Machesney Park treasurer voices bookkeeping concerns

Voicing alarm similar to those about a recent $16,253 trip by 13 Winnebago County Housing Authority staff to Dallas, Machesney Park Treasurer Carol Foster said village bookkeeping concerns are primarily exemplified by 11 village officials’ September $7,932.77 trip to Chicago for a convention.

The officials’ submitted reports suggest that after village trustees and staff attended the Illinois Municipal League’s annual conference Sept. 18-21, nearly all co-mingled expenses and apparently spent more than the per diem allowance for food and beverages. Administration Finance Director Bob Mullins originally didn’t complete the required forms for reimbursement, Foster said.

In addition, two trustees submitted their expense reports many weeks after the required 10-day deadline.

Foster also sent trustees a fax Nov. 3 expressing concerns about signing checks “without a sufficient balance in it to cover that check.” Foster’s fax also said she will no longer warn the board if planned spending, in the form of special warrants, will cause a negative fund balance. Foster said it is the administration and board’s responsibility to make sure spending warrants do not produce negative fund balances.

According to Mullins’ submitted expense report, out of the four days he attended the conference, Mullins had two meals on Sept. 19 for a total cost of $215.86. Mullins’ report indicates he spent $48.39 on lunch and $167.47 for dinner. Mullins said lunch was for three village officials, and dinner was for three trustees and two village staff.

Village code requires requests for reimbursement for meals and other functions “must be made on forms available from the village.” The code also reads “the maximum daily allowance for meals and tips will be $35, unless a higher limit is authorized by the village board.”

Mullins said the board gave itself, staff and administrators approval to exceed the $35 limit “in late September or early October.” When asked why meal costs were co-mingled rather than separated, Mullins said, “We probably should have had everyone break things out individually.”

Community Development Director Karen Lemmons and her husband Jerry Lemmons, village trustee, also attended all four days, according to their submitted expense report. However, the Lemmonses submitted one expense report instead of two and indicate they spent a total of $511.47 on breakfast and dinners Sept. 19-21. The Lemmonses report also says Mullins’ dinners are included in their expenses.

Repeated efforts to reach the Lemmonses for comment were not successful. Machesney Park President Linda Vaughn, who also attended the conference, did not return several messages for comment.

Trustees who also attended the conference were Stanley Wentland, Mark Sorrentino, Charles Gagliano, Diana Johnson, Paul Stralow and Village Clerk Nancy Metcalf.

The Lemmonses, Gagliano and Sorrentino’s meals also are noted on Mullins’ expense report. Gagliano and Wentland’s expense reports were submitted weeks to months after the code mandated 10-day requirement. Other trustees and village officials’ expense reports are on file.

Foster said, at best, “this is really bad bookkeeping.”

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