Coles Co. (ECWd) -
Approximately a year ago we were tipped off about a criminal complaint that was filed against the Coles County State's Attorney and Rhonda Parker, an employee in his office. The complaint was filed with the Illinois State Police (ISP), alleging the Coles County State's Attorney Jesse Danley and Ronda Parker committed a series of acts of Official Misconduct. Specifically, it was alleged Danley had used his office and staff for personal gain during a private civil suit brought against Danley.
The ISP, in response to my request, stated it found no responsive records and denied the request. We filed the following FOIA lawsuit against the ISP. The result of the lawsuit was the production of the very records they claimed they could not find.
A copy of the criminal complaint can be downloaded at this link. The Attorney General has declined prosecution in this case. While no reason is ever provided, we do see concerning claims in the ISP interview of Rhonda Parker.
- "Parker stated she was “salary exempt,” with no set hours of work or Overtime available. Parker is allowed an hour lunch break and two 15-minute breaks each workday."
No set hours of work? While we understand a State's Attorney has full control of his office, we find it odd that a salaried employee would have no set hours of work. Even more interesting, the insinuation that was made during the interview is the work Parker did on the private lawsuit against Danley was done on her own time or during breaks.
In reviewing the evidence provided in the complaint, it appears Parker was not working or on breaks at 9:16 am, 2:33 pm, 3:22 pm, 3:24 pm, 5 PM.
Three problems we see in relation to those times found on the official public email account of Ronda Parker
- A government employee is still on the payroll when they are on break.
- Who takes a break at 9:16 am?
- The use of a government email to do private work is a violation of Article VIII Section 1 of the State Constitution.
It appears from the report that the use of a government email account for private business is of no concern to the ISP or Attorney General. For those that think such an act is no big deal, Carolyn Brown Hodge, a former top aid to Gov. Quinn, left her $119,158.00 a year job amid the acts uncovered by the government's probe into whether she had done political work on state time. She resigned and was fined $1,000.00 for campaigning on the state's dime and did so with a government email account. This is a chance for Parker to set herself apart from so many others who use government resources for private matters. She could do the right thing and resign as Ms. Hodge did. Hodge should be commended for her willingness to accept the consequences of her wrongdoing. Hodge stated, “I will take my medicine like everybody else should.”
- "Parker also stated she used her personal computer, which she uses for work at home. Parker did all work on her breaks and stated that the first few correspondences she used stamps and letters from her house without being compensated. None of the responses took much time and were completed quickly without interfering with her regular work or work day."
- "Danley had not paid her to do the work, but did it as a courtesy to him and she was never compensated by him or his office."
What appears to have been missed by the ISP?
- What does the use of her personal computer for work at home have to do with anything? Especially since they reported Parker did all work, on her breaks.
- There was no forensic review of the personal or government computer to confirm the claims made or to identify which computer was actually being used.
- Doing things on their own time is much different than doing them on break. When a person is on break, they are still on the government clock getting paid. Their own time starts with the clock out. Oh, never mind, this person has no set work hours. Nothing to see here.
- The evidence confirmed a government email account was being used for private business but that fact was ignored.
- Since the work was done during breaks, why on earth did she bring stamps and letters to work? Logic would point to simply asking her boss to provide that in his personal capacity.
- The work Parker did was done during the day, which is when she is paid but because it was done without interfering with her regular work or workday, nothing to see here, move along.
- To claim she was not paid to do the work is simply a deflection from the truth. Parker admitted to doing the work during the day, which she got paid for through her salary.
- The Affidavit filed by Danley for a private lawsuit against him reflects the Coles County State's Attorney address rather than his personal address. Who puts their employer's address on a personal lawsuit matter?
The Attorney General has declined to charge anyone in the case however there is a Petition for the Appointment of a Special Prosecutor in this case. A hearing on that motion is scheduled for July 30, 2021, at the Coles County Courthouse.
A copy of the criminal complaint and ISP documents can be downloaded at this link or viewed below.