Frugal Elgin mayor, council keeping expenses down
By Mike Danahey firstname.lastname@example.org May 24, 2012 9:40PM
City council member Robert Gilliam at the city council meeting in Elgin, IL on Wednesday, Apr. 08, 2009 | Sun-Times Media~File Photo
Updated: July 3, 2012 9:31AM
ELGIN — The six council members along with Mayor Dave Kaptain are being frugal with taxpayer money when it comes to personal expenses, turning in only a combined $1,701.07 in receipts for the past 13½ months.
The Courier-News requested expense reports and backing documentation filed by Kaptain and council members Rich Dunne, Robert Gilliam, Anna Moeller, Tish Powell, John Prigge and John Steffen from April 1, 2011, through May 12, 2012.
According to documents received, during that time, Dunne submitted the necessary paperwork for expenses in the amount of $629.36; Powell, $302; Steffen, $269.73; Kaptain, $289.79; and Prigge, $210.19. Gilliam and Moeller submitted no reports.
Dunne’s biggest submitted expenditure was on May 2 this year for three hotel rooms in Springfield — one for himself, one for Powell, and another for public works Superintendent Colby Basham — with each room costing $123.19. The overnight lodging at the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel & Conference Center was during a trip to visit with Elgin’s lobbyist Dan Shomon, state legislators from the Elgin area, the governor’s office, and staff from various state agencies and departments, Dunne said.
The next biggest submitted expenditure was Steffen, spending $190.60 for round-trip economy-class airfare to Boston in mid-March of this year to attend a seminar on land banking and foreclosures at Harvard University.
Land banking is a practice where government bodies buy foreclosed or abandoned homes, with some of the homes repaired and resold and others torn down to sell the land to developers or homeowners with adjacent lots. It’s being used across the country in places including Flint, Mich., and Richmond, Calif.
Steffen said that more than two dozen representatives from various Illinois municipalities attended the seminar, with the tab picked up by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The foundation also wound up reimbursing Elgin for his airfare, Steffen said.
Freshman council member Powell’s largest submission was $50 for VIP admission to the Sept. 30 gospel music concert at the Hemmens Cultural Center. It was put on by the Elgin chapter of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition marking the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s 70th birthday, which Jackson attended. It also was a fundraiser to sponsor local high school students who qualify to visit historically black campuses in order to help them decide where to attend school.
Powell had submitted a $163.50 bill April 3 to repair a city-provided iPad. But on April 17, Powell notified the city that she received a $144 credit from Apple repair technicians iResQ as the repair costs turned out to be prohibitive, and books were adjusted accordingly.
The bulk of the receipts turned in were for meals that council members had with constituents, staff or other council members.
Dunne said while there is no formal policy for such dining, he turns in receipts for meetings of the sort where most of the conversation involves city business. An example would be on May 7, when he met Anthony Pedote to discuss the carnival Pedote was overseeing in downtown Elgin and spent $27.44 including tip at the Walnut Speakeasy, Dunne said.
The largest of the restaurant receipts was Prigge’s bill for $56.20 with tip on Nov. 29 for lunch with Elgin Police Department members Sean Rafferty, Russ Matson and Bill Wolf at Elgin Public House. And the smallest was Kaptain’s $1.44 bill for coffee with Fire Lt. Vince Rychtanek, who heads Elgin Association of Firefighters Union Local 439, at Paul’s Family Restaurant on Feb. 23.
Kaptain has a city-issued credit card for Elgin-related business and said it did bring laughs when he turned in paperwork for such a meager amount. That happened because he offered to pay for Rychtanek’s breakfast, but Rychtanek insisted on paying for his own meal, so Kaptain said he wound up paying for his own coffee.