Kurt Prenzler Puts Aides On Leave After Madison County Democrats Demand Resignations
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.
A day after Madison County Democrats called on members of Kurt Prenzler’s administration to resign,the county board chairman put two of the three on paid administrative leave and launched a separate investigation into allegations against them.
County Administrator Doug Hulme, Information Technology Director Rob Dorman and County Coronavirus Czar Steve Adler came under fire by Marine Township Supervisor Bob Daiber and two others on the county board, after documents from an Illinois Attorney General investigation were made public.
No charges were filed as a result of the probe because of a lack of evidence, an Attorney General’s office spokespersonsaid, but county Democrats say the documents uncovered a pattern of corruption that warrants their removal from office.
Prenzler, who on Tuesday dismissed the accusations against his office as highly politicized, responded to the call for dismissal Wednesday afternoon by placing Hulme and Dorman on leave.
“I am announcing that as Chairman of the Madison County Board, that this is now a disciplinary matter, and these charges will be reviewed by an independent third party for investigation,” Prenzler said in a statement.
Prenzler said he expects the investigation will frame their activities within the boundaries of the existing policies and procedures of the county board.
“I believe this is the best course of action to achieve a fair result, provide due process for the employees, and protect the county against future lawsuits,” Prenzler said.
Daiber was joined by Democratic board members Mike Parkinson of Granite City and Chris Hankins of Pontoon Beach in demanding the removal or resignation of Prenzler’s staff members.
Daiber is challenging Prenzler, a Republican, for county board chairman on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.
Democrats point to investigation documents
Citing documents from the state’s investigation, the Madison County Democrats accused Prenzler’s aides of an attempted pay-for-play scheme by offering a county job to a member of U.S. Rep. John Shimkus’staff if Shimkus endorsed attorney Don Weber for a U.S. attorney position.
The Madison County Democrats, citing the documents, also accused the aides of:
Initiating a “scheme” to hack into and spy on emails of the Madison County judiciary and offices of elected county officials for political purpose;
Compromising victim information, releasing sensitive and legally privileged information regarding ongoing cases;
Reviewing emails of judges and gave access to a non-employee to conduct searches of county email for campaign purposes.
Daiber and the other Madison County Democrats say their allegations are corroborated by the documents from the attorney general’s investigation.
Affidavits from the investigation, which were obtained by the Belleville News-Democrat, reflect further testimony that Hulme and Dorman accessed the emails of county employees and elected officials to gain political leverage and that printers were installed in county offices that could alert them of what was being printed.
“(Madison County Treasurer Chris Slusser) testified in February of 2017 a Madison county employee by the name of Doug Hulme bragged about having evidence of circuit judge using county resources for political fundraising,” a search warrant complaint from the investigation read. “When Slusser confronted Hulme on how he obtained this evidence, he alluded that they have access to everyone’s emails.”
Slusser also testified that Hulme had told him GPS devices had been put on all county vehicles so Dorman could monitor them.
Prenzler said in a statement that, even if Hulme accessed the email accounts to look for “evidence of corruption, it’s allowed by theMadison County Personnel Policy Handbook.
There also were accusations of intimidation, according to investigation documents.
Through an affidavit, former Madison County Board member Lisa Ciampoli testified about “improper activity” by Dorman, who she said interfered when she tried to file a petition to run for precinct committeeman, an office for which Dorman’s father was also running.
She said during one encounter, Dorman attempted to swipe filing paperwork from the clerk’s hands. According to the unsealed documents, investigators believed video surveillance footage corroborated that accusation.
Earlier this week, both Prenzler and Hulme dismissed the lawsuit as political gamesmanship.
“A highly politicized investigation of these allegations has gone on for over two years, and everyone was exonerated when the Democrat Attorney General’s office decided not to file charges,” Prenzler said.
“I have fought over two years for the truth of the investigation to come to light and the affidavits show clearly that the 'Task Force' was a fishing expedition and smear campaign for political purposes,” Hulme said in a statement.
Kavahn Mansouri is a reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.
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