Calling for a forensic audit of the Wood River Drainage and Levee District over possible misappropriation of funds has become the latest tussle between political rivals in Madison County government.
On Tuesday, county board chairman Kurt Prenzler said he asked for an examination of the district after learning from district trustee Ron Carnell that an active investigation was under way by Wood River police over paycheck irregularities.
In the meantime, Metro East Sanitary District director Steve Adler - also running for Madison County Clerk in the November general election - said family friends with Wood River connections contacted him about a paycheck problem. He said he later learned that police were already investigating the matter.
"I am familiar with levee districts," Adler said. "I run one myself. So I went down there (to levee district office). Nobody was there. So, I called Kurt and said, 'you need to find out what's going on here.'"
Both Adler and Prenzler put out press releases. Adler stated, "Madison County Clerk Candidate Stephen Adler wants the public to know that he and Chairman Kurt Prenzler have a record of exposing public corruption that goes back to 2006."
State's Attorney Tom Gibbons, who is at odds with Prenzler and his administration - most notably involving a high profile raid on county offices in January - told a reporter that it was irresponsible to speak publicly about ongoing police investigations.
He also criticized Adler for getting involved.
"What in God’s name is the director of MESD doing on work time while he’s getting paid by the citizens of the district, running around playing amateur detective and potentially interfering with a police investigation?” Gibbons reportedly told the Alton Telegraph.
Adler said Gibbons' response was "absurd."
"All Kurt did was call for an audit," he said. "What public official would suggest calling for an audit is inappropriate? It is absurd, especially where there is credible evidence that something has happened. I would call for an audit. I don't know who wouldn't."
In his press release, Adler hearkened back to corruption that was rooted out of the Madison County Treasurer's office under Fred Bathon.
"The Chairman and I exposed Fred Bathon's illegal tax sales twelve years ago and as an elected county board member I made the call to the FBI," Adler stated. "As director of the areas largest levee district, I am uniquely qualified to help the Chairman look into this issue. I did so with the enthusiastic support of the commissioners of the Metro-East Sanitary District."
Adler added that because of the Bathon corruption, "if we see an opportunity to stem public losses in any way, shape or form, we are going to."