South Jacksonville officials are under investigation by state police for alleged document destruction, but does the village have anything to hide?
What started out as a discussion on the topic of reimbursement procedures in connection to travel expenses incurred by village clerk Dani Glascock turned into accusations of document destruction at a South Jacksonville special meeting in January.
WLDS-WEAI News was there and had the tape recorder rolling as Glascock talked about management of records in her first year as village clerk. Here were the initial remarks Glascock made, and responses by Mayor Gordon Jumper and office manager Linda Douglass.
“The records are not where they used to be. There’s no managing of records for me,” Glascock said.
When asked by a village board member to explain, she said, “Stuff that’s been cleaned out of the vault, shredded, so if there’s some records that I need to be managing, it’s not in the drawers that Linda says I have, three drawers in the vault, I don’t know…”
Douglass interjected, “You have access to every file in the vault, that’s where your records are.”
“But I don’t think all of them are probably in there,” responded Glascock.
“Well, that’s your own opinion,” Douglass shot back.
“All the village records are stored in the vault,” Jumper stated.
Douglass was the village clerk for thirteen years before being defeated by Glascock in the April 2013 primary. She served as the water clerk at the same time but was promoted to office manager last May.
Jumper told WLDS-WEAI News this week that state police interviewed Douglass and Glascock to investigate an issue of document destruction and misuse of village equipment.
When municipalities want to legally destroy documents, they have to submit paperwork to the state records commission, according to David Jones, a member of the downstate commission and the director of the Illinois State Archives. Doing so was mandated by the Local Records Act passed by the General Assembly in 1961.
“The way the process works is, every unit of local government should have what’s called an Application for the Authority to Dispose of Records. This is basically an inventory or a list of all the record series that a unit of local government has, whether it’s vouchers, correspondents, it goes before the records commission with the minimum amount of time that that unit of local government has to keep that record. Without that, you can’t dispose of any records,” explains Jones.
“If they wish to dispose of these records, there’s a second step in the process, and that’s called filing a Disposal Certificate.”
Freedom of Information Act requests by WLDS-WEAI News show the village of South Jacksonville submitted its initial record disposal application in 1985. Records of disposal certificates were then filed in 1989 and every year from 1992 to 2000.
Douglass was elected clerk in 2000. There was then an eleven-year gap in certificate submission until 2011, and no certificates have been filed since. However, in that 2011 submission, there are several decades worth of documents that are requested for destruction.
Bob Boots, a member of the state record commission, says the state recommends that municipalities with record disposal applications submit certificate requests annually, but he notes many municipalities don’t even have any record retention schedules.
Jones says nearly 99 percent of municipality records don’t have permanent value and should be disposed of to alleviate issues municipalities may have such as not having enough space.
Jumper echoed the need to dispose of records during the January special meeting. This audio piece once again also features Glascock and Douglass:
“Had you asked what was shredded, I would have told you,” Douglass told Glascock, who scoffed at the remark.
Jumper chimed in, “We shred, I gotta tell you. We shred, and I think anybody who is in the financial business shreds. We have documents that have people’s names on them. We gotta control those,” he said. “We are under the same federal obligations for document management that hospitals are.”
While Jumper was making those remarks, Douglass chimed in, “I don’t appreciate the insinuation.”
Calls to state police regarding the specifics of its investigation have not been returned.
The Attorney General’s Office confirmed it received a letter from Morgan County State’s Attorney Robert Bonjean asking that the office work with state police as it investigates the village, citing a potential conflict of interest, but officials had no comment about the investigation.
The South Jacksonville board of trustees plans to hold a special session meeting on Monday. The agenda includes a closed session to consider the appointment, employment, compensation, performance or dismissal of a specific village employee, and probable or imminent litigation affecting the village.
Action items related to the closed session discussion are scheduled to follow.
That meeting will be at 7 p.m. in the Village Hall Board Room.
You can view the South Jacksonville disposal records obtained by WLDS-WEAI News for this story below.