South Jax ethics commission recommends prosecutors look at complaint, ISP report

By Gary Scott on June 19, 2015 at 5:02am

A commission formed following an ethics complaint against village officials in South Jacksonville announced its recommendations last night.

The complaint, from village resident Tyson Manker, was put on record during a board of trustees meeting in April. The commission spent the last month reviewing that complaint and the 2014 Illinois State Police report presenting allegations of wrongdoing by village officials.

The commission recommends that further action be taken by prosecutors for many of the allegations in the report to investigate the possibility of “official misconduct” by retiring Village President Gordon Jumper and Police Chief Richard Evans, as well as resigning Treasurer and former Village Clerk Linda Douglass.

The commission notes that all of the allegations are beyond the statute of limitations as far as the commission’s jurisdiction. Mainly for that reason, the report says the commission can’t find probable cause against the three officials.

The commission notes that the statute of limitations is different for prosecutors, and that they would be able to move forward with a case.

Morgan County State’s Attorney Bobby Bonjean indicated when it was first announced that the Illinois State Police was investigating the village that he would have a conflict of interest. The Attorney General’s office declined to press charges.

However, the commission notes Bonjean can order the Circuit Clerk’s office to appoint another attorney, including the state Appellate Prosecutor. The commission is urging the village board to request the state’s attorney take that action.

The commission says a variety of possible criminal charges could apply, including willful misconduct, destruction of public records, computer fraud and theft.

Among the potential items for prosecutors to investigate Jumper and Douglass would be the alleged creation of “ghost accounts” in the village’s water-sewer department during Douglass’ tenure as water clerk; the commission alleges there was failure to enforce a 30-day delinquency shut-off ordinance.

In addition, allegations regarding payment plans established and administered by Douglass and cash payments made by village residents towards their delinquencies, should all be forwarded to prosecutors for official misconduct.

The commission report criticizes Jumper for failure to prevent internal theft, specifically misuse of the petty cash fund.

It says, “the prompt implementation of security measures suggested by external auditors should have been a top priority of any village president but especially one who earns his living as a practicing certified public accountant” if the allegations are proven to be correct.

Several other items, including mail tampering and allowing a non-village official to execute contracts on behalf of the village, were not found to have probable cause, and no further action was recommended by the commission.

The report recommends some of the allegations against Richard Evans in the complaint and state police report be forwarded to the state’s attorney’s office, including fraudulent police information database certifications and personal use of the database, called LEADS.

It also requests information to be forwarded regarding allegedly using a squad car for personal use, running an eBay business on village property, and contacting the village attorney for personal legal matters.

The report does not recommend any action against Evans for allegedly having another police officer sign a petition for the re-election campaign of Douglass, or the alleged downloading of pornographic apps on the police chief’s village-paid iPhone.

In its conclusion, the commission says the allegations of the complaint “should be deeply troubling to any village resident.” Ending the investigation, they say, with the commission’s conclusions and nothing further “would leave many questions unanswered”.

Commission member Harry Jennings says the next step would have been for the commission to do an investigation and hold a hearing.

“There was a lot of allegations within both the Illinois State Police report and the ethics complaint that were criminal allegations, and criminal allegations aren’t included in the ethics ordinance. The ethics ordinance only covers political activity and gifts,” says Jennings. “So anything that was a criminal allegation would have to be forwarded to the proper prosecution.”

Commission chairperson Stacy Pinkerton believes a forensic audit is still a possibility.

“I feel pretty comfortable about it, because what we’re hoping is that when we turn everything over to the appellate courts and to the state’s attorney, that when they see what has been done, that they will want to go ahead and do a forensic audit for us, that’s very possible that that could happen,” says Pinkerton.

“If not, then I’m sure the trustees, we are wanting that to happen. I think it’ll happen; we will definitely be doing that.”

You can download the full report of the ethics commission below: