Fired Cunningham Township employee calls for new assessor to resign

Fired Cunningham Township employee calls for new assessor to resign

URBANA — A former Cunningham Township employee called for the resignation of new township Assessor Wayne Williams, who fired her and another employee and hired an ex-county official facing felony charges of official misconduct.

That man, Joe Meents, will be leaving his new position Jan. 31. Williams announced the termination last week, saying it was a response to concerns from Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin, Township Supervisor Danielle Chynoweth, the township board and his constituents.

Jamie Willard and Kim Hooper, longtime township employees, were fired on the same day Meents was hired. Willard spoke to the township board Monday night, during a packed meeting, and said Meents was hired because he is friends with Williams.

"He has been proven to be untrustworthy," Willard said about Williams. "He's had contact with Miss Hooper and I, and he gave us reassurance that he would keep his current staff. He was asking what we thought of office hours and if there were any changes we wanted to make."

Williams, a Democrat, was elected assessor after running unopposed last spring. He assumed office Jan. 1, under state law provisions.

Meents came under fire when he was working as Champaign County's supervisor of assessments and allegedly used a county credit card to make more than $1,000 in personal purchases.

Once the purchases became known, Meents repaid the county and resigned that position a year ago. Then, in October, a special prosecutor charged Meents with eight felony counts of official misconduct. His next scheduled court date is Feb. 6.

When Williams hired Meents, he said, "I believe that people deserve second chances when they've made mistakes. I've had the pleasure of working with Joe before."

When asked why Meents wouldn't be terminated until the end of the month, Williams said, "there's work to do."

Willard said Williams has a record of subverting local services and businesses. She said he was offered the use of a local human-resources representative for this situation but went with someone from Belleville "that was later found to be one of his Facebook friends."

"Mr. Williams also decided to change our health insurance company ... from a local brokerage to one in Harvey," Willard said. "I don't think that was a random draw, I think that was a friend, too."

In response to Willard's comments, Williams told The News-Gazette, "I only have the best interests of Cunningham Township taxpayers in mind."

Willard noted that the township board may not have the authority to request Williams' resignation and Alderman Eric Jakobsson agreed, saying it has "limited authority."

"I do want to express my regret for how this played out," Jakobsson said to Willard. "I thank you for your service."

Tears welled up in Willard's eyes during her response.

"I loved my job. I worked very hard for my job," Willard said while looking at Williams. "I was there for almost 10 years, and someone came in and in 10 minutes, it was gone."

Claudia Lennhoff, executive director of Champaign County Health Care Consumers, said this staffing shake-up shouldn't prompt city officials to dissolve Cunningham Township.

"Our township provides very valuable services to citizens that would otherwise fall through the cracks," Lennhoff said. "A township serves a vital local purpose and isn't redundant."

James Kilgore, co-director of the FirstFollowers re-entry program, agreed with Lennhoff, calling the township "invaluable as a resource for FirstFollowers."

"It's absurd to think the city council can simply absorb the township," Kilgore said.

The search for Meents' replacement will start as soon as possible, Williams said.

"It will be an open application online," Williams told The News-Gazette. "Anyone is open to apply."

Hooper has said it's unlikely that she'll reapply for her old job, noting how Williams had Urbana police present while giving her and Willard their notices of termination.

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GLG wrote on January 09, 2018 at 8:01 am

Like Mayor Richie Daley from Chicago once said, "If you can't help your friends who can you help?"  Nice touch bringing  convicted murderer James Kilgore into the mess!  Williams, Meents, and Kilgore should all be in jail! Way to go Urbana Township Voters, You voted for this , Enjoy it!  This is Illinois Democrats at their best!

rsp wrote on January 09, 2018 at 10:01 am

So what exactly do you call it when there's only one Republican on the ballot? He was the only one on the ballot. It doesn't matter which party he belonged to. Just because he said he was a Democrat doesn't mean he was.

The only thing we know is he's showing us his integrity. Or lack of it. People really need to get over the finger-pointing about parties. Start talking about substance.

But seriously wrote on January 09, 2018 at 11:01 am

I'm curious why Meents gets nearly a month's notice that his employment will be terminated whereas Hooper and Willard were not provided the same courtesy. Meents should be out the door with no notice as well.

aantulov wrote on January 09, 2018 at 11:01 am

Out the door just shy of a pension, without training replacements to hire ...un vetted friends... remind you of anybody?  

Well the Greens, Democrates and Republicans dropped the ball.  

Success is just showing in a suit apparently in politics today.

The good news is, if he manages not to destroy the township, there will be many running when he's canned, or up for reelection.

The lie that makes better goverment happen.



rsp wrote on January 09, 2018 at 2:01 pm

The good news is, if he manages not to destroy the township, there will be many running when he's canned, or up for reelection.

The bad news is there's a good chance nobody will run against him, provided he isn't up on charges. Too many cases where only one person is listed on the ballot, or the voters just vote for the one who has experience, and guess who will have experience next time? Unless he's forced out.

787 wrote on January 09, 2018 at 5:01 pm

Unless you've not happened to notice, Urbana is a hostile place for any Republican to run for office.  So, it doesn't happen too often anymore.

Urbana and Cunningham Township gets what they deserve here. Too bad that two women have lost their jobs in this mess.    However, Mr, Williams ran and won as a Democrat.  All of that can't be changed.

And again, I'm still asking why Wayne's good buddy Joe gets 30 days notice, but the two ladies got zero notice and the cops called on them.   That's a sleezy move.

GLG wrote on January 09, 2018 at 2:01 pm

The next time a lone republican does something stupid  like this I will be the first one on here calling them out!  Just wait untill Williams is removed from his office and he pulls out the ole you know what card and watch the real circus begin!

rsp wrote on January 09, 2018 at 2:01 pm

You have more race cards than anyone I know.

Bystander wrote on January 09, 2018 at 2:01 pm
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After all this who in their right mind would want to work for Wayne Williams?

gingergirl wrote on January 09, 2018 at 3:01 pm

I have something to say....first, I don't really feel for the dimissed employees. Second, I'm hearing the comments about how good the township is for our community. Thirdley, its just unfortunate that this time the shoe was on the other foot. I was fired from my job a couple of months ago. I go to township to try and get assistance. Went through hell and high water getting them everything that was asked of me. Got the letter denying me assistance; reason was because I owned 2 vehicles. Since when do you have to apologize for being blessed. I worked my butt of for what I have but, just like those employees, my job was snatched right out from under me. I'm a taxpayer; I fell into a real bad time. I lost my place of residence because of these bobbleheads! But now its and issue because its you? Should do some reflecting because no one is any better than anyone with it!!!

Mef wrote on January 14, 2018 at 8:01 am

Where is there incoherant ramblings did you ever say anything that could be considered a rational thought? Everyone in the room is now dumber for having to read it.

Seriously though, I have read this comment multiple times, trying to figure out what the hell you are talking about, what your point is, anything that would make me understand what you were trying to convey to all of us. You didn't expand on anything, but rather went off on completely different tangents without explaining anything. Sorry you lost your job, but do not equate your loss of employment for whatever reason it was lost, to these women losing their jobs. Two different circumstances, two situations I don't wish on anyone.

You were told by the powers that be that you could not get your job back because you have two cars? What? That's not a reason. There's more you aren't telling us.

Slow yourself down, read your comments outloud, and explain your ramblings. If you aren't at least going to do that, maybe at least comment on the news of this story and contribute to that.