Power of FOIA eludes Strohm Newspapers – Edgar County Watchdogs

Clark Co. (ECWd) –

In response to the article in the July 5, 2017, edition of the Marshall Advocate,”Thomas to fill Park Board Vacancy,” I, Lisa Thomas, offer the following opinions, facts, and commentary from the perspective of a private citizen, journalist, bookkeeper and public official. I was not contacted by anyone from Strohm Newspapers regarding this article before publication and believe the article was published in an attempt to portray me in a bad light as I’ve helped to expose wrongdoing of a former CCPD Commissioner, Mr. Ron Stone, who also is a major shareholder and building owner of Strohm Newspapers. There is a case, investigated by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, on the Clark County State’s Attorney’s desk awaiting the Honorable Mr. Kyle Hutson’s decision to prosecute.

As a citizen, I became concerned when in 2014 I learned the Clark County Park District was attempting to lease out some of it’s property on the lake for citizens to build private residential homes. I attended my first meeting at CCPD August 14, 2014. Through this meeting I learned that the Auditor expressed concerns with the ability of staff using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and lack of internal controls. On September 18, 2014, I presented the following public comment:

Public Statement

The offer of help presented in this public comment was not accepted. I saw this as a red flag, so I kept digging. To date, I, in conjunction with many others, through FOIA have discovered the following issues:

1.) Failure to deposit monies resulting in false financial statements to the board.

2.) Expenditures of public funds without authority in violation of the Park District Code.

3.) Failure to follow prevailing wage laws of this state.

4.) Illegal compensation taken by previous director.

5.) Failure to do background checks on employees as required for safety by the Park District Code.

6.) Compensation in the form of free services not properly reported to the IRS.

7.) Failure of staff to bill for fuel dock sales.

8.) Failure to track fuel inventory resulting in loss of fuel income.

9.) Continued lack of internal controls.

There have been two elections since August 2014. The people spoke loud and clear that this governance was not acceptable. My hope is that this current board will address all of these issues and more as they arise. I will continue to speak out and attempt to do what’s best despite what may be published. I urge anyone who questions governance of any public body to use the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, as I have done, to get the real answers with facts and documents. As a journalist, this concept of the right to public information eludes Mr. Strohm. He prefers to print opinions of those he’s beholden to rather than facts. This is his choice as it is Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press. I just hope that soon he realizes others have the same rights.

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