Missing shelves a 'legacy' of Palazzolo time at health district

CHAMPAIGN – Industrial shelves, missing from a previous administration, are bedeviling the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.

Davis Electric is willing to pay for the shelves, which it acquired almost two years ago while doing electrical work at the district's new Kenyon Drive headquarters. While there's a dispute over the price for the shelves, the district isn't alleging the contractor stole them.

The exact procedures under which the shelves were offered for sale to Davis remain elusive, since it happened during the reign of deposed executive director Vito Palazzolo, and the board was never told by Palazzolo about the issue.

Board Chair Carol Elliott called a special meeting Wednesday to address the shelves issue, as well as some budget matters.

The meeting nearly didn't take place. The board has three members, and only Elliott showed up at 9:30 a.m. The other board members, C. Pius Weibel and Linda Abernathy, were both out sick.

To create a quorum of two, Weibel left his sickbed and was chauffeured to the meeting almost an hour later.

Wearing a mask to prevent the spread of germs, Weibel declared the confusion "the legacy of Vito's ghost." Palazzolo was removed from office a year ago after questions of financial impropriety arose.

"This isn't the only time he took action without the necessary board approval," Elliott said.

According to the district's interim administrator, Julie Pryde, Palazzolo told her about the shelves being taken from the district headquarters in January 2007. He reported the shelves as stolen, she said.

Palazzolo could not be reached for comment. He no longer lives in the area.

But Scott Davis of Davis Electric and Paul Tatman, who was the general contractor on the headquarters project, said Palazzolo was selling them the shelves, left over from a previous occupant.

Davis' attorney, Jim Green of Champaign, said there was an agreement for a sale, pending board approval.

"Nothing was stolen. What was left open was the amount," he said, with about $3,000 being discussed. But Palazzolo apparently never told the board that before he left office.

In March, the district sent Davis an invoice for $16,000, its estimate of the shelves' worth. The board and the contractor have been discussing the issue ever since, though Wednesday was the first time Davis and his lawyer came to a board meeting.

Green characterized the problem as a lack of communication.

"My client's trying to do the right thing," he said.

But Elliott noted that the issue has taken months to resolve.

"We value the shelves much higher than" Davis and Tatman do, she said.

No meeting date has yet been scheduled for the next discussion.

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