Attorney General: Further Action is Warranted on County Board Meeting

To view the full document, including our request, click the image.

As we previously reported, the Hancock County Board held a meeting on March 20, 2018 without properly posting the agenda, and discussing and deciding on issues not properly advertised. We filed a request with the Illinois Attorney General to review the situation on March 21, 2018. We learned today that the Attorney General’s office decided that our request deserves further action. They have not given the County Board 7 Days to respond.

They have asked the Board to provide copies of the notice, agenda and meeting minutes for the meeting. They have also asked for clarification of who maintains the Board’s website. We verified with the County Clerk on March 21st, that it is maintained by the County Treasurer (a full-time employee). In addition, our review of the site on March 20, 2018 clearly stated that there were “No Upcoming Meetings Scheduled”.

As stated before, our desire is that the public have the opportunity to comment before a new State’s Attorney is appointed for Hancock County. The previous State’s Attorney stated that he had a conflict of interest in pursuing cases that involved the City of Nauvoo due to his prior employment with the City. We are aware of cases that were investigated by State Police, referred to the State’s Attorney and should have been referred to the Special Prosecutor’s Office, due to conflicts. We requested copies of these official referrals today.

We are also aware of other cases involving public safety, and protection of children, that have not been prosecuted during his tenure as State’s Attorney. The Board should be made aware of all of these issues, and determine what position the new State’s Attorney would take, prior to making any appointment. This should all be done with the public’s involvement. The outcome may be that same as the previous meeting, but the process should not be.

We look forward to providing further information on this case.



Nauvoo City 2019 Audit Available in Draft Form

As we said in the February 12th City Council meeting, we have obtained a draft copy of the annual audit of Nauvoo City accounts.

It is made available here for anyone wishing to review it prior to the next City Council meeting. In response to comments made at the City Council meeting; as with all documents obtained from the City for use on this site, this copy was obtained directly from the City Treasurer, scanned and placed online, without modification or addition. This is provided as a community service.

A paper copy is available at City Hall.


Fiscal Year 2019 Draft Budget On the Agenda for City Council

The FY2019 budget is scheduled for discussion in the April 10, 2018 City Council Meeting. We received a copy today, and it has been posted online.  There is much to consider, with not much time to do so. The budget does exceed last years budget in terms of spending. Last years budget proposed a whopping  $2,154,495.00 in spending, while this year the proposal is for spending of $2,159,745.00. Not as significant a jump as the FY2017-FY2018 budget increase.

We encourage everyone to attend this evening, and ask questions. Our previous article, “Citizen Participation in Budgeting” outlined the benefits of soliciting citizen involvement and input. Our hope is that questions will be taken seriously, considered, and changes made where necessary. This budget represents over $2,000 in spending for every man, woman and child in Nauvoo, once again.

Employee salaries, water and sewer, police and the library represent the lion’s share of spending. But individual details are not available for review in this proposed budget. All account categories are represented in the aggregate, so evaluation of specific spending is not possible. Only questions asked of the City Council will provide this information.


Two Important Meetings This Week

On Monday afternoon at 4:30 pm, the Nauvoo City Finance & Personnel Committee will hold its monthly meeting. On the agenda are several items of importance to the citizens of Nauvoo.

The Fiscal Year 2019 budget will be presented by the City Treasurer. We are interested to see if it continues the increase in spending we discussed last year. At the time it was an all-time high in spending. Last years budget was over $2 million dollars, or in excess of $2,000 in city spending for every man, woman and child in the city.  We will be posting the proposed budget as soon as it is available.

Also on the agenda is a new vehicle for the Nauvoo Police Department. The request this year is for a new 2018 Dodge Ram Quad Cab 4×4 Truck. We believe the last vehicle purchased was the Dodge Durango in 2016. This will be a significant expense for the citizens, and there should be a number of questions, including whether this new vehicle will also be unmarked.

These items will then be forwarded to the City Council for discussion and action in the Tuesday night meeting.

In addition to the budget, and the new police vehicle, there are also agenda items for the Dollar General site plan and building permit.

A working meeting is being requested to discuss “current issues and define the future of the current ordinance,” specifically relating to the Hotel Motel Board we assume from those who will be involve. We are interested in seeing what is proposed, considering last weeks hotel motel board meeting, and the questions raised by Tom Holliday and others in the meeting.

Both meetings will be worthwhile to attend. For those who cannot attend in person, they will be streamed live on the openNauvoo facebook page, and will be archived here as well.



No Time Specified for Advertised Public Spaces Committee Meeting

The agenda posted at City Hall does not specify a time for the meeting. The agenda does state that it is an agenda for 4-5-18, but no time is given.

The Attorney General’s Office specifies that “Giving public notice means providing the date, time and location of a meeting.”

Rather than deal with an Open Meetings Act review, the Committee should reschedule the meeting, and advertise it as required by law.

Agenda Posted at City Hall


Dollar General Site Plan Presented

The Nauvoo Planning & Zoning Committee held a special meeting to review the site plans for the proposed Dollar General store to be built in Nauvoo on March 28th. The store is to be located at 1645 Mulholland on the lot currently owned by the State Bank of Nauvoo. The representative from Dollar General answered questions by both the committee and citizens who attended the meeting. This meeting was streamed live on the openNauvoo facebook page.

Of particular interest were sign location and size. The proposed plan included a sign that was too large to comply with City Ordinance. A 5 foot by 10 foot sign was proposed, it will be reduced to 4 foot by 8 foot.  Height was also a concern, with the committee proposing a ground level sign, rather than the 15 foot height allowed by ordinance. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will still weigh in on this decision. There was also a request to increase the number of handicapped parking spaces, to support Nauvoo’s aging community (the Committee’s words, not ours).

