EDWARDSVILLE — A Madison County Board member Thursday called for a federal investigation of Treasurer Kurt Prenzler, who responded that his accusers are engaged in a political cover-up.
County Board member Kelly Tracy, a Democrat from Marine, held a press conference at the Madison County Courthouse and afterward released a statement. Prenzler responded with his own written statement Friday morning.
County Board member Kelly Tracy’s statement
During a press conference at the Madison County Courthouse today (Thursday), Madison County Board Member Kelly Tracy called for a follow-up investigation into Madison County Treasurer Kurt Prenzler’s repeated abuse of his office to financially benefit his political ally, Don Weber.
“Kurt Prenzler has repeatedly used the Treasurer’s Office as a tool to help out his political adviser Don Weber,” Tracy said. “With the recent announcement that Prenzler wants to divert payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money to his chief political adviser, Republican party boss Don Weber, I am calling on the attorney general and United States Department of Justice to investigate Prenzler and Weber on the grounds of collusion and other illegal activities,” Tracy said.
Tracy cited a February 2013 incident where Prenzler conducted an illegal, no-bid, no interest tax sale on property belonging to Don Weber. In a private sale in his office held prior to the official public sale on Feb. 19, 2013, Prenzler sold Weber’s taxes to a close personal friend of Weber at a zero percent interest rate.
“Because Weber failed to pay his taxes on the property, Prenzler should have sold the taxes at the public tax sale along with other delinquent properties. Instead, Prenzler held a private, non-competitive sale for a close friend of Weber, who, at the time, admitted that the sale was done to save Weber thousands of dollars in penalties and interest that other non-paying property owners were required to pay in the public auction,” Tracy said. “By hosting a private sale outside of normal business hours and without formal announcement, we believe Prenzler violated a tax sale reform law implemented in 2011 in response to Fred Bathon’s tax-rigging scheme.”
Prenzler’s use of his office to financially benefit Weber is on display again with the recent discussion of how to proceed in the class-action lawsuit against Madison County.
Last month, Prenzler announced he wants Madison County residents to pay $3.5 million of taxpayer money to settle a class-action lawsuit that includes current Treasurer Prenzler and former Treasurer Fred Bathon as defendants. What Prenzler is not telling the public is that more than $1 million in taxpayer dollars would then go to the attorneys who filed the case, including Don Weber as a lead counsel.
“Prenzler has already been advised not to make county taxpayers pay the settlement in the case, but his insistence on paying this money to Don Weber — coupled with his prior illegal tax sale just for Weber’s financial benefit — raises serious questions about Prenzler’s repeated abuse of his office for the benefit of his political adviser and contributor,” Tracy added. “Prenzler’s continued use of the Treasurer’s Office for the financial benefit of Don Weber indicates potential criminal activity. To restore integrity to the Treasurer’s Office, Kurt Prenzler’s activities for the direct financial benefit of Don Weber must be thoroughly investigated.”
Tracy said she has also submitted an Freedom of Information Act request to the Treasurer to provide all records of his public and private email and phone records of communication between Don Weber and all members of the Treasurer’s Office staff, including Kurt Prenzler.
“We are asking for these records to allow the public to see whether the treasurer or his staff are improperly colluding on Treasurer’s Office business and litigation with Don Weber, including Prenzler’s proposed class action settlement payments to Weber,” Tracy said.
Madison County Treasurer Kurt Prenzler said a County Board member’s press conference Thursday is yet another attempt to cover up political actions of one party and the lack of justice for taxpayers.
Prenzler said Democrat Kelly Tracy of Marine held a press conference calling for an investigation of him and in it stated he abused his office to financially benefit a chief political adviser.
“This is the second time in less than a year that Kelly Tracy has called for an investigation, and it’s purely political,” Prenzler said. “Once again, her accusations are false.”
He said the taxpayers who were cheated during the rigged tax sales held by Fred Bathon deserve restitution and Kelly wants to deflect the public’s attention from that issue.
“It’s been nearly 10 years for these victims to receive justice, and they are still waiting,” he said.
“I disagree with other county officials and believe the case will be decided in a court of law. Two courts ruled the class-action lawsuit filed against Madison County over the criminal tax sales have merit and will continue.”
Prenzler said that on Aug. 26 the Belleville News-Democrat published an editorial summing up what many taxpayers feel took place. The editorial stated: “Bathon and the three imprisoned tax buyers should pay, but remember that not all the criminals have been brought to justice. We believe some still maintain offices in the Madison County Administration Building and looked the other way as Bathon, for years, and in plain view, worked the system for his own gain … Maybe (State’s Attorney Tom) Gibbons will get his wish and there will be more criminals to share the burden of paying for the tax scheme. Maybe their offices will be really close to his.”
Prenzler said he believes Tracy, who essentially works for County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan, is part of the problem and not the solution. He said he’s done what he could to shine the light on activities in Madison County.
“I disagree with how the political machine is running our county,” he said. “Ms. Tracy’s true intent today is to take the focus off the machine’s decades-long one-party rule, cronyism and cover-up. Something has them rattled and they are on the attack.”