Shelby Co. (ECWd) –
Keith Petard, a retired former employee of the Shelby County Highways Department, appears to owe Shelby County money. What many may not remember, Alan Spesard, County Highways Engineer, was not the only county employee to operate his business out of county highways offices. Petard, was the business partner of Shelby Engineering, which operated its business out of the Shelby County Department of Highways offices for years. It appears that several council members have little concern that two county employees are operating their business out of a government establishment on the backs of taxpayers. While we’re unlikely these two will ever be held accountable for the private use of public resources, peeling the onion reveals more of the stench.
According to County Health Benefit Plantermination of coverage for retired employees occurs when “The date the covered retiree becomes eligible for Medicare coverage or becomes eligible for coverage under another employer’s health plan.” (see page 107 of the plan)
Based on county records, Petard County benefits were removed retroactively to November 1, 2018, when he started Medicare. According to a e-mail to the public prosecutorPetard was contacted at the end of each month from December 2018 through June 2020 and he denied being on Medicare.
Due to the claim of not being on Medicare when he actually was, the unqualified claims were paid from the Shelby County General Fund, which is self-insured.
Under the fraud provision of the Benefit plan:
“Under this plan, coverage may be retroactively canceled or terminated (terminated) if a participant acts fraudulently or intentionally makes material misrepresentations of fact. It is the responsibility of the participant to provide accurate information and make accurate and truthful statements, including information and statements regarding family status, age, relationships, etc. It is also the participant’s responsibility to update information and statements previously provided. Failure to do so may result in the cancellation of participant coverage, and such cancellation may be retroactive.
We understand that the retroactive termination of benefits was made due to Petard’s misrepresentations.
At the last Shelby County Board meeting, the state’s attorney suggested the matter be referred to the insurance committee to deal with it. Will it be another waste of time? The very committee she wants to look into this matter has known about since July 2020 and has done nothing, (July 2020 Insurance Committee Minutes). When a committee does nothing to address potential fraudulent claims, it’s time for the county council to act, just as the treasurer did.
The purpose of the failed agenda item was for the board as a whole to ask the state’s attorney, their attorney, to take action on this in an effort to recover the funds that were paid. based on false information. The state attorney has the power to act in this matter. “55 ILCS 5/3-9005 (3) Initiate and prosecute all actions and proceedings brought by a county officer in his official capacity” is the provision that gives the state’s attorney the power to initiate such recovery.
Bryon Coffman, one of the members of the insurance committee, also urged this to come back to the insurance committee. Barb Bennette urged that they ask the insurer named Travis to attend their next board meeting to explain what has already been explained to them and to do so in the executive session. It may be time to replace two members of the insurance committee in light of what they clearly knew in July 2020. Both were present when this matter came before the committee. The minutes say they decided to go in camera at the next board meeting and were hoping to have Randy and Travis at the meeting to explain the situation. Minutes of the insurance commission July 2020.
Neither Coffman nor Bennette took this matter to the full board as the minutes indicate, so the matter sat idle for over a year. How ironic that now Barb Bennette basically wants the same thing that was recorded a year ago in the minutes of the insurance commission.
Since the council as a whole could not agree to take action to recover this money, those who voted yes could apply individually in their official capacity as council members. The law clearly says any county officer in his official capacity. We urge those who voted to take the necessary steps to recover these funds to bring their request to the public prosecutor. Interestingly, this request had already been made by the county treasurer on April 23, 2021. “I request that all appropriate steps, whether civil or criminal, be taken to recover the funds in the amount of $34,297.01 on behalf of the taxpayers who were defrauded of this money.”
As was evident at the county council meeting, the state’s attorney took no action on the case brought to him by an elected official months ago. Why the county council filed the possibility of making the same request to the state’s attorney is beyond comprehension. We note and are pleased to hear that the State’s Attorney agrees that action needs to be taken on this matter. While nice to hear, what is the delay given that the request for action has already been made by an elected official in their official capacity?
Rather than focusing on the recovery, some council members were more concerned with how a member of the public discovered the exact figure in question, $34,297.01. Maybe they should read the emails they get because that figure was included in the communications to all prior to the board meeting, which means anyone who receives it could be the one who leaked it to the public.
We understand that there is now a witch hunt to find out who published the information. Is this information a public record? Absolutely. The legitimate public interest in obtaining the information, $34,297.01 of alleged improper payments, outweighs any attempt to claim that such disclosure might constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy.
The fact that council members disputed that a member of the public knew the exact figure rather than taking action to work to recover the funds should be of concern to all ratepayers. As if all of this wasn’t disturbing enough, one board member claimed that he was not allowed to speak about an employee in a public meeting, (3:33:42 brand of video). Whoever board member said that should resign! His statement is completely false.
As it is:
- This matter has been known to the insurance committee since July 2020 and they have done nothing, including informing the full board.
- The former district attorney was aware of this case and did nothing.
- The current state’s attorney has known about this since at least April 23, 2021, and appears to have done nothing but suggest the matter be referred to the insurance committee, the same committee that did not. has done nothing with the information for over a year.
- County Council took no action to recover $34,297.01
The full county council meeting can be viewed below.