WATSEKA — The Iroquois County state's attorney has launched an investigation into various actions of the Ford-Iroquois Public Health Department, officials confirmed Monday after the county board approved the removal of three board of health members.
Iroquois County State's Attorney Jim Devine confirmed Monday afternoon that he has been "given information to review for further action." He would neither confirm nor deny a criminal investigation.
Earlier Monday, Iroquois County Board Chairman Rod Copas said in a news release that "the appropriate authorities" are reviewing "all information received so far regarding concerns" of the health department.
The news release was posted at the website of the Edgar County Watchdogs, a nonprofit group that has been assisting Iroquois County in an investigation into the health department's activities.
"This matter is now out of our purview, except that all incoming information will be passed along, as well. It is important to let the professionals do their job and we as citizens will await the outcome," Copas said.
Copas has raised questions about the health department, including possible violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act and other state laws and neglecting to notify the Ford and Iroquois county boards of various actions taken.
Copas has also raised questions about expenses of the health department, which are being reviewed by the county's auditor. Among those is a $130,000 contract awarded to a company owned by Stanley Clark, who is married to Julie Clark, the health department's spokeswoman and Freedom of Information Act officer. Copas claims the law was not followed when the company was awarded a bid in 2011 to install solar panels on the health department's offices in Paxton and Watseka.
The health department says the expenses were justified and done legally.
Meanwhile, the Iroquois County Board met in executive session for almost an hour Monday morning before voting 13-2 with three abstentions to approve the removal of board of health members Diane Clatterbuck, a registered nurse from Donovan; Jill Kaeb, a registered nurse from Cissna Park; and Dr. Alexander Michalow, a Bradley resident who has an orthopedic practice at Iroquois Memorial Hospital in Watseka.
The county board then voted 13-0 with five abstentions to approve the appointment of Lauren Luecke, a registered nurse from Gilman, and Michelle Fairley, a mental-health professional from Watseka, to fill two of the vacated positions on the board of health.
Copas said after the meeting that he is seeking a physician to fill the third seat.
Copas, who appointed himself to the health board in December, said he will continue to serve on the board "for the foreseeable future."
Later Monday, the board of health's quarterly meeting was postponed because not one of Iroquois County's appointees was present, meaning there was no quorum. All four of Ford County's appointees were there.
Another reason for the postponement was that the agenda was not posted at the place the meeting was to be held at least 48 hours in advance.
A member of the Edgar County Watchdogs who was in attendance pointed out both issues.
Copas said he was not at the meeting because "we still have some ongoing things we're trying to sort out.
"I was unable to get those issues resolved first," Copas said, declining to elaborate.
The board of health rescheduled the meeting for 6:30 p.m. April 2, at the Gilman-Danforth District Library.