(CBS)–It manages 200 million dollars a year in taxpayer funds for more than a dozen schools in west suburban Lyons Township.
But now a CBS 2 investigation with the Better Government Association looks at accusations about sloppy bookkeeping, and questionable investment practices by the office of the Lyons Township School Treasurer.
There are also questions about its longtime treasurer, Robert G. Healy.
“This appears to be another example of a public official who games the system while an oversight board sits by idly and does nothing,” Andy Shaw, president of the Better Government Association, tells 2 Investigator Pam Zekman.
Shaw pointed to a report made public at a recent meeting of the Township Trustees of School.
It was written by Gerald Kubasiak, an attorney hired by the board to review “the propriety of the payments” taken by Healy for unused sick and vacation time over 20 years.
After consulting with an outside auditor, Kubasiak wrote in his report: “We have concluded that acting on his own initiative, Mr. Healy caused an ‘overpayment’ to himself in excess of approximately $539,000.”
Theron Tobolski, one of the Lyons Township school trustees, says the money was not reported to the board. Another trustee, Karen Civinelli, says she was “devastated” by the claims against Healy.
“I thought I knew him well, but I guess I didn’t,” she tells Zekman.
The board of trustees oversees the handling of millions of dollars a year. Taxpayers can be assured that controls are in place, Tobolski says.
“They can feel confident,” he says. “We have a strong track record on our investments and the returns they are getting. This is one mistake that has happened.”
The board voted to correct the mistake by filing a lawsuit against Healy.
“This is not a case this board is going to settle. We want the peoples’ money back,” newly appointed trustee Mike Thiessen says.
That’s was comforting news to Marty Brown, a Western Springs School Board member who first publicly questioned the board’s operation.
“I was basically surprised, over time, by the lack of oversight by the board, the lack of internal controls in the office and just basically the overall way the operation was being managed, given the amount of money that was being managed here,” Brown says.
Now the board is moving to fix those problems. And it’s looking into questions raised about some of the money managers hired by Healy to invest its funds. Many of them also made donations to The Committee for School Financial Excellence, a political action committee chaired by Healy.
“When the investment business goes to companies that are giving political contributions to the decision-makers, these are rampant conflicts of interest,” Shaw says.
John J. Muldoon, Healy’s attorney, says Healy did not solicit the contributions, and adds, “There was no quid pro quo. If someone decides they want to contribute, that is up to them.”
Muldoon also said Healy denies doing anything wrong during his tenure as treasurer. He says township officials recently gave Healy a choice: resign or be fired.
As part of the negotiations, Muldoon says Healy was “coerced” to give up severance benefits to pay back part of the alleged overpayments. He says if the board of trustees files a lawsuit against Healy, he will file a counterclaim to get the money back.