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August 14, 2022

Shelby County Sheriff’s Office – ISP Investigation Failures Exposed – Part II – Gina Vonderheide Interview

By Kirk Allen & John Kraft

On May 26, 2022

Shelby Co. (ECWd) –

The ISP interview report of the former Shelby County State’s Attorney Gina Vonderheide has several missed opportunities to get to the truth.  We will point out the misinformation and false representations made during the interview and the lack of follow-up questions by the ISP.  The audio recording of these interviews has been withheld by the ISP and we are still fighting in court to get those. A copy of the ISP interviews and other records given to the Attorney General can be downloaded at this link.

  • “Vonderheide advised the Sheriff’s Office appeared to have been over paying employees. There were deputies working 80 hours one week and 60 hours the next, and the time to pay ratio was not accurate.”

So the State’s Attorney confirms the time to pay ratio was not accurate yet no follow-up by the ISP regarding how this was confirmed.

  • “Vonderheide said the deputies are paid according to the FOP (Fraternal of Police) contract that states they shall work five 8-hour shifts. The contract goes on to say the employer (Sheriff) may change the schedule based on departmental needs.”

The contract does not say they shall work five 8-hour shifts. Nor does it say the employer may change the schedule based on department needs. Had the ISP read the contract they could have seen how this wordsmithing is being played in an attempt to cover up what was going on. The contract states: “All employees shall be scheduled to work on a regular five (5) day work shift in a seven (7) day period. An employee may be scheduled to work forty {40) hours in a seven (7) day period. Shifts may be rotated pursuant to management needs.”

  • “Vonderheide said it was her understanding that when Sheriff Don Koonce was first aware of the payroll discrepancy, he told the Edgar County Watchdogs it was an issue that would be corrected. Sheriff Koonce told Vonderheide employees worked according to the salary schedule, and that the hours and pay would average out over time.”

We find nothing in the record of the ISP that follows up on what Koonce told Vonderheide regarding the hours and pay averaging out.  Why didn’t the ISP demand evidence to support such a claim if it was actually made?  The truth is we exposed Koonce was paying people for 80 hours when they only worked 70 and the practice went on since he took office.  This scam on the taxpayers was confirmed in the recent forensic audit report.  The fact it was corrected after being exposed is like allowing a bank robber to return the money after getting caught. Sorry folks, you can’t unrob the bank!

  • “Vonderheide stated Sheriff Koonce implemented a schedule where deputies worked five 10-hour shifts/ 3 days off.”

No record of the ISP correcting her false representation of the work schedule put in place by Koonce.

  • “Vonderheide suggested to the County Board Chair a forensic audit to evaluate the over payments.”

Did the ISP follow up with an interview of the County Board Chair to see if her claim was accurate?  No.  The call for a forensic audit was made by the public during county board meetings.  While some may see this as trivial, continued exposure of false statements is important in a criminal investigation, as is separating those being interviewed.

  • “Vonderheide advised she had previously had a conversation with Illinois State Police Master Sergeant Mike Campbell and asked him to look at the case.”

So where is the question from the ISP?  So based on what you saw, were of the opinion there was criminal intent?  If not, why contact the ISP?  Her statement points to her knowledge and belief that this matter was worthy of a criminal investigation, just as the Treasurer did.

  • “At the time, Vonderheide explained to him it appeared to be a system wide failure and she did not believe Don (Sheriff) had been purposely over paying deputies.”

WOW!  Where was the ISP question on this one?  Ms. Vonderheide, you just said you contacted Master Seargent Miek Campbell and asked him to look at the case.  If you did not believe the Sheriff was purposely overpaying deputies why did you contact the State Police and ask them to investigate the matter?

  • “Vonderheide said she was struggling to understand the numbers, particularly in terms of whether or not individuals were considered salary or hourly employees.”

Struggling to understand the numbers?  Struggling to understand if the individuals were salary or hourly employees?  Maybe the ISP should have asked her if she read the contract as the paid legal counsel for the Sheriff’s Office?

  • “Vonderheide advised Rob (Undersheriff Robert McCall) had stated she and him had a conversation in reference to the firearms.”

What happens when you interview key people days apart from each other?  They talk to each other.  How did Vonderheide know what McCall stated? Did McCall “refresh” her memory after his interview?

  • “Vonderheide does not know if she made a mistake and put firearm versus firearms, since he had multiple guns. Vonderheide said she would provide me with a copy of the order.”

There is no record of the ISP ever receiving a copy of the order referenced nor any follow-up request to get the record promised by Vonderheide.  We had FOIA’d a copy of that order and there was no such order ever provided.

  • “I told Vonderheide to elaborate on an overpayment that was made to her in her position as Shelby County State’s Attorney. Vonderheide stated when she became the State’s Attorney in 2012, she requested a line item budget for the office.”

The ISP clearly dropped the ball on this one.  When Vonderheide became the State’s Attorney she was bound by the budget that was in place by the prior State’s Attorney so they should have addressed that point.  She requested a line item budget for the office? What does asking for the line item budget have to do with paying yourself more than the law permits?

  • “Vonderheide advised the standing treasurer assisted in establishing a repayment plan, which was completed prior to beginning her second term in office.”

Hey ISP, are you aware such a payment plan constituted an interest-free loan and is not legal?

  • “Vonderheide advised the Edgar County Watchdogs had posted an article stating she was .18 cents behind on the payment, but Vonderheide did not have knowledge of that being true.”

Another missed opportunity to get to the truth by the ISP.  Since you knew of the .18 cent issue can you confirm you read the article posted?  If you read the article then you should have the knowledge of it is true because the Edgar County Watchdogs provided all the payroll records to support what they said.

  • “I asked Vonderheide if she knew the process for the Sheriff’s Office getting rid of the firearms. Vonderheide said she did not know, but thought it was done through a bidding process.”

Hey ISP, how about asking why she thinks it was done through a bidding process?  If someone told her that maybe we should be asking that person some questions because the truth of the matter is the guns were all sold on an inside deal that initially the Sheriff’s office claimed never took place.  Only after due diligence on our part did they finally admit they sold them and did so in violation of the law.

  • “I asked Vonderheide if she knew the intention of the proceeds from the firearms sales. Vonderheide, to her knowledge, said the proceeds were to go for “Shop with a Cop”. As far as she knew, the money went into that fund. Vonderheide thought when the sales were rescinded, the money was taken out, given back to the employees, and the firearms were returned to the county.”

Considering we exposed the receipts, refunds, and deposits not matching to the entire county board and specifically to the Vonderheide during a county board meeting we find her statement to be troubling.  The ISP does not appear to have validated the funds received, refunded, and deposited. Had they done that they would have seen the very problem we raised years ago.

We went through these matters with the Shelby County Treasurer and you can watch the video below.

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