ATLANTA, IL. (ECWd) -
ATLANTA PUBLIC LIBRARY DISTRICT FINAL REPORT
The short version:
Yes, the finished police reports indicate that no Federal charges will be brought in the Atlanta Library investigation, conducted by the FBI, in response to the Logan County State's Attorney asking them to look into the issue of a Library Trustee obtaining a Grant and the efforts of the Library to purchase the Union Hall Building from that Trustee. The FBI investigation was limited to the Grant and the Union Hall building.
In reading all of the documents as a whole, it indicates that substantial weight was given to the Secretary of State's Hearing and its resulting Order which stated the Library would not have to pay back the $25,000 Live and Learn Grant. In reaching its decision, the Hearing Officer found the following:
- Upon learning of the probable breach in contract, the Library Board moved in a timely fashion to cure the breach
- Articles 4 and 12 of the Grant require strict adherence to all laws of the State of Illinois - including the Public Officer Prohibited Activity Act
- That William Thomas' financial interest in the building leases and contracted for during the term of the grant constituted a breach of the terms of the grant application
- The breach of contract on the part of the Library Board was not a breach material to the intent or purpose of the contract since establishing ownership or long term lease was not a condition to the "awarding" of the grant
- The Grantee met its burden of proof that recovery should not be granted
This Union Hall building went from the Library purchasing it from Thomas for $200,000, to, just prior to the Secretary of State's Hearing, Thomas using funds from his retirement account to pay off outstanding loans on the building and then donating the building to the Library. He then resigned from the Office of Library Trustee.
You can form your own opinion on whether the eventual donation of the building and his resignation from office played any part in the "Board moving in a timely fashion to cure the breach" and the subsequent Order from the SOS stating the Library did not have to pay the Grant back. We believe those actions of Thomas played a major role in the SOS Order.
We also believe the SOS Order, and Thomas' actions to donate the building and resign from office, played a large role in the results of the FBI investigation, and their decision to close it.
The long version:
*This FBI report was only concerning the Union Hall building and its ownership/sale/donation*
The Federal Bureau of Investigations was asked by the Illinois State Police and Logan County State’s Attorney to investigate the issues surrounding the $25,000 Live and Learn Grant, the Union Hall Building, and its sale/donation to the Library.
We agree with the Case Background as provided in the FBI report pages 2 - 4 of the PDF.
Here is the timeline of events as listed in the Case Background:
- Late 2014 the Library Board voted to purchase Union Hall for $200,000 at a rate of $1,211.96 per month for 20 years, beginning in Feb 2015 – failure to make payments for 60 days would Void the purchase contract
- By the end of the 60 days (and after obtaining the grant) the purchase was Void for failure to make payment
- April 2015 – Bill Thomas, Treasurer of the APLD applied for the Live and Learn Grant from the SOS for $25,000 for the Union Hall Building
- Thomas failed to disclose he was the owner of the Union Hall Building, through Teleologic under the name of Saint Thomas Didymus Corporation, of which he was the president of both, when he obtained the grant
- The Voiding of the purchase contract rendered the $25,000 grant as Void
- Oct 12, 2017, the Library Board gave permission for Bill Thomas authority to pay all bills through January 31, 2018
- Oct 23, 2017, the SOS issued a letter demanding repayment for violations of the Public Officer Prohibited Activities Act, which expressly prohibits elected or appointed officials from having an interest in any contract they may be required to vote on – that the lease for Union Hall was Void during the relevant time periods, and that the Library failed to maintain compliance with the terms of the grant
- Nov 17, 2017, Union Hall was deeded to John Yates?, then gift deeded to the Library
- This caught the attention of residents and a Watchdog group because it was known there was a $248,000 mortgage on the property dated April 2014, and a previous $200,000 mortgage dated Dec 2004 with modifications dated Dec 2015 and Aug 2016
FBI Interview – page 7
Bill Thomas was interviewed by the FBI on April 30, 2019, and stated:
- Teleologic sold the building to the library in July 2016
- By Dec 2016 the library defaulted, and the building went back to Teleologic
- In Oct/Nov 2017 he deeded the property to the Library with a $200,000 mortgage which he paid off entirely from his retirement fund prior to deeding the building to the Library
- Said he wanted the building to be in the hands of the Library and for him to be done with it
- Said he left the Library Board in Dec/Nov 2017
- Said that the Library appealed the SOS Letter and ultimately prevailed and did not have to return the grant funds
Case Background – FBI – pages 9 - 14:
Meeting with Logan County State’s Attorney and the Case Background:
Same timeline as above, with the following additions:
- There was an allegation that Bill Thomas paid off the mortgage with public funds
- State’s Attorney subpoenaed and reviewed records from the Library and others, but the review did not reveal a nexus to criminal activity on the part of Thomas or the Library
- The Illinois Department of Revenue also investigated which did not reveal any criminal conduct on those parties
Investigative activities have completed, no pending leads or evidentiary issues, it is therefore recommended that this matter now be closed.
