Friends of Nauvoo

It  has been my policy to not defend myself about things I have written or said. In most cases it just gives unwarranted credibility to weak arguments. In listening to some current comments circulating in Nauvoo however, I have been forced to consider the larger group of individuals that do deserve an answer. While some people in Nauvoo have already decided that they know my motives and goals (without hearing from me), the majority of honest people in Nauvoo, are still seeking to understand.  This article is for you.

Individuals continue to promote the narrative that what openNauvoo is doing is revenge for a lost election.  This minimizes our true efforts, and ignores the issues that genuinely confront us, and the history of my efforts.  I understand why there are those who would like this motive to dominate the discussion, since it would remove any responsibility to answer the troubling questions that persist. I have written here before some of the history of this effort, but let me summarize.

Like many people, I had passing interactions with Nauvoo City government. Going in to the office to deal with water and trash services, trying to understand various ordinances, the usual stuff. My interactions were pretty ambiguous, nothing particularly positive or negative.  But in early 2016, I learned, through reviewing an upcoming City Council Agenda, that the City Council was considering a Utility Tax. The primary reason given seemed to imply it was due to local churches not paying their share of property taxes.  This surprised me, so I began to research, and in the end attended the City Council Meeting. In fact, I spoke during the audience comments portion of the meeting, and explained why I did not think a utility tax was a good idea.  This was well over a year ago. The recording of the meeting is available here, this was in February, 2016, long before any election talk.

I tried to explain at the time why I opposed the tax. I felt it was regressive, and attempted to explain. I was told I did not understand. I was given the opportunity to suggest an alternative, and even met with several City Council representatives. The only ones to show any interest or concern for an alternative were Clive Moon and Bev Reynolds. They visited with me privately and seemed very opposed to the tax, and I was encouraged. (It was unfortunate that in the end the vote to approve the tax was 6 in favor, with none opposed. Clive and Bev voted in favor in spite of their stated objections to the tax).

My Church has a program that encourages members to visit the homes of other members, in pairs, to help with any issues that may arise. Programs exist for both male and female members.  Based on my responsibilities, I, with a companion, am often assigned widows and single mothers. It is through these visits that the real impact of taxes like the one proposed by the City at that time become most real.  Many of these young mothers make a daily decision to either put a gallon of gas in the car, or buy food for their kids. Things are that tight. To them, it is not a one dollar tax, it is one more dollar they don’t have. They often already live in the least efficient home, with the highest energy bills, and aren’t in a position to spend the money needed to be more efficient.  For most of us, the utility tax is minimal. But there are those among us for whom it is monumental.  I opposed any tax like this.

But the response ultimately was that this had been worked on for a long time, and that again, I didn’t understand.  I decided to learn.  I had other interactions in the ensuing months (unfortunately the recordings for at least one of those meetings have been lost, but a review of the meeting minutes will give a little of the picture). Part of my experience in learning about what was happening in Nauvoo required submitting requests for information, (the first being on February 27, 2017), long before the election had been decided.

I began openNauvoo early in the year, prior to the election, but was encouraged by many people in Nauvoo to not make it a factor in the election, and so I waited until election night to post our first major article. I had decided that anything I learned should be available to everyone.  No more secrets, and no more struggling to get information.  I stated at that time, that whoever won the election, the work I had begun would continue. And so it has. It has not been easy, there has been more resistance than I expected. We still do not have all the documents requested on February 27, 2017 even though the law requires them to be provided within 5 days. We have been forced to involve the Illinois Attorney General’s Office (who do not take a case unless they feel there is a potential violation), the County Court and the Illinois State Police.  None of this was expected or the result of any election.

So, to those who say my efforts are the result of “sour grapes” from a lost election, look at the facts.  First, I have been involved with these issues far longer that the most recent election campaign.  And secondly, I didn’t run for office, and no individual who did has any involvement with openNauvoo.

In spite of the painful process, I still believe that Nauvoo is a wonderful place, and have been encouraged by dozens and dozens of Nauvoo residents to continue our work. The meetings I have had recently with Mayor McCarty have been very encouraging.  If the issues we have identified get resolved as we have discussed, I think Nauvoo will really begin to move forward. Many of you seem to agree.  Hopefully the days of waiting for the Attorney General or State’s Attorney or someone else to tell us what needs to be done are becoming a thing of the past.  The laws of the State of Illinois and the City of Nauvoo do a great job of protecting the Citizens, and with diligence we can do some amazing things.  I am grateful to Mayor McCarty for his involvement, he has dedicated many hours in the last few weeks to our discussions, and has been very engaged in seeking solutions.

