While the recent adoption of a more transparent purchasing policy may have muted one fierce battle between the two politicians vying for the top leadership position in Madison County, another one is just getting started.
On Tuesday, board chairman Alan Dunstan was featured in a KMOV-TV report demanding that rival Kurt Prenzler, county treasurer, apologize to taxpayers due to a federal judge's ruling in a disability discrimination case.
District Judge Staci Yandle on Monday awarded attorneys' fees, costs and back pay to former Treasurer's office employee Linda Dunnagan totaling more than $200,000, bringing total costs in the case so far to $658,797.
Jurors in federal court in East St. Louis awarded $450,000 to former Madison County comptroller Linda Dunnagan in February, on a discrimination claim against Prenzler.
Dunnagan sued Prenzler in 2014, alleging he fired her in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Dunstan told a TV reporter that the case could end up costing $1 million. He demanded Prenzler apologize, because he said the case could have been settled two years ago for $60,000.
Prenzler maintains that the case is not over, and that on appeal, the judgment could be reversed.
The division between Dunstan, the Democratic incumbent, and Prenzler, Republican, is a long-standing one.
In recent weeks, Prenzler had pointed to potential conflicts of interest with respect to the county's purchasing policy.
He said it was improper that the county’s purchasing director Barry Harris also serves as Dunstan’s campaign treasurer.
“You see a person very close to his campaign and him in that position [purchasing director]," Prenzler said. "You see a lack of transparency at the county. It’s very questionable. It appears like it’s a conflict of interest. It’s definitely not practical.”
The Madison County board revised its purchasing policy last week, requiring purchases of more than $30,000 to be posted online.
Prenzler said that a conflict remains with the purchasing director serving in a prominent position in Dunstan's campaign. He said that if he were elected he would end that kind of practice.
“The first thing you do is, you don’t have the purchasing director for the county as the campaign manager for the county chairman or the treasurer of his campaign fund," he said. "That would probably be a nice first start. Tens of thousands of dollars are donated by vendors to the county chairman. If I’m elected that will stop.”
Dunstan's and Prenzler's division also figured prominently in a recent drive to get a property tax cut referendum on the ballot in November,
Dunstan had opposed the petition, saying a tax cut would impact public safety; he stood behind objectors who challenged the referendum's standing. .
An electoral board ultimately ruled that the referendum, whose supporters included Prenzler, could go to voters in November.