Watchdogs question Clark County Park District activities
The Edgar County Watchdogs have questioned the lack of federal action regarding the Clark County Park District (CCPD) board members.
The Edgar County Watchdogs have followed the activities of the CCPD since 2014, and a series of Illinois Leaks articles exposed issues ranging from failure to reply to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to bullying a taxpayer for asking for public records and allegations of failure by the CCPD director and employees to report free campsites and other compensation on their W-2s.
A Jan. 31 Illinois Leaks article compared the alleged CCPD transgressions to those of Kankakee Valley Park District (KVPD) Executive Director Roy Collins, who was indicted by a federal grand jury on Sept. 7.
"Not counting the current FOIA lawsuit, I have no less than 13 FOIA requests for (CCPD) public records that have been ignored, and I know of at least two other people who have at least three FOIA requests that have been ignored," watchdog John Kraft said in a July 15, 2015, article on Illinois Leaks. "My oldest request was dated May 22, 2015, and is now more than 31 working days past the original due date."
While CCPD and its officials have not yet faced a federal grand jury, the KVPD's former executive director was investigated for approximately one year by the FBI, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General and Illinois State Police. The probes led to one charge of wire fraud and one charge of mail fraud.
A press release issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of Illinois, stated, "If convicted, the offenses of wire and mail fraud (one count each) carries a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000."
Collins was the head of the KVPD from 2011 to 2016. He was also the treasurer of the Kankakee Valley Park Foundation. He was placed on paid administrative leave in January 2016.
The park board later offered Collins a "mutual separation agreement" in a 3-2 vote. His severance package allowed him to walk away with $75,000 with no recourse to recover the funds if he is convicted of the charges.
"When a board hires an executive director there is a matter of trust. We trusted he would do his job," KVPD Board President Alfred "J.J." Hollis told the Daily Journal. "We will be more diligent moving forward."
Collins allegedly used the park district's credit card for personal purchases beginning in 2012 and diverted park district and park foundation funds to his personal use between 2013 and 2015. Some of the funds were intended for the annual BBQ Fest events. Other allegations include using park district equipment and workers to build a pond, soliciting one or more contractors to work on his home and bill the work to the park district and using park district equipment at his home.
In addition, Collins allegedly demanded kickbacks of approximately $6,000 from an individual hired for the 2014 and 2015 BBQ Fests. He also created and submitted false documents to the board to hide his misappropriation of funds, equipment and labor.
Kankakee Mayor Nina Epstein told the Daily Journal the "composition of that board needs to be re-evaluated. It's a perfect example of poor leadership, a lack of skills and a lack of ethics. This is the kind of situation that gives everyone involved in government a bad name."
Collins' case will be heard in U.S. District Court in Urbana. Judge Eric Long released Collins on a $10,000 bond after he pleaded not guilty on Sept. 28.