I believe it is time to move forward. There is no need to look back, and no need for revenge on anyone’s part.  The past has its own place, we belong in the future.

 

Robert Wright
Editor, openNauvoo.org

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Citizens Feel Threatened as Nauvoo City Council Member Calls for “Tar and Feathers”

Nauvoo, IL – June 16, 2017 – Many Nauvoo citizens fear for their safety tonight after learning of statements made by Beverly Reynolds, Nauvoo City Councilwoman, who called for “people like this” to be tarred and feathered and run out of town.  The threats got even more graphic when she called for a return to the 1840’s. She said “You and I know what happened then”, apparently referring to the murder of Mormon founder Joseph Smith and the expulsion of Mormons from Nauvoo,” It could happen again,” she said ominously.

Members of the Nauvoo City Council are defending the embattled Mayor in spite of the false official statements he has made regarding his business ownership, its receipt of funds from the City for at least 10 years, and the Illinois State Police Investigation into these actions.

Reynold’s statement came as a public reply to fellow Councilwoman Brenda Adkisson who referred to newly arriving citizens of Nauvoo as “newcomers” and unwelcome guests and referred to herself and others as “insiders” and “family.”

“Yes, God will deal with them, I am sure”, said Reynolds.

Editors Update: I spoke with Councilwoman Reynolds on June 19th and after learning of medical tests her husband was undergoing, and her assurance that she would meet with me on my return to Nauvoo, agreed to move the article to our archive until we met. We stand by the original article, and its content. Conversations with Bev have largely revolved around her assurance that she didn’t mean that all Mormons should be run out of town. She has shared with us how upset she has been about an individual in town who it was revealed had a history of child sexual abuse, who she felt has been treated unfairly, but stated her frustration was not related to the City Council or Mayor. Although her comments were posted in a thread begun by Councilwoman Adkisson, her issues seemed to be unrelated. We contacted Councilwoman Adkisson on June 13, 2017 after her post appeared on facebook, (and prior to Reynolds post) but did not receive a response.
Councilwoman Reynolds asked that we publish her comments as they appeared on Facebook. This was a part of our original article when it was posted on June 17th.
The article was never removed due to any inaccuracy, but to allow Ms Reynolds the opportunity to clarify her comments and to deal with a family medical situation. She declined to meet with us to clarify her comments in spite of her earlier statement that she would do so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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At Least 10 Years of False Statements from Nauvoo Mayor

 

As stated in our previous article regarding Mayor John McCarty’s false filings, we intended to see just how far the problem went.  We first looked at two years, and found the statements to not be truthful, so we requested copies of five years statements, and found none of them were factual.  So, on June 2, 2017 we requested the documents back to 2001.

We were surprised, and disappointed, to receive a call from the County Clerk on June 5, 2017 informing us that the documents we requested had been destroyed. He further explained that they had filed a request with the State requesting permission to destroy them, and it had been granted. We asked for a copy of the request and reply as part of the response to our FOIA request. On June 8th we received a response from Hancock County and were happy to see that in included four more years of Statements of Economic Interest, as well as a schedule for document disposal. (Our recommendation would be to utilize the Secretary of State’s Statement of Economic Interest system which does not require FOIA requests for citizens to review statements, does not involve destroying documents, and would not constitute a burden for the County to maintain the files.)

The additional years we received show the Mayor did not disclose his ownership in Outlaw Tees in 2008, 2009, 2010 or 2011 either.  Along with the 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 this now makes ten years of false statements.  This new information is being forwarded to the State Police and State’s Attorney.

In a related effort, as we reported earlier, the State’s Attorney, Jason Pohren, recommended we contact the Attorney General’s Office if we had someone there we could call.  As we reported at that time, we did, and spoke with the then Chief of the State’s Public Integrity Unit, David Navarro.  He informed us that Mr. Pohren knew the proper procedure for recusing himself as a result of his conflict of interest, and recommended we request that Mr. Pohren do so.  We did exactly that.

