NEWS

Investigation into county clerk's office continues

Robert Blackford/Editor

The Illinois State Police is still conducting an investigation of the County Clerk's office in Mercer County. It started in January, according to Mercer County Sheriff Tom Thompson. Thompson said the investigation started out as a personnel matter. "We were looking into a couple of things involving a county employee. When there were indications that it could go to a criminal matter we turned it over to the (Illinois) state police. No charges have been filed. Technically it is still a personnel matter."

The accounting firm of McGladrey and Pullen are conducting phase one of a forensic audit of the county clerk's offices which Thompson says is directly linked to the personnel matter. The investigation and the audit are both the result of the personnel matter. "The information the auditors turn up may aid the investigation."

The results of the phase one audit may be completed by the time of the next Mercer County Board meeting March 3. Information from that audit could lead to additional phases.

A portion of the county clerk's office which was assigned a multitude of duties for the county including collecting dog licensing fees, accounts payable, accounts receivable and payroll is closed and has been since Jan. 22. A sign on the door said "closed until further notice." Mercer County Board Chairman Tom Harris said fees for the animal control office are being collected at the Animal Control facility. Other duties have been reassigned to different individuals in the courthouse.

Shortly after the investigation started on Jan. 22, 2009, Mercer County Clerk Tom Hanson commited suicide.

Mercer County States Attorney Greg McHugh issued a statement shortly afterward saying, "There is no criminal investigation of recently departed County Clerk Tom Hanson." 

A new county clerk, Phyllis Bewley, was appointed by the Mercer County Board Feb. 10 to fill the remainder of Hanson's term which expires in 2010.