By Adam Andrzejewski -
Since Ralph Hinkle started for me he has reported to me on a daily basis, in person, about his activities. We discussed daily goals, and accomplishments and set agendas…” -- Milton Township Supervisor Chris Heidorn (photo right), June 1, 2012
We’ve all heard the excuse that “everybody does it” when we read about Illinois’ special brand of government malfeasance.
If that’s true, we have more units of government, which means more employees, more bosses, more trustees, and more contractors “doing it” with less oversight, than any state in the union. Perhaps it’s time to stop saying “everybody does it.”
Perhaps it’s time to stop them from “doing it.”
In our first post, What’s The Matter With Milton Township?, we proved that;
- Milton Township was cash rich
- The Top Ten Employees Make $1 Million in total compensation
- The property tax levy continues to be hiked
- For 8 years the Supervisor had virtually no formal employee management system.
In our last post, Debating Milton Township Management, we answered Supervisor Chris Heidorn and his defense of township employee Ralph Hinkle (photo right). Hired in 2004 as a part-time $16,000 per year employee, Ralph Hinkle “morphed” into “full-time” perks, pay and benefits costing taxpayers $304,000 over the next seven years.
As the township attorney disclosed and Chris Heidorn admitted, Ralph Hinkle was a man without a job activity report, time card and job description for the first eight years of township employment. When asked to produce Hinkle’s personnel file, Supervisor Heidorn didn’t even know if it existed.
So, how’s Milton Supervisor Chris Heidorn’s “laissez faire” management style working out?
Ralph Hinkle’s Junket: A six hour workshop from 11am-5pm on September 6, 2011 in Springfield, IL was an excuse for Hinkle and two Milton employees to stay for two nights/three days in Jacuzzi suites at the Crowne Plaza. Review the taxpayer funded binge including Hinkle’s dining receipts and credit card charges. Here’s the Illinois Citizen Corps Workshop Agenda.
Day One: At Sebastian’s Hideout, Hinkle’s team feasts on rack of lamb, crème brulee, cheesecake, and consumes top-shelf liquors. Day Two: Hinkle runs up a Mahogany Room bar tab and Alexander Steakhouse receipt for NY Strip, top sirloin and ribeye. Day Three: Hinkle charges taxpayers for his dinner at the Longhorn Smokehouse in Bloomington on the return trip home, plus $52 in gas!
Three Serious Allegations are explored in this post regarding employee Ralph Hinkle covering: 1.) Use of a township credit card; 2.) Use of township cell phone and email; and 3.) Liability for Township and taxpayers.
I. USE OF TOWNSHIP CREDIT CARD:
a. Did Hinkle use his township credit card as his personal pay-day loan? On February 9, 2012, Ralph Hinkle charged taxpayers for his stay at the Hampton Inn Macomb. A month later, the township deposited Hinkle’s personal reimbursement check. Review our FOIA request, see township documents. The Illinois Supreme Court has defined “official misconduct”- as occurring when an individual violates the rule “public funds, property, and credit shall be only used for public purposes.” Since the Court ruling, misuse of public funds or credit is criminal conduct. Read “Public funds for Public purposes” law.
b. Did Hinkle use his township credit card to dine-out on township funds? During the year January 2011-2012, Ralph Hinkle charged taxpayers $2,273 for 49 separate excursions. Half of the total was spent on 17 charges at the Manhattan Grill, $1,038.46. See full database of credit charges here.
Employed for eight years, Hinkle is on pace for 350 excursions costing taxpayers $16,449. We tried to quantify this number but Gail Hinkle, Township FOIA officer and wife of Ralph Hinkle, rejected our FOIA request and at least one other citizen as an “undue burden”: Andrzejewski FOIA , Lappe FOIA. Supervisor Heidorn rejected a third citizen FOIA requesting the same: Citizen FOIA .
Note: What is Heidorn hiding? The FOIA denials go to a time period where Chris Heidorn and Ralph Hinkle shared a credit card in Heidorn’s name. Heidorn approved and paid all credit purchases.
c. Fueling thousands in gas on credit without documentation, receipts or mileage logs: In a recent 12 month period, Ralph Hinkle racked up $1,691 in gas fill ups without travel documentation, receipts, or mileage logs. In fact, here’s the exact wording from Supervisor Heidorn, “In response to your request, please be advised that no documents exist which would be responsive to this request.”
The absence of vehicle logs, receipts and basic documentation, is problematic as Hinkle cannot prove or disprove that gas purchases were personal or for public purposes. In this twelve month period, Hinkle’s township gas purchases equate to approximately 7,500 miles ($3.8 per gallon, 17mpg). Purchased in 2002, the township van in Hinkle’s purview has only 23,900 miles.
Employed for eight years, Hinkle is on pace for nearly $13,500 in gas purchases for a driving potential of 76,500 miles ($3 per gallon, 17 mpg) - all without mileage logs, receipts and basic documentation. To specifically quantify the numbers, we need the credit card records. But, Gail Hinkle (wife of Ralph) and Chris Heidorn (boss of Ralph) - two people with a vested interest in maintaining record secrecy - rejected three FOIA requests as “an undue burden.”
II. USE OF TOWNSHIP CELL PHONE AND EMAIL:
a. Did Hinkle use a Milton Township Special Police cell phone for political purposes? Ralph Hinkle spent 2,395 minutes (40 hours) on his township cell phone in the 60 days ahead of the March 20, 2012 primary election. Review the billing records from February 2012 and March 2012.
