JOHNSBURG – A news release issued Friday was “malicious” and a “misuse of village media,” a Johnsburg trustee said.
The release, which said accusations leveled by a Johnsburg village president candidate were retaliation against the village for a pending lawsuit, was authorized by the incumbent village president in the interest of transparency, Village President Ed Hettermann said.
Trustee Ron Zanko questioned the timing of the release – less than a month before the April municipal election.
“It doesn’t look right, it doesn’t smell right, and it doesn’t sit right,” he said.
Hettermann said the release had nothing to do with the election or Maggie Haney’s candidacy.
Haney and her husband, Frank, have been in a legal battle with the village of Johnsburg for years over a piece of property that both the Haneys and the village claim they own, according to court documents.
The suit, filed by the Haneys in October 2010, was tossed out by McHenry County Judge Michael Caldwell in August. Caldwell also denied the village’s request that the Haneys be required to pay the village’s legal costs, which are more than $14,000. An appeal filed by the village is pending.
The ongoing case is the reason, according to the news release issued Friday, that Maggie Haney “fabricated more allegations against the village by implying that there were missing checks and questionable financial practices.”
At a Village Board meeting Thursday, Haney – who is the president of Haney Construction, which primarily works in remodeling – walked the board through her discovery that the village paid taxes on the disputed property.
The taxes, she added, were paid before the board had approved the disbursement. This led her to wonder if this was a common occurrence or a one-time event, she said.
Her review of village financial statements led to concerns about missing checks, late fees and checks being issued without board approval, she said.
“I believe the president, the village administrator, the village attorney, Trustee [Mary Lou] Hutchinson, who is head of the finance committee, and the accountant are all involved in being inept or a coverup,” Haney said.
Haney never asked village employees about the alleged discrepancies, Village Administrator Claudett Peters said, and the village’s accountant, Laurie Cwerenz, said the “missing checks” were payroll and pension checks.
“Every one of those questions that you had you could have addressed to the administrative person at the village or she could have given them to me,” Cwerenz said. “You chose instead to grandstand at this meeting.”
Haney’s Freedom of Information Act request asking for the financial documents had asked that payroll not be included.
Zanko wants all of Haney’s allegations to be looked at, he said, adding that he was particularly concerned about some of the late fees.
A Waste Management invoice, which Haney presented to the board as an example, shows that the village incurred a late fee of $403.68.
“We will look into all of your accusations, Mrs. Haney,” Hettermann told Haney after her comments.
“Excuse me, they are not accusations,” she said. “They’re facts.”