MARCH 22, 2013 ISSUE 2, VOLUME 1
Spend any amount of time with Pat-rick Sellers and it becomes very clear,very quickly that the candidate for Town-ship Supervisor has one thing on hismind:REFORM
The Independent candidate is runningagainst incumbent Freeport TownshipSupervisor Sheila Hooper in a Tuesday,April 9
Consolidated Municipal elec-tion. The election will determine wheth-er long
sought after reform and changewill occur in the office over the next four years.
Sellers says he believes that the key tomoving the Freeport Township govern-ment forward is regaining the trust of Freeport taxpayers.
“Trust is everything,” says Sellers, afamily resource coordinator with Free- port School District #145. “For any localgovernment to be effective it has to havethe trust of those that pay the bills—thetaxpayers. We owe it to our taxpayersand to our community to provide themwith the best township government wecan. That starts with trust.”
Sellers this week proposed a series of reforms that he says will create a newlevel of transparency within the belea-guered township government. The town-ship office has been beset with a series of ethics issues over the past two years— including pay advances for staff andHooper herself, nepotism, and violationsof the Open Meetings Act.
In 2011 it was discovered that Hooper had given herself an additional $2,300 insalary for the year and illegally voted toincrease her own salary for 2013. It wasalso discovered that Hooper had beengiving herself pay advances all the way back to 2007.The township pay advance scandal,unfortunately, did not stop at just Hoop-er. Several township employees alsoreceived pay advances on request. Oneemployee received a full three months of pay in advance of working the requiredhours.
Hooper’s activities led to the sponsor-ship of Senate Bill 3324 by State Senator Tim Bivins and State Representative JimSacia. This bill will prohibit townshipofficials from receiving pay advances.
In addition, Sellers would like thefinancial records of the Township to beavailable to the public. He also says theTownship must begin to produce amonthly expenditure report. Currently,the township provides no such records tothe public.
To ensure that tax dollars are beingspent wisely and ethically, Sellers is call-ing for a full and complete audit of all theTownship’s financial records.
“There seems to be a lot of questionsregarding the paying of employees andother activities involving Hooper’s fami-ly members,” says Sellers. “I think a fullaudit of the township’s records mighthelp us find some of the answers to thesequestions, but more importantly an exten-sive audit will help us tighten up our practices.”
Sellers also advocates for strict adher-ence to the Freedom of Information Act(FOI). During a recent investigation of the Township’s payroll advance scandalmany criticized Hooper’s slow, and attimes unwilling, response to produce per-tinent documents upon request from the public.According to those investigating the pay advance scandal, it took more than12 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)requests to Hooper to obtain informationregarding employees’ salaries. Evenmore troubling was the fact that severalFOIA requests were unable to be ful-filled. Some documents had been de-stroyed by the township office in viola-tion of the public records act.
“There is a reason why we have goodgovernment laws like the Open MeetingsAct and the Freedom of InformationAct,” contends Sellers. “It’s so the pub-lic has a way to keep its government andits elected officials accountable.”
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a matter of
How Patrick Sellers’ planto improve transparencywill help regain thepublic’s trust in Townshipgovernment.