LaSalle, CO. - (ECWd) -
Today I received a package of public records from the Illinois Appellate Prosecutor's Office, which as they pointed out, they did not have to turn over because they are not subject to FOIA but they did in the spirit of transparency. I thank them for providing the records, but believe the legislature needs to take steps to make judicial agencies subject to FOIA as this is a real problem with other judicial agencies refusing to provide records. More on that to come.
I requested numerous documents related to Brian Towne, the Chairman of the Board of Governors for the Appellate Prosecutor's Office as well as the LaSalle County State's Attorney. One, in particular, was any minutes where a vote was taken approving Brian Towne to be paid to teach classes for the Appellate Prosecutors Office. As suspected, no approvals were made because the have delegated the hiring of those instructors to the discretion of the Director.
Now let this sink in for a minute.
The very Board of Governors that hires a Director, allows the Director to hire the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the very office that employs him. Share that with anyone, and they will scream conflict of interest. Ethically, yes it is. The appearance of conflict stinks to high heaven, however, the statute pertaining to such a conflict stipulates the conflict is tied to contracts or work in which the officer "may" be called upon to act or vote.
In this case, by allowing the Director to make such decisions, the board is not voting, thus the board members are allowed to have contracts and perform work with the very public body they are in charge of. For those legislatures reading this, need we suggest a legislative fix for this mess?
In this case, Lasalle County State's Attorney and Appellate Prosecutors Chairman of the Board, Brian Towne, has placed an extra $46,875.00 in his personal pocket since 2012 and did so with no-bid contracts issued by his employee, the Director of the agency in which he is the Chairman. The letter from the Appellate Prosecutors office stated in part, "...left to the Director's discretion per years of Board practice". Or, as we hear all so often with these types of matters, we have always done it that way.
We find it interesting that one of the mandates for a State's Attorney is the commencement of their duties. The State's attorney shall enter upon the duties of his office on the first day in the month of December following his election on which the State's attorney's office is required to be open.
How can Towne comply with the law, the performance of his duties office on days his office is required to be open when he is out of town getting paid for his part-time no-bid contract gig with the other public agency he is chairman of the Board for?
(55 ILCS 5/3-9002)
(from Ch. 34, par. 3-9002)
Commencement of duties.
The State's attorney shall enter upon the duties of his office on the first day in the month of December following his election on which the State's attorney's office is required, by statute or by action of the county board, to be open.
Towne was off working his private gig a total of 75 days over the last 5 years instead of performing his duties at his office in which the taxpayers pay his salary. That averages 15 days a year he is working his private gig of which only 3 days of that teaching was done on a weekend day. So we have 72 days of private work done during public obligation time.
Ok, now for all those naysayers that want to chime in and claim that was all done during vacation time or otherwise. Great. Let's assume he took time off to go work for his employee that hired him and never mind it was the Board he sits on that hired that employee.
Can anyone explain why the taxpayers of this state should be paying Brian Towne per-diem from the county funds so that he can go off and work his part time no bid gig with his employee at the Appellate Prosecutor's office? Yes, Brian Towne was paid per-diem to go off and work his private gig instead of performing his duties as State's Attorney during the days his office was to be open. Per-diem totals for this time frame came to $2,254.00, of which were paid out from various county accounts. That brings his total earnings to $49,129.00 for his part-time gig.
The question now is where do the citizens of LaSalle turn in order to see that spending is done in compliance with the law. They can't take it to Towne as he is conflicted considering it is his office cutting per diem checks for his part time gig and they clearly can't turn to the Appellate prosecutor as he is the Chairman of that Board and doing work for them. Although ethical conflicts are clear for all to see in his working relationship on a board he chairs and not technically a violation of law, it does appear getting per diem from the county he was elected to service for while working for another public agency is not within his powers and duties that we can identify in the County Code.
I guess for now we can just add this stuff to the pile of things the FBI is looking into as it relates to Brian Towne and the activities of his office.