It now appears officials are working on filing new charges against a former South Jacksonville village clerk targeted by a state police investigation in 2014.
The Morgan County Watchdogs group has shared with WLDS-WEAI News the results of several Freedom of Information Act requests regarding communications from the state’s attorney’s office going back to the spring of 2014 on the topic of the investigation by the Illinois State Police that was conducted last year.
ISP investigators looked into complaints of theft against former village clerk and water clerk Linda Douglass, among other allegations, after current clerk Dani Glascock went to them with her concerns. WLDS-WEAI News ran a full report in March of this year.
Since then, the new documents reveal multiple attempts to get someone in the state to prosecute based on the allegations, with the most recent attempt happening last month.
The prosecution aspect of the situation began in April 2014. Morgan County State’s Attorney Bobby Bonjean told state police investigator Deanna Harton to email a request for assistance of a special prosecutor on April 3rd, indicating he had a conflict of interest.
Specifically, Bonjean noted that his father-in-law is South Jacksonville Fire Chief David Hickox, and his wife is the chairman of the South Jacksonville “Little Miss” pageant.
Bonjean received the request from Harton, and mailed a letter to the Illinois Attorney General the next day.
Following the conclusion of the state police investigation, the Attorney General’s office declined to press charges in December 2014.
After an official ethics complaint was filed this past April, an ethics commission recommended further action be taken by prosecutors to investigate the possibility of “official misconduct” by retiring Village President Gordon Jumper and Police Chief Richard Evans, as well as Douglass.
The commission noted Bonjean can order the Circuit Clerk’s office to appoint another attorney, including the state Appellate Prosecutor.
Morgan County Watchdogs requested in its FOIA submission a copy of any such paperwork, but Bonjean indicated no petition has been filed as the appellate prosecutor has not accepted the request for special prosecutor assistance.
In the FOIA response, Bonjean constructed a timeline dating back to his first communications with state police.
On June 25th, 2015, documents show Bonjean emailed a request for special prosecutor assistance to the appellate prosecutor, with the offenses listed as “multiple based on SJ Ethics Commission Report.”
In a November text message exchange with Dan Wright, one of the new attorneys working for the village this year, Bonjean says,
“now I’m hearing that [South Jacksonville Police Sergeant Mike] Broaddus is saying I won’t do anything which is completely inaccurate… a referral was previously made to the [Appellate] Prosecutor after the Ethics Commission Report and it was denied.”
Bonjean then explained that he was told by the Appellate Prosecutor that the Attorney General had previously reviewed the ISP investigation, so they should handle anything else related to the matter.
On August 5th, Bonjean was emailed by Jeff Wilday, who along with Dan Wright, works for Brown, Hay and Stephens LLP of Springfield.
The message indicated Wright had spoken to Assistant Attorney General Dave Navarro, and was told the AG was declining prosecution on the three officials, Jumper, Douglass and Evans.
In September, it was indicated that village attorneys were reviewing information that was hidden from state police during their original investigation. During that month’s village board meeting, trustees requested a second investigation by the Illinois State Police.
Fast forward to November 15th. Bonjean, Assistant State’s Attorney Chad Turner, Attorney Dan Wright of Brown, Hay and Stephens, South Jacksonville Police Chief Josh Hallock, and Sergeant Broaddus met in Hallock’s office, according to Bonjean.
He then says Hallock mailed an undated letter to the director of the appellate prosecutor.
On November 20th, Bonjean says he emailed a request for special prosecutor assistance to the appellate office related to “recently uncovered information” regarding Linda Douglass. Bonjean previously said Broaddus had stopped by to talk about information he had on Douglass on November 13th.
Bonjean in the request listed Douglass and included under the category of offenses, “multiple, including forgery.”
“Former Chief, now Sergeant Broaddus came to visit me and said he had an issue related to Miss Douglas, it was a forgery allegation. Either he told me, or I asked when it allegedly occurred, and I think he said April 2014, and I [asked if] this was covered by the Illinois State Police investigation, or should it have been uncovered, and he said yes, and I think he had indicated that the special agent for the state police had been somewhat involved in development of those reports,” says Bonjean.
