Document shows Zeigler employee altered bank statements - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Document shows Zeigler employee altered bank statements

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ZEIGLER -- A new document obtained as part of an ongoing FBI investigation into City of Zeigler finances could reveal how money turned up missing from city accounts.

It also outlines potential mismanagement by city leaders.

The FBI raided City Hall and city treasurer Ryan Thorpe's house last month and placed Thorpe on unpaid administrative leave.

Now, a new 22-page report from City Attorney Rebecca Whittington outlines an internal review, which shows city checks made out to an employee, and not to approved vendors. 

The report, presented at a heated city council meeting Tuesday night, says bank statements received as part of the review showed images of original checks made out to a city employee, but bank statements maintained by the city showed altered copies of the checks showing an approved vendor's name.

So far no one faces arrest or criminal charges, but the FBI has an active investigation underway.

The city attorney's report outlines a system of checks and balances and suggestions to make sure that the city's finances get more oversight and become more transparent.

"I think if we put things back in place as they should be in a commission form of government, that the checks and balances will automatically be restored," Whittington said.

Those suggestions include making sure the city clerk's office reviews and scans financial statements, before they go to the treasurer, and requiring a council vote on any expenditures.

News 3 has filed Freedom of Information Act requests for the city's financial records, but the city clerk says the FBI took possession of it's paper documents during its raid on city hall.

Those familiar with the situation, claim between 300,000 and 350,000 has turned up missing from city accounts.

Tuesday night's meeting brought out taxpayers angry at commissioners over the missing money.

It also brought up other issues, including the city's occasional use of gift cards, rather than paychecks, to compensate temporary employees, something multiple commissioners admitted to authorizing in the past. 

"There needs to be an equal balance of power and when that is disrupted it creates the opportunity for things to take place that would ordinarily be checked, so I just want the checks and balances to be restored," Whittington said.

City Attorney Whittington calls the use of gift cards as compensation illegal, and something that could result in audits and sanctions.

The city will receive an auditor's report for the last year and a half on Friday, and will hold a meeting Tuesday for "an employee disciplinary hearing" based on that report.

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