When we called last week to verify that the process had been completed, and to request a copy of the formal notification, Mr Pohren stated that there was no document required, and that he notified the State Police.  This is curious, because when we called to speak with Mr. Navarro (who has now left the Attorney General’s Office), we left a message and then received a call from one of the new Chief’s assistants, Jason Harger.  He listened to our update, and then notified us that there is in fact a requirement for a formal, written request from the State’s Attorney before the Attorney General’s Office can become involved. Mr Pohren has provided no such request. We are unsure of the reason for the lack of a request, or the statement that there was no need for a request, just a call to the State Police. Mr Harger recommended we request the County Board get involved at their next meeting, which is scheduled for June 20th. With the new information we have received, showing at least ten years of false official statements, our hope is that our attendance at this meeting will not be necessary, and that the State’s Attorney will pursue this or request the Attorney General’s Office involvement.

When taken together; the lack of charges on ten Class A misdemeanors, the apparent failure to follow procedure to recuse, and the continued refusal to acknowledge the misconduct that may very well have resulted with these unreported payments by the City to the Mayor’s business (we estimate well over $20,000 for the period we are aware of) for products and services that were never competitively bid or reported,  this problem continues to grow and is likely to become even more pervasive as new reports come in.

This is not a matter of incorrect paperwork, but a need to determine just how far the use of Citizens funds has gone in enriching public officials businesses and events. The paperwork simply documents behavior, and that behavior doesn’t look good.

More to come.

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Stop Waiting For the Red Lights in the Mirror

We recently received an additional response from the Nauvoo City FOIA Officer, to our April 18, 2017 FOIA request.  It stated the “the City is still awaiting the PAC’s determination of whether the City has to contact another entity (the H/M Board) and request the Board to provide the documents the City does not have in its possession.

This is interesting because it side-steps the more critical issue: is the City responsible for the operation of a body that exists almost exclusively on tax dollars collected by authority given it by the citizens of Nauvoo?  The Hotel Motel Board is a public body, and by City Ordinance is responsible to the City Council.  Section 2-2-1 of the Nauvoo City Municipal Code states, referring to the Hotel Motel Board, “which board shall recommend to the city council the use of funds created by the hotel-motel tax.”  Note that the ordinance states, recommend, not authorize them on their own authority.

Section 2-2-4 further states: “The hotel-motel tax board shall recommend to the city council the use of funds from the hotel-motel tax and from grants, special gifts, or from any other source. The board shall not have the power to levy additional tax…”  So, no funds collected by the Hotel Motel Board, regardless of their source can be utilized by the Board without City Council approval. And yet, the Board has approved contracts on its own authority, and approved expenses on its own authority. The Board also expends funds collected as “fees” (thinly veiled taxes) that are collected illegally, and expended illegally. These funds are not even collected by the City Treasurer as required by State Law, but directly by the “Tourism Office.” (see the “Promotional Agreement” being utilized by the Hotel Motel Board.) Home Rule allows the City to implement more restrictive ordinances than the State, not less.  The City cannot create a work-around to collecting funds on the Citizens behalf in a legal, and transparent way.

In addition: “The hotel-motel tax board shall present monthly to the city council’s finance committee expenditures, with budget line item indicated, for payment. ” (Section 2-2-6).  A review of checks prepared and written by the City, shows that payments are made at will from the city funds (in some cases checks are written prior to invoices being generated).

The relationship between the City and the Hotel Motel Board is challenging to understand, particularly when even the City’s own ordinances are so clear on its operation.  The City seems confused, so perhaps we should not be surprised that they want to wait for someone else, such as the Attorney General, to tell them what to do.

If you were driving your car down the freeway at 80 mph in a posted 65 mph zone, when are you breaking the law?  When you were speeding, or only when the State Police pull you over?  There is a real issue in the City of Nauvoo Government that only if they get pulled over (charged, indicted, corrected by the Attorney General, etc.) should anything change.  The time to slow down is when we realize we are speeding, not after we see the red lights flashing in the rear view mirror.

It is the Attorney General’s response to our February 28, 2017 request that City Officials are waiting on to force them to obey the law.  It not only deals with the Hotel Motel Board, but the failure of the City to respond to numerous requests (most unrelated to this issue).

It also deals with City Officials removal of key meeting minutes from the FY2013 Hotel Motel Board Meeting Minutes which were provided to us.  These meetings are where the process and selection of the Tourism Director was discussed.  The City FOIA Officer did provide the balance of the Meeting Minutes for 2013 and other years, but what transpired at these specific meetings is being hidden.  The law requires that all meeting minutes be provided.  It’s not a paper issue.  These minutes should represent how the decisions were made that have resulted in hiring a tourism director, who was on the committee that made the selection, how did they then improperly change the classification of this position to a contractor to avoid the requirement for specific work hours (but still paying all expenses, etc.), paying 80% of funds collected by the authority granted the City under Home Rule to one individual, and now levying illegal taxes disguised as fees which are then collected and spent without the authority required. These actions have placed the City of Nauvoo in a precarious legal position with the State Employment Board, the IRS and other agencies.

