DuPage Township Trustee and Illinois 98th State House District candidate Alyssia Benford
Duane Bell, president of a youth football team in Bolingbrook, said that two DuPage Township Trustees mischaracterized his comments that appeared in a Will County Gazette story covering uneven township funding of local sports teams.
“Their saying that I called anyone a racist is totally inaccurate,” Bell told the Gazette.
In a joint statement published in the Bolingbrook Patch on July 27, Trustees Ken Burgess and Maripat Oliver said that “Duane Bell, president of a youth football league, the Bolingbrook Buccaneers, is quoted as saying the league reached out to the NAACP for advice because its leaders thought the league was being discriminated against because its members are predominantly African-American.”
Nowhere in the July 27 Gazette article did Bell use the words “discriminated against.” He did say that his organization approached the NAACP to look into steps the team might take when they believed that funding was being unfairly delayed.
“We had to do all kinds of things to even qualify for the money, things that I don’t believe others had to do,” Bell said. “Once we met those goals, Supervisor (William) Mayer said the funding period was cut off. But I saw other groups still getting money.”
Bell added that the Burgess/Oliver statement about his funding requests was also inaccurate.
“The $20,000 figure they said we requested had nothing to do with the $1,000 we received,” Bell said. “The figures are not related.”
Bell said that when he first approached the township last year for funding, he was not aware of the average funding request.
“I explained to Linda Youngs (assistant to Mayer), that I would accept any amount of financial assistance for the team," he said. "I also asked to be a part of the township’s youth football camp last year. I was repeatedly ignored. There was only one football team invited to participate in the summer football camp. It was a team that was affiliated with Supervisor Mayer and Trustee Burgess.”
DuPage Township has been mired in controversy over questionable expenditures, including the appropriation of funds from the “Home Relief Account” in its General Assistance Fund. One of the beneficiaries, the Bolingbrook Premier League, a cricket league, has received nearly $20,000 over the past five years, according to expenditures uncovered by the Edgar County Watchdogs (ECW). On July 18, ECW listed those expenditures and dozens of others on its website, Illinois Leaks.
“These are your tax dollars being given away to apparently whomever asks for it,” wrote John Kraft, one of the founders of ECW.
The Internal Revenue Service website does not list the cricket league as a 501c3, a non-profit designation. But Mayer told Bell that his group had to be organized as a 501c3 in order to be considered for funding, township meeting minutes from August 2017 show.
The township is in the middle of a forensic audit, requested by Trustee Alyssia Benford.
A certified public accountant who is running as a Republican for state representative in the 98th House District, Benford has been battling Mayer for months over discrepancies she discovered in the township’s budget. Besides the questionable General Assistance expenditures, she found a $300,000 under-reporting of a revenue error on the supervisor’s annual report filed in April.
It’s unclear when the audit will be complete.
For his part, Bell said that the football season has started and he is ready to move on.
“We don’t do politics well,” he said.