States attorney wont prosecute Harlem official
By Jeff Havens, Staff Writer
n Contract amounts violate law, economic interests not revealed
The Winnebago County States Attorneys office has warned the Harlem School Board if it continues to award contracts that violate either the public School Code or Public Officers Prohibited Activities Act (POPAA), it will prosecute, said Chuck Prorok, deputy states attorney. States Attorney Paul Logli said his office will not prosecute a fiscal year 2002 violation of the School Code because the board member in question, Mark Duggan Floyd, acted on advice from the boards attorney, Rob Cooper.
Cooper, of the law firm of Ottosen Trevarthen Britz Kelly & Cooper, Ltd., which has three offices in the Chicago area, gave documents to the states attorneys office in March of this year, according to Gary Kovanda, assistant states attorney. Kovanda said the documents prompted the review by his office, even though concerns about the contracts with Hughes Business Technologies, Inc., and Pearson Plumbing and Heatinga division of Stenstrom Companies, Ltd.were also voiced by another school board member, Gloria Kelly. Cooper did not return telephone calls.
Kovanda said during fiscal year 2002 (July 1, 2001-June 30, 2002) Harlem contracted with Hughes for a total of $377,709. The amount violated the School Code but not the POPAA because Floyd is also an employee of Hughes. Numerous attempts to reach Floyd were unsuccessful.
In addition, Kovanda said Cooper advised Floyd and board member Michael Letsinger, who works for Pearson, that they did not have to report their economic interests on their statement to the county clerk because they were employees of the businesses, not owners. Harlem contracted with Pearson for $15,895 in fiscal year 2002, Kovanda said.
On their economic interest statements filed in March 2002, Letsinger and Floyd responded to all eight economic scenarios by writing NA, meaning not applicable. For example, the second scenario reads: List the name of any entity doing business with a unit of local government in relation to which the person is required to file from which income in excess of $1,200 was derived during the preceding calendar year.
In their 2003 statements, Letsinger and Floyd state they are employees of Pearson and Hughes for item six. Floyd wrote he abstains from voting and has no financial interest in the company. Letsinger reports he has zero percent ownership in the buisness, but does not state his abstention from votes concerning Pearson contracts.
Kovanda said Letsinger and Floyd should have reported their interests but wasnt sure if they violated the Illinois Governmental Ethics Act by not doing so. The parties agreed to disclose the information on the 2003-2004 statements, Kovanda said.
From July 2001 to March 2003, Kovanda said Harlem paid Hughes $512,844 and Pearson $21,102. As to the contracts with Pearson, Kovanda said, The evidence [given to Kovanda by Cooper] doesnt show a violation of the School Code or the Public Officers Prohibited Activities Act.
Regarding the question of awarding no-bid contracts to the companies, Kovanda said that was an issue that was not explored. Kovanda added, … even if there was a violation of the statutes, its not an issue the states attorney would handle because of 10 times penalties for violation are not prescribed.
Logli said his offices approach to potential or actual conflicts of interest is to try to work with parties, rather than pursuing punitive actions. The Harlem case is different from a Rock Valley College situation because Logli considered RVC board member and former RVC board bhairman Don Johannes an agent rather than an employee of a Chicago-based insurance agency.
Information about Illinois compiled statutes: http://www.legis.state.il.us/legislation/ilcs/chapterlist.html.
Information about Illinois public acts: http://www.legis.state.il.us/legislation/publicacts/default.asp