Nearly half a million dollars spent by DuPage Township on community groups over the past five years has not only piqued the interest of a government watchdog group, but has led to allegations of racial discrimination for favoritism of one group over another.
On July 18, the Edgar County Watchdogs (ECW) published line item expenditures by DuPage Township from April 2013 to July 2018 on its website, Illinois Leaks. Amounts spent range from a few hundred dollars to $20,000 for athletic teams, advocacy and community groups.
“These are your tax dollars being given away to apparently whomever asks for it,” wrote John Kraft, one of the founders of ECW.
As a follow-up, the group has requested copies of the cooperative agreements or contracts with those receiving the funds.
“A key qualifier in (the law) is this statement as it applies to spending,” Kraft wrote. “It can only be used for (1) Ordinary and necessary maintenance and operating expenses for the following, then lists several services the township can provide, directly or through other entities. The Township has taken the position that donations to groups like the post-prom, wrestling, volleyball, baseball, etc., is allowed as long as they do it directly with them. That is not consistent with the constitutional intent nor legislative intent, nor Attorney General Opinion.”
One of the beneficiaries, the Bolingbrook Premier League, a cricket league, has received nearly $20,000, according to the expenditures listed by ECW.
Another group, the Bolingbrook Buccaneers, a youth football team of largely African-American players, received $1,000 earlier this year, but not before being shut out for over a year, according to Duane Bell, the president of the team and a coach.
“We had to reach out to the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) to see what our next steps might be,” he said.
Trustee Alyssia Benford told the Will County Gazette that in March she approached the township’s legal counsel about the matter.
“The Buccaneers contacted the NAACP to file a complaint of discrimination," Benford said. "I heard about it and reached out to the president of the team to address the matter personally."
Besides the fight over the Buccaneers, Benford, a certified public accountant (CPA) who is running as a Republican for state representative in the 98th House District, has been battling Supervisor William Mayer for months over discrepancies she has discovered in the township’s budget. Among other things, she found a $300,000 under-reporting of revenue error on the supervisor’s annual report filed in April and questionable expenditures from the “Home Relief Account” in the General Assistance Fund, including checks to the Cricket Club.
“At the very least, we need some system of internal controls and to have procedures in writing that have to be followed,” she said.
Benford’s CPA firm, Benford Brown & Associates LLC, has done accounting work for some of the groups that have received money from the township, but she “always abstains” from votes involving those groups to avoid "even the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
Mayer did not respond to a request for comment.