the appellate prosecutor should be able to do that without an expense to this village- that there’s not a million dollars out there to be recovered,” claims Woodyard. “That’s how you turn a bad situation into a good situation.”
Colby Huff, the administrator of the My Social Jacksonville website, pointed out that a Freedom of Information Act request he filed for any working contract or agreement with Yow produced no such results.
Huff said according to the village clerk, the village and Rammelkamp Bradney have been working based on a “gentleman’s agreement for several years.” He called for the immediate firing of the law firm.
“I don’t know what other information we need to have brought out to show that they’re not acting in the best interests of this village,” Huff states. “There are other candidates- Mr. Wright being here tonight is an example of just one option, I’m sure there are many others- but a change obviously needs to be made. I’m hoping you choose to do so.”
Dan Wright of Brown, Hay and Stephens LLP, sat with the board in the village attorney’s seat last night. The Springfield firm has had someone present at almost every meeting since May, including several meetings where Yow was also present. Yow was not at last night’s meeting.
Mayor pro-tem Steve Waltrip had no comment regarding any potential action the village might take regarding its legal representation.
Also speaking last night was interim police chief Mike Broaddus, who compared the South Jacksonville situation to the Watergate scandal and stressed the need for positivity moving forward.
Village resident Greg Nelson, who has spoken at several meetings, asked to be nominated for the vacant village trustee position, open by the recent resignation of Sonnie Smith.