Things got heated during the Madison County finance committee meeting on Wednesday after committee members went into executive session to discuss IT Director Rob Dorman’s request for attorney’s fees for a corruption investigation that was recently dismissed.
Committee Chair Don Moore at first did not want to go into executive session to discuss Dorman’s legal bill totaling $19,812.50. However, Assistant State’s Attorney Jeff Ezra suggested that closed session would be appropriate.
“I’m going to suggest that you may want to go into closed session on this issue," Ezra said. "It’s up to you, but I’m going to indicate at least initially that it’s the state’s attorney’s position that if you pay a dime on this, you may be committing official misconduct.”
Meyer and Moore
Moore said he asked everyone who is not part of the finance committee to step out for the executive session.
“I felt I was protecting the county by trying to minimize the number of people that were in this executive session,” he said.
Moore said Madison County Recorder Amy Meyer refused to leave.
“I asked her to leave and she said, ‘No,’” Moore explained.
Committee member David Michael said Meyer “vehemently disagreed” when she was asked to leave, which resulted in arguing and raised voices between Moore and Meyer.
Moore said that Meyer told him he didn’t have the authority to remove her, an elected official. He told her that he is the committee chair and does have the authority, adding that she is neither on the county board nor a finance committee member. She responded that she would be researching the situation.
Moore said he had to ask a sheriff’s deputy to remove Meyer from the meeting. As the sheriff’s deputy approached her, Meyer got up and left on her own.
Moore said there is a difference between wanting to be there and needing to be there.
“There was no reason for her to be there,” Moore said. “She was a recorder.”
Meyer did not respond to a request for comment.
Moore said she did not return to the meeting after closed session ended, where the committee announced that they decided to table a decision on the legal fees until they hear back from “legal authorities.” The issue was postponed until the March 11 finance committee meeting unless they choose to hold a special meeting.
Finance committee members include Moore (R), Michael (R), Robert Pollard (D), Tom McRae (R), Gussie Glasper (D), Jamie Goggin (R), Larry Trucano (D) and Chris Guy (R).
Moore added that he first asked anyone who is not a board member to step out. Because they would be strategizing how they fund legal bills, he also asked board member Phil Chapman to vacate the meeting. He explained that Chapman is considering suing the board for an investigation into former community development director Kristen Poshard’s sexual harassment allegation.
After asking Chapman to leave, he decided it was best to close the meeting to all board members except the finance committee.
Poshard had once been the treasurer for Meyer’s campaign committee when she ran for county recorder.
When the meeting began, Dorman reported that some of the equipment that had been taken in the January 2018 raids had been returned. On Feb. 5, visiting Associate Judge Jerry Crisel ordered the seized property to be returned immediately.
“My staff is grateful to get it back, as am I,” Dorman said.
The near-two year investigation of alleged illegal conduct in the administration of Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler, which resulted in no charges, was terminated in a Jan. 24 order. The offices of county administrator Doug Hulme, Dorman, and communications manager Cynthia Ellis were subjected to a series of raids. Prenzler’s office was not subjected to the raid.
Crisel also ended the involvement of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, which had been appointed to investigate after Crisel concluded that a conflict of interest existed with Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons.
During Wednesday’s finance committee meeting, Moore shared his thoughts on the situation, calling it the “elephant in the room.”
“At the beginning of this, [Dorman] went out and secured legal counsel himself,” Moore said. “Seemed practical to me. I would prefer that we had used our own defense attorneys in his office, but we know that there was a problem there at the beginning because our defense attorney was involved in the prosecution side of the house, in that he had helped initiate and put together the task force to investigate the administration. So it makes sense to me that Mr. Dorman would want to seek his own legal counsel.”
“I think we should use taxpayer dollars to fund a portion of Mr. Dorman’s bill up until the time that the judge made the decision denying legal counsel or personal private legal counsel. So up until that time, the bill, the original bill was $18,625. There’s been an addendum to it for another $1,087, for a total of $19,812.50. Mr. Dorman incurred charges of $7,875 up until May 28,” he continued.
Moore said he thinks the county should pay for the $7,875 incurred prior to Crisel’s order, “but not the remainder of the bill.”
When Ezra, Michael, and county auditor Rick Faccin suggested closed session, Moore agreed.
“I wanted to keep everything as open as possible, but let’s just err on the side of caution here and go into executive session to pick up this conversation. Everybody ok with that?” he asked.
“I would ask that you not go into executive session,” he said. “This whole raid has been cloaked in secrecy and the public has a right to know what’s going on and I’d hope that you ask the questions to find out why taxpayer money was spent on a raid and you do it in the open and perform open and honest government. You are not required to go into executive session. It’s a choice. And I think that Mr. Ezra can tell you that is up to you. Thank you.”
“Mr. Ezra, did you say we should err on the side of caution by doing so?” Moore asked.
“That is your choice,” Ezra said. “You have the right to go in or not go in. If you want to have this discussion in open session, that’s fine, too. But you’re going to be discussing some stuff that I think is directly related to, um, investigatory criminal activity. I don’t know if that’s something that you wanted to …”
“Mr. Dorman, I appreciate your comment,” Moore said. “I just want to be safe. I would like to go into executive session on this.”
During the meeting, a board member asked what the alternative was for Dorman’s representation after Crisel denied private counsel.
In Crisel’s order, he concluded that “the sitting State’s attorney is still charged with that duty, the conflict having been removed.”
Crisel found that a conflict of interest in regards to any investigation or prosecution in the matter existed because Gibbons initially called for the formation of a special investigative taskforce based on evidence of possible illegal conduct by unnamed county officials received in the later months of 2017.
The taskforce was comprised of members of multiple state and local law enforcement agencies and had been formed to “investigate the allegations and determine the extent of any wrongdoing,” a press release stated.
Roughly six months later, Crisel appointed the Illinois Attorney General “to carry out the task with all deliberate speed.”