“So, I said at that point, I didn’t really want to know anything else because I didn’t want to mess up any potential prosecution, due to my conflict.”
Bonjean says he hasn’t gotten a response back from the Appellate Prosecutor regarding last month’s request.
The FOIA response also sheds light on communication between South Jacksonville Police Chief Richard Evans and the Appellate Prosecutor’s Office.
WLDS-WEAI News ran a story on April 10th about the resignation of South Jacksonville officer Greg Lowe, who was appointed by Richard Evans to handle an “internal investigation” into village official misconduct that he says paralleled the state police investigation.
Evans said four total investigations, two incomplete, were forwarded to the State Appellate Prosecutor’s Office.
In the Morgan County Watchdogs request, State’s Attorney Bonjean included an email between himself and Appellate Prosecutor Ed Parkinson that was dated March 18th that suggests Parkinson stop by Bonjean’s office to discuss the investigations.
When we reached out to the Appellate Prosecutor’s Office prior to our April 10th story, we spoke specifically to Parkinson, and were told that the office was not aware of anything being submitted to their office from the South Jacksonville Police Department.
Plus, Parkinson did not seem to have any knowledge of what we were talking about. He didn’t say anything about any exchanges with Bonjean.
We left a couple of phone messages for Ed Parkinson this week. They went unreturned.
According to emails released in the watchdog FOIA request, Parkinson received an email from Richard Evans on April 13th that included the reports. Parkinson said the Appellate Prosecutor had no authority to handle the Greg Lowe reports.
As was previously reported, it wasn’t until July that village officials were able to access the Greg Lowe reports. Richard Evans referenced them in his retirement statement in April.
Having made the recommendation for further prosecution in June, the Ethics Commission that was formed in the village never got a chance to look at the internal investigation, even though they apparently asked for it.
The investigation was found in the office of Allen Yow, the former village attorney, at his office at Rammelkamp-Bradney Law Firm.
Two of the reports were done in November 2014, while the other two were filed less than a week after the WLDS-WEAI News report aired. The complainants were Gordon Jumper, Linda Douglass, and an “anonymous citizen”.
Mike Woodyard with the Morgan County Watchdogs is the man behind the Freedom of Information Act request that has uncovered the information reported on in this story.
Though currently without evidence to back up the claim, Woodyard believes it was the starting of the internal investigation that led the Attorney General to not prosecute, and he claims a decades-long professional relationship between Richard Evans and Ed Parkinson didn’t help simplify matters, either.
“The Village of South Jacksonville did their job, and they tried to seek justice, and the Ethics Commission did their job. Mr. Bonjean did his job, because he did forward these prosecutions on to the Appellate Prosecutor, where they’ve been sitting since June 25th,” he says.
Woodyard believes the situation warrants a federal investigation.
“A federal jurisdiction will have the resources to look at the emails that we’re probably not going to get to look at, the things that were going on behind the scenes. They will have the resources to go into South Jacksonville and look and do an audit and investigate that, because everything I’ve seen [indicates] it’s not going to happen at the state level,” says Woodyard.
“If there is prosecution, the only saving grace may be that Mr. Bonjean has resigned, and we will have a new Morgan County State’s Attorney. It is possible that Gray Noll will come in here on January 2nd and take the bull by the horns and will bring justice,” he continues.
Bonjean notes there are statutes of limitations on any future prosecution.
“Any misdemeanor offense, it would be 18 months from the date the offense occurred with a felony, statute of limitations is three years,” he explains.
Reporter: “If we’re talking about theft of thousands of dollars, would that be a felony?”
Based on publicly-available documents and the research he has done, Woodyard estimates about $186,000 is unaccounted for in the village water-sewer savings account in the time period focused on in the ISP investigation, in addition to $90,000 unaccounted for from the 2011 Concert in the Cornfield.
We reached out to South Jacksonville Village President Steve Waltrip this week. He said he couldn’t confirm those numbers, but that there will be a meeting on December 21st to discuss the idea of conducting an independent audit to find out what the correct figures are.
You can download the Morgan County Watchdogs FOIA documents below: