You know the old saying: I told you so? Well we told you so in several WGN- Better Government Association investigations into a small south suburban town. An audit confirms a whole lot of financial shenanigans going on.
It’s been three years since we first went walking with Mayor Dwight Welch of Country Club Hills challenging him about outrageous credit card charges on the city’s dime.
“It’s a small amount of money when you look at the overall emphasis of what I do,” said Welch back in March of 2012.
He proudly showed off the gleaming amphitheatre right across from city hall. What he didn’t like talking about then is now detailed in a 51-page audit paid for by his own taxpayers
As we first warned you – the audit points out that the mayor bargained front-row seats in exchange for a $50 dollar donation to his late-son’s memorial foundation.
Emails also suggest if you had business with the city, a donation was encouraged.
How wisely that money was used is the target of the audit.
The city treasurer who was at odds with the mayor over finances at the time, said to WGN, “I’m going to use the “F” word – fraud.”
When Rhonda Williams pushed for the probe after refusing to sign off on financial reports with millions of dollars missing.
“I warned residents. I warned the State. I warned everyone that the numbers weren’t matching up,” said Williams.
I hate to say it, but we told you so too. And here we are again. The numbers detailed in the audit:
600 checks totaling $1.6 million didn’t receive approval from the city council
Nearly $8 million dollars worth of checks had incorrect dates
Another $22 million spent before the city council signed off on it.
The audit suggests an elevated risk for a pay-to play culture when the mayor’s top campaign contributors over the past decade earn $15.8 million dollars in city business.
It points to emails showing city workers doing campaign work on company time –a big no-no.
And the audit found what we did three years ago – the mayor likes to wine and dine people. Back then he told us…
“So I’m obviously not eating all those meals they’re talking about,” as he pointed to his mid-section.
“I’m buying those meals. I’m buying them to get people to do things for Country Club Hills. That’s why I’m the lobbyist for us. And I’m not ashamed of that I’m not ashamed of that at all.”
In three years, the new audit claims the mayor spent more than $99,000 dollars racking up a restaurant and bar tab for dinners oftentimes with other city employees.
Oh and we also found the mayor at the golf course long ago where the audit showed he spends a lot of time — 65 charges adding up to $6,938 dollars.
Like we said – we told you so.
Yet, three years of stories and another $26,000 in costs for an audit and not a peep out of the city, county, state or federal investigators.
The accountants said they uncovered a number of what they called fraud risk indicators that could potentially lead to violations of the law. They also said it presents potential evidence of poor judgment, mismanagement of city funds, unethical behavior and inadequate financial controls.
There is no criminal investigation into the finances of Country Club Hills that we are aware of.
For the record, Mayor Welch did not return our calls and the town Treasurer chose not to discuss the new audit results.