We were pleased to hear that the proposed building will feature a brick facade on the front to help fit in with the historic nature of Nauvoo. This was in contrast to reports we had heard. The citizens in attendance were supportive of this design, and glad to hear it would try to fit in.

A theme from the Dollar General representative was being a “good neighbor.” The proposed plans seemed to take may items into consideration that could affect the neighborhood. Even though it will be located on Mulholland, alongside homes (also zoned commercial, and used for commercial purposes), the choices in lighting, setbacks from property lines, and access seemed to have made every concession possible while still using the property as the zoning laws allow.

The Dollar General representative indicated construction would typically take 90 days, and would likely be open after the tourist season, in late August.

We encourage Nauvoo citizens to review the meeting, available online.

Another Dollar General location, with a brick facade and ground level sign.

County Board Appoints State’s Attorney Without Notice

On March 20, 2018, the Hancock County Board appointed Rachel Mast as interim State’s Attorney to complete the term of Jason Pohren. Pohren died on March 19 of an apparent heart attack.

The Board meeting that considered this appointment was not advertised as required by the State’s Open Meetings Act (48 hours prior to the meeting) on the County website, which is maintained by a full-time employee. In fact, the website stated that there were “No Upcoming Meetings Scheduled.” The purpose of the agenda is to allow the public to prepare and make public comment on those issues that concern them.  The appointment of a State’s Attorney is very consequential. This item was not included on a legally posted agenda 48 hours prior to the meeting. This appointment is not in compliance with the Open Meetings Act.

The previous State’s Attorney had “conflicts of interest” which prevented him from pursuing cases involving Nauvoo officials, and had a poor record of prosecuting sex offenders in Nauvoo. Citizens would like to ensure that whoever is considered for this position is free from conflicts, intends to enforce the law, and will be tough on sexual abuse of children. Perhaps Rachel Mast is the right person, but this decision must be made with citizen involvement, in a legal manner.

In apparent disregard for the statute, Hancock County Board President Delbert Kreps said that Rachel Mast was appointed Tuesday night in the County Board Meeting. She was scheduled to be sworn in at 9am Wednesday morning.

openNauvoo has filed a request for the Attorney General’s Office to review this case, and to invalidate all actions taken at this improper meeting.


Big Night for Nauvoo City

March 13, 2018 was a big night for Nauvoo City. The City Council meeting featured a number of items. The Tourism Director contract was extended (with a mixed mention of “contractor” and “salary” and “hiring”) for another 90 days. The hourly rate for City Employees was increased by 3%, and the City Collector and Treasurer was increased by an additional $1/hr each . Although a list of reasons was presented, the emphasis seemed to be on the number of hours required to reply to FOIA requests (an additional article is being prepared outlining all the costs associated with failing to comply with FOIA). The City Council also voted to hire a professional firm to manage TIF, which is great news, and the unused volume cap funds were transferred to WIEDA (please review the City Attorney’s explanation in the meeting, and then read our article for clarification).

The big draw for the night was obviously the LDS Church’s Historic Sites presentation. Largely well received, it did solicit a number of questions from the Council and the citizens in attendance.

View the entire meeting here.


How WIEDA Works

The City Council agenda for March 13th includes an item related to the Western Illinois Economic Development Authority (WIEDA). Specifically, transferring the Volume Cap of the City of Nauvoo to WIEDA. In conversations with Andrew Hamilton, Executive Director of WIEDA, we learned how this program works.

The federal government created the ability for states to create these districts (like a port authority in other locations) that would allow businesses, factories, etc. to gain access to a benefit that previously had only been available to actual municipalities themselves–“tax free financing”. Now, this is not to say that WIEDA loans money, it simply passes this unique characteristic of tax exempt financing on to those financial institutions who loan funds to qualified businesses. Normally, a city government can borrow money at a better rate than an individual, in part because the financial institution will not have to pay taxes on the interest it collects. What this “tax free financing” does is allow banks and other financial institutions to make loans to qualifying businesses, and claim a tax exempt status on the interest fees they collect. As an example, the bank may be required to pay 2% taxes on a loan that it collected 6% interest on. With “tax free financing” status, they would not be required to pay the 2% in taxes, and so could offer the same loan at 4%, with the bank retaining the same profitability.

Only certain types of business can qualify for this type of financing, and WIEDA has a process to follow. In reality, the City of Nauvoo can offer these bonds. The State of Illinois allocates its limit of this kind of incentive to approximately $1.3 billion. This is allocated by population at a rate of $105/inhabitant. In Illinois this is broken down by local governments, with Home Rule communities (like Nauvoo) being granted their allocation of eligibility. There is one problem. The legal process to use these funds can amount to $30,000 in fees. And with less than $100,000 available to be allocated in the City of Nauvoo, it is unlikely it would be used. And, the state of Illinois says that if a City does not use its allocation by April 1 of the year, it loses it (which is a polite way of saying the State takes it back and uses it as it sees fit). WIEDA solves this problem by taking the allocation of smaller communities, pooling it together, and allocating to larger projects in Western Illinois which can justify the expensive legal fees.

That is not to say that Nauvoo could not be a candidate. Our conversation with Mr Hamilton was very helpful, and it seems that there are businesses that could be interested in Nauvoo that might benefit from this kind of program. As a part of a larger recruiting package to attract business, it is a definite plus. To be clear, WIEDA does not loan money, or help get financing. What WIEDA does it make that money potentially more affordable, by helping to get a lower interest rate, through the “tax free financing” it can provide to lenders.

Transferring Nauvoo’s volume cap seems a very worthwhile effort. We also hope to see a potential employer for Nauvoo taking advantage of it.