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County sues Halpin for return of allegedly "misappropriated" funds

Suit claims in excess of $40,000 improperly paid while Halpin was board chairman

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013 4:00 p.m. CST
Caption
(Herald File Photo)
Frank Halpin gives a speech during the 98th annual meeting of the Grundy County Farm Bureau earlier this year. On Tuesday, Halpin was named in a lawsuit filed by Grundy County in which is seeks to recoup money it alleges Halpin misappropriated while he was chairman of the Grundy County Board.

Grundy County has filed a lawsuit against Grundy County Board member Frank Halpin.

In March, the county board voted to launch an investigation through the Kendall County State's Attorney's office into whether the county should sue Halpin. The suit was filed late Tuesday in the Grundy County Circuit Clerk's office.

"Right now, we are in the very beginning stages of a civil case," said Nemura Pencyla, special assistant state's attorney for Kendall County.

The Kendall office had to handle the suit because the Grundy County State's Attorney's office represents the county board and all of its members and, therefore, cannot file suit for the county.

Halpin, on Wednesday, referred questions to his attorney, Mark Rigazio, who did not return a call by press time.

This lawsuit follows allegations first raised by current Board Vice Chairman David Welter more than two years ago. At that time, Welter – based on an investigation he did prior to his first being elected to the board – accused Halpin of receiving reimbursements for meetings he either did not attend or that never really took place.

Also in March, it was decided no criminal action could be taken against Halpin.

Appellate Prosecutor Charles Colburn, who had been appointed to investigate any criminal acts by Halpin, wrote to Judge Robert Marsaglia that there were no criminal charges discovered.

"As I previously verbally indicated to your Honor, following a long and intensive investigation by the agency and assisted by the Illinois State Police, we have determined that no prosecutable criminal activity has been discovered," states the letter.

The letter continues that it has also been determined that at least one board member has received funds in excess of what should have been received.

"However," the letter states, "it has also been determined that through errors and omissions at least one and perhaps more county board members have received funds in excess of those that should have been received. These funds are in excess of $5,000 and may be subject to collection."

THE CIVIL SUIT

The county is now suing Halpin for all money he allegedly misappropriated from the county, not less than $40,000, and the recoupment of all wages and benefits that Halpin received during his breach of duties from 2008 to 2013, at least $200,000.

According to the complaint filed against Halpin, he was elected to the board in 1994 and has continued to retain his seat. Halpin is a resident of Gardner and represents District 3.

He was chairman of the board from December 2006 to December 2010. As chairman, Halpin received an annual salary in addition to salary collected as a board member, as well as benefits, per diem per meeting, and mileage.

The lawsuit accuses Halpin of double-billing for meetings and mileage, turning in invoices for meetings that were never held, and for meetings he never attended.

"During the course of the county's initial investigation and upon review of defendant's invoices and meeting minutes and sign-in sheets, the county discovered that defendant misappropriated at least $40,000 from the county as direct and proximate result of defendant's false entries in the invoices," states the lawsuit.

The investigation has continued and, on Aug. 2, the county requested Halpin's cooperation through his attorney demanding accounting from him of all money and other property Halpin allegedly misappropriated. The complaint states that, as of its filing on Tuesday, Halpin has not complied.

The lawsuit states Halpin "breached his duties of care, loyalty and good faith to the county and its taxpayers for his personal financial gain."

A court date has not yet been set for this suit.

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