Seven public officials in Illinois’ Metro East area were arrested Dec. 5 on corruption charges as part of a federal investigation. Included in the arrests are an East St. Louis councilwoman, two East St. Louis Township trustees and a St. Clair County Board of Review member. The charges include official misconduct, bribery, forgery and using public resources for personal gain. These corruption arrests show why Illinois residents desperately need government transparency and accountability.
June Hamilton Dean, an East St. Louis City Councilwoman, was among those charged Dec. 5. She was charged with the intent to defraud for making a false letter of employment for another person. She is also a financial consultant for the East St. Louis Township, where her brother was supervisor, and where she took in $33,000 in taxpayer-funded compensation.
In fact, these arrests come on the heels of a separate corruption case where East St. Louis Township Supervisor Oliver Hamilton pleaded guilty to wire fraud Dec. 1. Hamilton used the township credit card to pay for personal expenses, such as a personal trip to Las Vegas. He also used public funds to pay for building materials for his personal construction business. But not only did he hold the position of Township Supervisor, he also sat on the St. Clair County Board and East Side Health District. As part of his plea agreement, he was forced to resign from all his government positions and is barred from employment with any government entity in the future.
All of these instances of corruption show why Metro East residents urgently need government transparency. In fact, East St. Louis was audited in 2014 as part of the Local Government Transparency Project and, unsurprisingly, received a failing score for transparency. Government transparency is imperative in order for residents to hold their public officials accountable because transparency would make it more difficult for public officials to engage in theft and back door deals. This is why the Illinois Policy Institute supports legislation to encourage both transparency and accountability.
In light of all these arrests, East St. Louis taxpayers are the losers here. Taxpayers are stuck footing the bill for insider and back-door deals, theft and mismanagement of public funds. Moving forward, East St. Louis politicians need to take steps to ensure theft and corruption do not occur in the future, like making vital financial documents, taxpayer funded contracts and any public meetings accessible for the public to view online.