Grundy board OKs probe of payments to former chairman
By Sarwat S. Ahmad Correspondent March 14, 2013 1:38PM
Updated: April 25, 2013 6:08AM
More than two years after allegations against former Grundy County Board Chairman Frank Halpin were raised by board member David Welter, a divided board has decided to pursue a civil investigation into whether Halpin allegedly received improper per diem reimbursements.
A divided board this week passed a resolution allowing Board Chairman Ron Severson to appoint a special state’s attorney to investigate whether monies were wrongly paid to Halpin during his time as chairman. If wrongdoing is discovered, the county can then bring a civil case against Halpin to recover the reimbursements.
Halpin, a Democrat, has been on the board since 1994 and was chairman from 2006 to 2010. After the Republicans won a majority in November 2010, Severson was voted in as chairman. Welter was one of the new Republicans voted into office.
Two months after taking office, Welter accused Halpin of allegedly handing in per diem vouchers for meetings and events he had not attended without having them signed by the board secretary.
In a statement before casting his vote in favor of the resolution, Welter said that he had not intended on trying to find any wrongdoing on Halpin’s part when he first started investigating the salary of the chairman prior to the November 2010 election.
“It struck me that the previous chairman had made about $26,000 and Mr. Halpin made upward of $71,000,” Welter said. “I want this to be resolved just like anybody else.”
Back in 2011, the documents collected by Welter were passed on to the appellate prosecutor’s office, which had not taken any action until Tuesday when it decided not to pursue a criminal case, State’s Attorney Jason Helland said. No written statements were made by the appellate prosecutor who passed information verbally to Helland who then passed it on to Severson, he said.
Helland, as the legal representative for the whole board, cannot investigate the matter, which now is only a civil matter. As such, Kendall County has agreed to let its state’s attorney’s office handle the investigation with Grundy County also agreeing to loan its state’s attorney to Kendall County when necessary. There will be no fee charged by Kendall County except for any expenses incurred during the investigation, Helland said.
Republican John Galloway and Democrats Dick Joyce, Ann Gill and Jim Ryan voted against the resolution, which passed with a majority of 12 votes cast by the remaining Republican board members. Halpin and fellow Democrat Ken Iverson were absent from the meeting. Halpin is on an annual trip to Arizona.