We have encouraged the City on numerous occasions to just start complying with the law.  We do so again.  Don’t wait to be told you are in violation or being fined, correct things as soon as it becomes clear that you are wrong. You are in the positions you occupy, at public expense, to represent the citizens of Nauvoo.  There are laws that protect the citizens from misconduct of public officials. We recommend that you review your positions, and make the changes necessary.  Waiting for the red light in the rear view mirror can be expensive.

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Nauvoo-Colusa School Board Meeting Violation Being Investigated

On May 15, 2017 the Nauvoo-Colusa Board of Education conducted a regularly scheduled meeting but did not post the agenda 48 hours in advance.

We provided notice to the School Board that the agenda had not been posted in a letter sent to the School Board at 9:33am on May 15th via the email address posted on their website.  The agenda was not posted on the website maintained by the School Board until the afternoon of May 15th, and was not posted at the place of meeting at any time.  We visited the school and photographed all the entry doors to the school at approximately 10:00am on May 15th.

We phoned the School Board President, Michael Siegfried, and spoke with him at 4:35pm to notify him of the email notification and the failure of the agenda to be made available via the website, and at the location of the meeting as required by the Open Meetings Act.  He informed us that he would speak with the School Superintendent about it.  We notified him, that as the School Board President it was his determination to make.  He replied, “I know, but that’s how it works.”  He was very cooperative.

We attended the meeting at the Nauvoo-Colusa School and asked to speak.  We notified the School Board that the meeting was being conducted in violation of the Open Meetings Act.  They informed us that the statute allowed them to post the agenda in the “Principal’s Office”, a misreading of the statute’s statement of the Principal Office of the organization, which still requires the agenda to be posted at the place of meeting as well, which it was not.  It was not posted at any publicly accessible location 48-hours prior to the meeting.

The Superintendent stated that the Agenda was posted on Saturday (May 13), but that the building was locked, which was why we couldn’t see it.  Even if this did occur (which is questionable), it is still a violation, since the public did not have access, and even Monday morning the School is locked to traffic without being buzzed in through the security system.  This is not public access.

The Superintendent participates in the meeting as a member of the School Board, although he is not.  He sits at the table with other members of the Board, and speaks privately with the School Board President in a low voice, not audible to the public.  He should not be seated with the Board, and all comments he makes should be made during public comment portions of the meeting, or when specifically giving a report specified on the meeting agenda, as any other committee chairman or other non-elected official would.

The Attorney General’s Office agrees with us, and has informed the School Board that they must provide a response within seven days.

It is also interesting that this meeting included statements by several concerned parents regarding the pat-down searches of young girl students by male school officials.  Apparently the school has not trained any female staff in proper searches, so none were available.  Hard to understand.  Further investigation is under way.

 

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Good Job Carthage!

As part of our research into the failure of the City of Nauvoo to provide evidence of bids for purchases being made, we recently provided a Freedom of Information Act request to the City of Carthage to allow us to compare the prices they pay for water treatment chemicals.  It was sent on May 24, 2017.

We received a concerned call from the City Clerk on Tuesday, May 30.  She is aware of the five day requirement for responding, and wanted us to be aware that she had only received it that day.  Considering that mail has to travel to Springfield to get to Carthage, and it was Memorial Day weekend, we assured her that we understood.  She told us she would make every effort to get this request completed quickly.  That was a Tuesday.

Thursday, June 1, 2017 (just one full day after receiving the request), she phoned to inform us our documents were ready.  She also asked if we would like them mailed, or if we would like to come pick them up.  We were happy to pick them up and pay the $9.60 copy fee. (As a side-note, the City of Carthage did charge us 20 cents per copy, although the state law only allows 15 cents a copy. But, considering the overall positive response we received, and the incredibly cooperative City Clerk, we didn’t make an issue of it).

Further review of the documents to compare the prices paid for water treatment chemicals by Carthage versus Nauvoo are underway (along with other requests we have made to other locations and providers) to get a broader picture of bids and whether the City of Nauvoo is getting the best price as the Mayor has stated.

We just want to say thank you to the Carthage City Clerk for responding so quickly.

 

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