Ford-Iroquois health department under state scrutiny

PAXTON — The Illinois attorney general's office is looking into various financial transactions of the embattled Ford-Iroquois Public Health Department, officials said this week.

Ford County State's Attorney Matt Fitton and Iroquois County State's Attorney Jim Devine met with a representative of the attorney general's office on April 4, Fitton confirmed Tuesday. Also present was Iroquois County Chairman Rod Copas.

Fitton said the meeting, held in Iroquois County, consisted of a discussion about information — mostly related to financial transactions of the health department — that had previously been reviewed by a forensic accounting firm hired by Iroquois County.

"We presented the information we had, discussed the case, and they took the reports and asked some questions," Fitton said.

Fitton said that "the issue is going to be, at some point, whether the AG's office is seeing anything there that they're interested in." Fitton said the attorney general's office did not "make any commitment one way or another" regarding potential further action.

"They said they would look at the information and let us know," Fitton said, adding, "they didn't give us a timetable to let us know."

Fitton said most of the questions asked by the representative of the attorney general's office were directed to Copas, since Copas was the one who asked for a forensic audit of certain expenses he had questioned.

When reached by phone Tuesday morning, Copas had little to say about what was asked or discussed.

"It was a discussion," Copas said. "That's really all I've got to say at this time."

Devine, meanwhile, did not immediately return a message requesting comment Tuesday.

Devine confirmed in late March that he had been "given information to review for further action."

Earlier in March, 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 assisting Iroquois County in its investigation into the health department's activities.

Copas raised a variety of concerns about the Ford-Iroquois Public Health Department earlier this year, including the possible violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act and other statutes. He also publicly questioned various expenses of the health department, which have since been reviewed by Iroquois County's auditor.

Among those expenses is a $130,000 contract awarded to a company owned by the husband of the health department's spokesman and Freedom of Information Act officer, Julie Clark.

The health department has contended that expenses raised into question were justified and legal.

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