ILLINOIS LIQUOR CONTROL COMMISSION INVESTIGATION REPORT
See pages 15 – 17
We wrote an article on this report – which supports several of our suspicions:
- “Linger Longer” (alleged board meetings after the board meetings) of board members including alcohol consumption after public meetings
- Consumption of alcohol on public property (which is/was prohibited in Atlanta)
- Notification of the need to obtain required licenses and permits for the alcohol
- The Board agreed to start obtaining the required permits
The Illinois AG PAC Determinations in the PDF:
As with all Requests for Review with the Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor, they are only as good as the question presented and the evidence presented.
Pages 18 – 21: We covered this Determination in an article, including how it was problematic for Bill Thomas. We published a follow-up article questioning the Library’s response to the request for review.
Pages 22 – 25 - AG PAC says the Library did not violate FOIA, for an unredacted copy of the Attorney’s resignation letter
Pages 26 – 27 - AG PAC says the Library did not research allegations of an OMA violation because the question presented was not a question the Open Meetings Act had authority over. Basically, that any public body can approve anything on the agenda, even if it does not comply with state law and still not violate the OMA because neither the PAC nor the OMA are concerned about those things – they are only concerned about the letter of the Open Meetings Act
Pages 28 – 31 - AG PAC was UNABLE TO CONCLUDE that the Library violated FOIA
Pages 32 – 36 - AG PAC determined that the library did not violate the OMA
Pages 37 - 38 - AG PAC determined further inquiry not warranted. This was for copies of a private bank account statements that library funds were transferred to
Pages 39 – 40 - AG PAC determined that since the Library finally produce the requested document, the request for review was resolved, and made no determination
Pages 41 – 43 - AG PAC determined that the Library did not violate FOIA – I believe we FOIA’d the same info as this requester did, then we sued and the Library produced the docs and settled the lawsuit by paying our attorney fees and costs
Secretary of State letter – page 47
We wrote an article about this, it basically validated everything we wrote about the Union Hall building issue. We find it funny the Library only provided this ONE page, when the actual Hearing determination was THIRTEEN pages long (here is a copy).
Edgar County Watchdogs’ Timeline in Atlanta Public Library District
Aug 10, 2017 was the first meeting we attended: https://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/2017/08/atlanta-public-library-district-il-meeting-video - in the public comment were questions on the purchase of Union Hall, failure of obtaining an appraisal, conflict of interests.
ECWd talked about the Illinois Library Association Fact Sheet which talked about conflicts of interest of Trustees and notified the Board of complaints filed with law enforcement over the Conflict of Interest issue. Covered the Public Officers Prohibited Activities Act. OMA violations for holding retreats out of town (held in Springfield) and purchasing a building when it was not on the agenda. Talked about their public comment policy requiring an address to speak. Statements of Economic Interest without required information listed and an amendment to it by Bill Thomas.
Aug 12, 2017, we reported that the Library failed to fill a vacant Trustee seat for more than 17 months when the state required it to be immediately filled. https://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/2017/08/atlanta-public-library-board-skirting-requirement-of-filling-vacant-board-seat/?highlight=atlanta
Aug 14, 2017, we reported on Bill Thomas’ false Statement of Economic Interest – he failed to report income from the Library. https://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/2017/08/bill-thomas-atlanta-library-district-trustee-filed-false-economic-interest-statement-in-2016/?highlight=atlanta
Aug 16, 2017, we reported on 2 more false Statements of Economic Interest filed by Bill Thomas. https://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/2017/08/bill-thomas-atlanta-library-district-trustee-filed-two-false-economic-interest-statements-in-2017/?highlight=atlanta
An Atlanta resident went to get a copy from the County Clerk’s office, was told to come back four hours later, and before they came back later Bill Thomas had amended his previous filing.
Aug 17, 2017, we wrote about the Library’s purchase of Union Hall. https://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/2017/08/atlanta-public-library-inked-200000-union-hall-installment-purchase-contract-in-dec-2014/?highlight=atlanta
Aug 19, 2017, we wrote about how the Union Hall's purchase violated state law. https://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/2017/08/2014-union-hall-contract-for-purchase-violated-law/?highlight=atlanta
It was not on the agenda, prohibited interest in a contract by Bill Thomas, failure to provide a sworn statement regarding ownership of Union Hall “prior to” entering into the purchase contract as state law requires (under penalty of Felony)- Confirmed by the FBI
Aug 22, 2017, we wrote about the Library attorney’s letter purporting to say it was OK for the Library to purchase that building from a Trustee. https://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/2017/08/2014-union-hall-contract-for-purchase-violated-law/?highlight=atlanta
We explained state law, and also explained that Bill Thomas did not even follow the requirements laid out in the attorney’s letter.
Aug 25, 2017, we wrote about Atlanta citizens collecting signatures on a petition which led to the Library to vacate the proposed “Library Building and Maintenance Tax” Ordinance. https://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/2017/08/atlanta-citizen-petition-forces-library-to-vacate-tax-ordinance/?highlight=atlanta
Aug 27, 2017, we wrote about how the Library approved two loans, neither of which were on any agenda for approval. https://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/2017/08/atlanta-public-library-secret-loans-exposed/?highlight=atlanta
Aug 28, 2017, we wrote about how the above loans violated state law pertaining to Libraries. https://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/2017/08/atlanta-public-library-bank-loans-in-violation-of-law-time-for-illinois-comptroller-to-act/?highlight=atlanta
The Public Library District Act does not permit a Library to take out loans for construction or remodeling of a building they do not own.
