Taxpayers buy alcohol for RVC parties

Taxpayers buy alcohol for RVC parties

By Jeff Havens, Staff Writer

n More taxpayer alcohol for Starlight Theater gala.

Rock Valley College Board of Trustees Chairman Chris Johnson and Winnebago County State’s Attorney Paul Logli said it’s legal and permissible for taxpayers to buy the college alcohol for consumption on campus. The question of the purchase’s legality was raised after the college’s July 2002 board report revealed taxpayers paid $198.50 for alcohol at what Johnson described as RVC President Roland Chapdelaine’s construction fund-raiser last summer.

In a related issue, college funds spent on a wedding reception for a member of Chapdelaine’s family were reportedly reimbursed by Chapdelaine.

As to the first issue, on June 20 last year, the college cut a $198.50 check to Royal Liquor Mart, 3714 E. State Street, to pay an outstanding debt. Both Johnson and a clerk at Royal confirmed the money was used to buy an undetermined amount and type of alcoholic beverages. Logli said there is nothing in state law that prohibits RVC from using taxpayers’ money for such purchases. Johnson said the board has no intention of prohibiting buying liquor with taxpayers’ funds “unless there is a hue-and-cry” from citizens.

According to sources, the college will hold an “invitation-only, black-tie” affair on campus to raise money and celebrate the reported $9 million reconstruction of RVC’s Starlight Theater. Johnson said there will be “a minimum amount of wine” at the event—taxpayers will foot half the bill.

Carole Akemann, managing director of planning and marketing for Elgin Community College, said their college only allows alcohol in two situations, both of which do not involve taxpayer money. Elgin allows alcohol for on-campus culinary arts and off-campus fund raising events.

Sources said Chapdelaine held a “wedding reception” for a family member on June 15, 2002 at Mauh-Nah-Tee-See Country Club. Chapdelaine spent $17,683.12 of taxpayers’ dollars for a full membership at that club from April 1999 to June 2002, even though he does not golf, sources said. Johnson said he doubted the money spent at Royal Liqours was also used for Chapdelaine’s wedding reception at the country club.

Johnson confirmed that college funds were spent for the Chapdelaine wedding reception. Johnson said Chapdelaine reimbursed the college in “July or August” of last year for the wedding reception, but didn’t know by what method the college was reimbursed or how much was spent.

Johnson said he received his information about the wedding reception by speaking with RVC’s finance department—the same department that reported inaccurate and late financial information to the state since 1999. The state severely reprimanded RVC for financial reporting problems in February. Johnson said he was confident the college provided him accurate information.

Chapdelaine uses his country club membership to dine by himself, with his family and host some college functions, sources said. A January article in this paper reported, “Questions remain regarding who paid the country club’s $10,000 initiation fee and why Chapdelaine didn’t get a ‘social membership’ for five times less than a full membership,” since he apparently doesn’t golf.

This week Johnson said taxpayers actually shelled out $5,000 for the initiation fee. According to Johnson, the college received a discount because the country club was recruiting new members at the time Chapdelaine joined Mauh-Nah-Tee-See.

In January, college officials refused to answer questions about these and other matters. The editor’s note in the January article read, “College President Roland Chapdelaine and RVC Public Relations Director Liz Stirling have been given ample time to respond to questions regarding this article and have refused to do so. Havens gave Stirling a list of questions that she has not responded to and that she said she won’t respond to.

“When contacted Jan. 21, Stirling said neither she nor Chapdelaine would respond to questions. Even after being reminded that she is the public relations director (and official spokesman for the college), Stirling said, ‘I’m not going to be put in that position,’ when asked to respond to questions regarding the article.”

In March, RVC lawyer Joe Perkoski of the Chicago law firm of Robbins Schwartz Nicholas Lifton and Taylor Ltd. requested all questions be mailed or faxed. Questions concerning this article were faxed June 2 to RVC’s public relations office. By press time, RVC had not responded.

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