Networking comes at a high cost to taxpayers

December 6, 2017

An investigation by the Illinois News Network found the three metro communities of Kankakee, Bradley and Bourbonnais spent more than $26,000 for hotels and food at a Chicago conference.

Documents showed Bourbonnais taxpayers were hit for $10,814; Kankakee, $9,933; and Bradley, $6,074 at the Illinois Municipal League’s Sept. 21-23 annual conference. All three municipalities are members of the IML.

Kankakee officials spent more than 70 percent of its $14,000 budget surplus for Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong, city clerk Anjanita Dumas and eight council members to attend the conference.

The Kankakee delegation stayed at the Hilton Chicago, where they spent $5,964 on hotel rooms.

“This administration is mindful of taxpayer funds,” Wells-Armstrong told the INN. “Education is valuable. Networking is valuable. New council members need to become acclimated to municipal government, its structure and functions.”

The conference included presentations on topics such as finance issues, grant writing, maximizing tax revenue, budgeting, police issues and many other subjects.

The Thursday, Friday and Saturday conference cost $310 in registration cost per attendee.

For Bourbonnais, Mayor Paul Schore and eight others attended. They also stayed at the Hilton Chicago at a cost of $8,294. Other money went toward food.

Schore said this is the only statewide municipal conference and the education sessions and networking, which takes place is invaluable.

“We don’t get to pick what they charge us for rooms. But as elected leaders we have to do what we can to stay up on all the issues. Things change in state on almost a daily basis,” he said. “What we can get accomplished during these three days, would take us months to set up.”

Schore said he also would also like to see the cost be less. “But if you don’t go, how do you keep up with all of this. I’m happy we have people willing to go and learn.”

Bradley responded to the INN request for information with 81 pages of receipts, barely legible handwritten notes and duplicate invoices. Neither Schore nor Bradley Mayor Bruce Adams commented in the story.

“This is exactly, exactly why people are so upset,” said Adam Andrzejewski, CEO of Openthebooks.com, Herscher native and former Illinois governor candidate.

“Tens of thousands of dollars, whether it’s in Kankakee or Quincy, are being used to train these mayors and managers on how to convince taxpayers to spend more money on larger budgets, bigger perquisite, larger pension benefits for as far as the eye can see.”