Sep 5, 2017, is our first article on the Secretary of State’s “Live and Learn” grant and how we believed Bill Thomas and the Library pulled a scam to get the grant. https://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/2017/09/atlanta-library-trustee-bill-thomas-union-hall-scam-on-secretary-of-state/?highlight=atlanta ]
It is our sincere belief that the “contract for purchase” was a scam to get the grant for the Union Hall building, based on this quote from their meeting minutes:
"A preliminary contract has been drawn up in order to apply for the grant. This contract will be null and void if grant money is not received for the project."
These articles show 2 contracts for deed for the same building on the same day and talk about the grant application. How the Library accepted the grant knowing (in our opinion) it was fraudulent and the various lease agreements made by the Library
Sep 16, 2017, we wrote about how the Library was not following state law in relation to their Budget and Appropriations Ordinance. https://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/2017/09/atlanta-library-directors-and-board-are-clueless/?highlight=atlanta
They thought they only had to budget for items related to “tax money” and not for other monies received.
Sep 22, 2017, we wrote about the board lying about only raising taxes one year in 2012, when in fact they also raised it from 2011 thru 2017. https://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/2017/09/atlanta-public-library-officials-lie-to-the-public/?highlight=atlanta
Sep 26, 2017, we wrote about how a Library District cannot operate a Museum – it can only “participate” in maintaining one, not own and operate one. https://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/2017/09/atlanta-public-library-trustees-you-should-all-be-fired/?highlight=atlanta
Sep 29, 2017, we wrote about the Library’s false Tax Exemption filings and how they failed to state portions of the building were leased out for profit – which in turn let a business go without paying real estate taxes. https://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/2017/09/atlanta-library-filed-false-tax-exemption-certificate/?highlight=atlanta
Sep 27, 2017, we wrote about the Library’s alleged Electioneering in favor of a tax referendum. https://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/2017/09/atlanta-public-library-district-electioneering-to-pass-tax-referendum-free-ice-cream-for-votes/?highlight=atlanta
Oct 10, 2017, we wrote about the previous AG Determination that the Library did not violate the OMA, and questioned if the Chairman lied to the AG in his response to the request for review. https://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/2017/10/who-did-the-atlanta-public-library-provide-false-information-to/?highlight=atlanta
Oct 31, 2017, we wrote about the SOS demanding repayment of the Grant.
Nov 10, 2017, we wrote about Library Board Chairman Randy Brooks’ false Statement of Economic Interests.
He failed to disclose he worked for and got paid from the City of Atlanta
Nov 10, 2017, we wrote about the Library trying to hold a meeting without proper notice, and that they called the police on us and canceled the meeting.
Bill Thomas noted it was not a public building, but owned by him, was the reason residents were forced to leave.
Dec 13, 2017, we wrote about how the Library was going to lease part of the building they own (Union Hall) to Bill Thomas, a Trustee.
Dec 14, 2017 – Library tabled the vote to lease space to Bill Thomas.
Dec 20, 2017 WAND published article.
Jan 1, 2018, we wrote about an alleged $10k missing from the Palm’s Grill account.
Jan 19, 2020, alleged improper payments, including one Bill Thomas wrote to himself.
Feb 6, 2018, we live streamed the SOS Hearing from Springfield, IL on the grant appeal.
Feb 6, 2018, we wrote about Bill Thomas’s perjury under oath at the SOS Hearing related to his statements that he did not write checks to himself when we have copies of the ones he wrote to himself.
Feb 7, 2018, we wrote another article on Bill Thomas’ misleading answers to the SOS in the Hearing with copies of four more checks Thomas signed where the payee was Teleologic
Feb 7, 2018, more info on the SOS Hearing.
Feb 8, 2018, we wrote about Bill Thomas’ resignation from the Board.
June 14, 2018, we wrote about the SOS Hearing results and that our previous actions saved Atlanta taxpayers $200,000 by having the building donated instead of purchased.
This Secretary of State finding basically validated everything we previously wrote about the Union Hall building issue. Substantial weight was given to the fact that Thomas gifted the building to the library and resigned from office, and when we wrote the article, we opined that we believe he only did that to stay out of trouble.
Aug 27, 2018, we wrote about a $10k CD allegedly vanishing.
Sep 2018 - We wrote about the taxpayers saving $200,000 - good news!
Jan 2019 – Five Candidates for Library District Trustee removed from Ballot:
Mar 10, 2019, we wrote about the Illinois State Liquor Commission’s Investigation of the Library.
Mar 12, 2019, more info on the “Linger Longer” meeting after the meeting.
Mar 22, 2019, we sued the Library under the Freedom of Information Act for a copy of the Grand Jury Subpoena.
May 1, 2019 Library finally produces the Subpoena.