Top Talker on Special Police plan: The phone company bills Ralph Hinkle’s township cell phone to the Milton Special Police Fund. During the primary election cycle (late January - late March, 2012), Hinkle’s the top talker on the police plan: 2,398/5,911 (41%) total minutes. On a usage basis, Hinkle’s minutes would cost taxpayers $527.56 at the billed average rate of $0.22 per minute.
Were township assets converted into political work? During the ramp up to the March 2012 primary election, records indicate a minimum of 137 potentially political phone calls. What taxpayer business did Ralph Hinkle conduct with these calls to local partisan political figures: Republican state representative candidate Jeannie Ives (48), Milton Township Republican Central Committee Chairman Lori Carlson (22), Milton Township Republican Central Committee Treasurer, Chris Levan (30), and political activist John Monino (37). See color coded February, March phone bills.
Calls to candidate Ives begin when political signs can be placed. In the months preceding, November - December, 2011, Hinkle never called Ives. See records here.
Multi-election cycle pattern: February 2011: Jeanne Ives is a Wheaton City Council candidate. By email, a constituent complains that an Ives sign is misplaced on private property. Ives responds by saying that Ralph Hinkle handles her campaign signs. Read the email exchange; then, review the township phone bill that chronicles the flurry of cell phone calls between Hinkle and Ives.
b. Did Ralph Hinkle use township email for political purposes? On February 8th, Milton Township Republican Chairman Lori Carlson publically thanked Ralph Hinkle and John Monino for finding a location for Republican Party headquarters, click here. Were government assets used to coordinate that search? Follow the emails from Hinkle’s township account. Follow Hinkle’s 37 phone calls with John Monino.
Last November, at the start of the election cycle, one of Hinkle’s employees, Naresh Nair looked to Ralph Hinkle for political advice in running for a local Republican Party precinct committeeman position. Review a set of five township emails here.
LIABILITY FOR TOWNSHIP AND TAXPAYERS:
a. Without legal opinion or board approval, Ralph Hinkle used a surveillance company to quote the cost “…to record audio at the assessor’s desk”. On February 3, 2012, Metro Protection LLC in Naperville “was honored to provide a quote” to Ralph Hinkle, “to record activities at four (4) locations and to record audio at the assessor’s desk.” The quoted cost of surveillance equipment was $2,436. Review Metro quote here.
The no-bid, non-transparent process to implement video/audio surveillance was so sloppy that the hand-picked vendor initially quoted “audio surveillance of the assessor’s desk” - unbeknownst to the assessor! Review entire email chain, here. Review assessor’s email to Heidorn.
In a June 23rd email, Supervisor Chris Heidorn took full responsibility. “Before we even undertook the preliminaries for the renovations I was looking into video surveillance. With my approval, Ralph sought out the best price he could ….” See full email here.
Did Heidorn and Hinkle ever request a legal opinion regarding township audio and video surveillance? No. Read FOIA response here. Did Heidorn and Hinkle get township board approval? No. First mention of surveillance in township board minutes is on May 15th, 2012, here.
The lack of transparency and rush to implement surveillance has potentially created liability for township taxpayers…
Were citizens being recorded without proper notice? To legally record conversations, Illinois law requires that all parties consent to the recording.
On April 27th, I picked up my FOIA request from township offices. Unbeknownst to me, my conversations were video and audio recorded. On May 4th, I returned to photograph the complete lack of notice or posting. See pictures front door, front desk, and interior door left and interior door right.
For how many weeks did the township’s secret surveillance continue?
c. Did township van drivers under Director Ralph Hinkle drink and drive in the township vehicle?
Allegations of drinking and driving; the van left overnight in compromised position with keys under the floor mat and the windows down all night; and Ralph Hinkle leaves matter to an underling “to handle.”
Here’s what we know:
From Hinkle’s own email to township employee Dave Garber: “It never ends. If they were together and did this I’m kinda very concerned. I will leave it to you to handle… we might need to rethink our drivers? Perhaps they should refrain from any alcohol before during and after for CERT (events) when driving. They were both drinking last night following class.” (emphasis added)
Read Dave Garber “Boys Boys” email to township van drivers: “If it is I believe like I said last night, let’s leave the (expletive) van where it’s at and take our vehicles.”
The emails point out extreme flaws in governance: a lax alcohol policy regarding the township vehicle and events; an admission of a reoccurring alcohol-driving problem with township vehicles; an allegation of a recent, specific instance against township van drivers for drinking and driving.
Who was held accountable? What’s the township risk-insurance carrier going to say about this email chain?
We are not aware that Hinkle-Heidorn changed the township alcohol policy at events. Township Board meeting minutes give no indication that the Township Board was ever notified of reoccurring potential liability or this specific incident.
SUMMARY: What’s The Matter With Milton Township? Plenty.
Here are three more examples: a. Hinkle suggested steering a no-bid contract across fiscal years; b. engaged in nepotism/cronyism - hired his brother and brother’s friend for township work; c. couldn’t comply with mandated federal guidelines to receive Homeland Security grant on time.
How could Supervisor Chris Heidorn have missed so much?
Or could it be that Milton Township is functioning exactly the way Heidorn designed it to function?
In our next post, What’s The Matter With Milton Township III? We’ll explore the architect of Milton Township -- Supervisor Chris Heidorn.