Law firm representing village the latest target of watchdog’s questions

By Gary Scott on May 20, 2015 at 12:54pm

New questions are being raised about actions taken by attorneys that represent the Village of South Jacksonville during a 2014 Illinois State Police investigation.

The group called Morgan County Watchdogs, posted on their Facebook page this week invoices from Rammelkamp Bradney Law Firm in Jacksonville obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request.

The invoice details three charges on June 9th, 2014 for “work on personnel issues for Village,” “work on personnel matter” and “work on investigation matter” by attorneys Barbara Fritsche, Allen Yow and Larry Kuster for more than $2,100.

The state police report, released late last year, investigated alleged wrongdoings in Village Hall, including allegations of theft against former village clerk Linda Douglass.

As the watchdog group points out, June 9th was the date state police investigators attempted to interview Douglass regarding what they said at the time was “criminal conduct by village employees.”

According to the report, Douglass contacted the village attorney and was apparently advised that she was not to speak to the police if they were bringing allegations against the village. State police explained that was not the case when attorneys arrived.

After specifically explaining that there were allegations of document destruction against Douglass, the report says Attorney Yow requested that attorneys would like to be present when state police spoke to Douglass.

Investigator Deanna Harton said Douglass “could conceivably believe she was being represented by an attorney and they represented the village, not Douglass.” According to the report, Yow denied he thought the village was a victim of a crime.

Douglass later in the meeting told state police “based upon the advice of a few people she was going to retain an attorney”, which was Richard Crews of Jacksonville.

Mike Woodyard is one of the organizers of Morgan County Watchdogs. He believes it was Yow and Fritsche who advised Douglass not to answer any questions.

“It would appear that they violated fiduciary duties as a village and gave improper counsel to a subject of an ISP investigation. And, on top of obstructing the investigations, they billed the village residents,” he says. “The billing invoices show that it continued even after the 9th, into the 10th, the next day and the next day on the 11th.”

Morgan County Watchdogs, along with other groups that have been active since our original story aired in mid-March, have shared several other documents online stemming from FOIA requests to the village. Woodyard says his watchdog group is looking for answers.

“I’m certainly not making any allegations. I’m just taking what’s in the ISP report, what we found in the billing invoices of the law firm, and these are the questions it raises, and we need answers,” he says.

“Frankly, there’s a handful of individuals sharing FOIA’d information. This is all done by a few people who don’t have the resources that the state has, and I think there’s enough now that the Attorney General needs to re-open this investigation, send the investigators back in with subpoena power, and let’s get answers to these questions. The taxpayers deserve it,” continues Woodyard.

A phone call was placed to Rammelkamp Bradney this morning. We were told Yow was unavailable, and a voice mail left for Fritsche was not immediately returned.