Shelby Co. (ECWd) –
Keith Petard, now retired former Shelby County Highway Department employee appears to owe some money to Shelby County. What many may not remember, Alan Spesard, County Highway Engineer, was not the only county employee operating their business out of the County Highway Offices. Petard, was the business partner to Shelby Engineering which operated their business out of the Shelby County Highway Department offices for years. It appears several board members have little concern with two county employees operating their business from a government facility on the backs of the taxpayers. While we have little faith those two will ever be held accountable for the private use of public resources, the peeling of the onion exposes more stink.
According to the County Health Benefit Plan, termination of coverage for retired employees occurs when “The date the covered retiree becomes eligible for Medicare coverage or becomes eligible for coverage under another Employer’s health plan.” (see page 107 of the plan)
Based on county records, Petard’s county benefit was terminated retroactive to November 1, 2018, the date which he started Medicare. According to an email to the State’s Attorney, Petard was contacted at the end of every month starting in December of 2018 up until June of 2020 and he denied being on Medicare.
Due to the claim of not being on Medicare when he actually was, non-qualified claims were paid from the general fund of Shelby County, who is self insured.
Under the Fraud provision in the Benefit plan:
“Under this plan, coverage may be retroactively canceled or terminated (rescinded) if a Participant acts fraudulently or intentionally makes material misrepresentations of fact. It is a Participant’s responsibility to provide accurate information and to make accurate and truthful statements, including information and statements regarding family status, age, relationships, etc. It is also a Participant’s responsibility to update previously provided information and statements. Failure to do so may result in coverage of Participants being canceled, and such cancellation may be retroactive.”
We understand the benefit retroactive termination was made because of the misstatements by Petard.
During the last Shelby County Board meeting, the State’s Attorney suggested the matter go back to the Insurance Committee to deal with. Will this be another waste of time? The very committee she wants to review this matter has known about this since July of 2020 and has done nothing, (Insurance Committee minutes July 2020). When a committee does nothing to address potential fraudulent claims, it’s time for the County Board to act, just as the Treasurer did.
The purpose of the failed agenda item was for the board as a whole, to request the State’s Attorney, their lawyer, to take action on the matter in an effort to recover funds that were paid out based on false information. The State’s Attorney has the power to act on the matter. “55 ILCS 5/3-9005 (3) To commence and prosecute all actions and proceedings brought by any county officer in his official capacity” is the provision that provides the State’s Attorney the power to commence such recovery.
Bryon Coffman, one of the insurance committee members also urged this to go back to the insurance committee. Barb Bennette urged they have the insurance person named Travis, attend their next board meeting to explain what has already been explained to them and do that in the executive session. It might be time to replace two insurance committee people in light of what they knew clear back in July of 2020. Both were present when this matter was brought to the committee. The minutes reflect they decided to go into a closed session at the next board meeting and hoped to have Randy and Travis at the meeting to explain the situation. Insurance Committee minutes July 2020.
Neither Coffman nor Bennette brought this matter to the full board as the minutes indicate would happen, so the matter has sat idle for over a year. How ironic that now Barb Bennette wants basically the same thing that was recorded a year ago in the insurance committee minutes.
Since the board as a whole could not agree to take steps to recover this money, those who voted yes could bring the request individually in their official capacity as a board member. The law clearly says any county officer in his official capacity. We urge those who voted to take the steps needed to recover these funds to bring their request to the State’s attorney. Of interest, this request had already been made by the County Treasurer on April 23, 2021. “I am asking that whatever steps are appropriate, whether civil or criminal, be taken to recover the funds in the amount of $34,297.01 on behalf of taxpayers who have been defrauded of this money.”
As was evident during the county board meeting, the State’s Attorney has taken no action on the matter brought to her by an elected official months ago. Why the county board tabled the chance to make the same request to the State’s Attorney is beyond comprehension. We do note, and are pleased to hear, the State’s Attorney agrees action needs to be taken on the matter. While pleasing to hear, what is the hold up considering the request was already made for action by an elected official in their official capacity?
Rather than focusing on the recovery, some board members were more concerned over how a member of the public found out the exact figure in question, $34,297.01. Maybe they should read the emails they get because that figure was included in communications to all of them before the board meeting, which means any single one of those receiving it could be the one that disclosed it to the public.
We understand there is now a witch hunt to find out who released the information. Is such information a public record? Absolutely. The legitimate public interest in obtaining the information, $34,297.01 of alleged improper payments, outweighs any attempted claim such release could be an unwarranted invasion of privacy.
The fact members of the board took issue with a member of the public knowing the exact figure rather than taking steps to work towards the recovery of the funds should concern every taxpayer. As if all this is not disturbing enough, one board member claimed they were not allowed to talk about an employee in a public meeting, (3:33:42 mark of the video). Whichever board member said that should resign! His statement is totally false.
As it stands:
- This matter has been known about by the Insurance Committee since July of 2020 and they have done nothing, including informing the entire board.
- The former State’s Attorney was aware of this matter and did nothing.
- The current State’s Attorney has known about this since at least April 23, 2021, and appears to have done nothing other than suggesting the matter go back to the insurance committee, the same committee that has done nothing with the information for over a year.
- The county board took no action on recovering $34,297.01
The full county board meeting can be viewed below.