ROCK ISLAND, Illinois (KWQC) - A former Rock Island Alderman has recently come under fire, after it was discovered that he used part of his $4,000 allotted expense budget to purchase items including a bulletproof vest and cufflinks. Former Alderman Virgil Mayberry is also accused of using his city credit card to purchase election lists and labels, less than two months before the municipal election. It's unclear whether he was using the lists for his re-election campaign. But Rock Island’s mayor says Mayberry has reimbursed the city for that cost.
Mayor Mike Thoms says Mayberry “didn’t do anything illegal,” but it is possible for claims to be filed in a small claims court.
“There's a lot of gray area,” and Mayor Thoms says his personal recommendation is not to pursue any charges against Mayberry. But the council may have some different feeling about that.”
Mayor Thoms says he doesn’t feel charges should be pursued because “we learn from our lessons like we do in life about a lot of things and make changes and move on.”
On Monday, Rock Island’s City Council held an open door meeting about council pay and expenditure. And Mayor Thoms says approval of expenditures has nothing to do with a lack of manpower or staffing.
"If you look at a flow chart, you would think that the city manager would be the one to approve it and he has. But who does he report to? City council. So wait a minute if the city council is higher than the city manager, it's difficult for him to say 'no, you can't do this.' the only ones higher than the city council are the citizens and you're not going to go to them for approval and disproval,” says Thoms.
He says there needs to be a policy about who can approve or disapprove and that's one of the many topics discussed during the open door council pay and expenditure session.
Rock Island’s finance director says the city has a city expense policy “working draft,” that they’ve been working on for months. And Monday’s meeting is helping to make sure city council’s input is included in the policy draft. The Council discussed three main topics, purchase cards, discretionary spending and travel costs.
When it comes to purchase cards, Councilman Dylan Parker, Fifth Ward Alderman argued the cards were efficient. Council member Jenni Swanson, Fourth Ward Alderman suggested council members pay out of pocket and are reimbursed for approved expenses. Or they can ask businesses to bill the city. An idea presented by the city’s finance department was for the purchase cards to be kept at city hall. Currently, it’s up to council members whether or not they want to carry their purchase card everywhere they go. The Finance Director said some council members do and other’s do not.
A more heated discussion focused on discretionary spending which can include everything from clothes, to cover costs for business lunches and donating to non-profits. Donating to non-profits can be everything from giving money to a non-government organization or buying water bottles for volunteers who are heling with a clean up initiative.
The mayor says the current expense policy is too lax. And tightening the language will help make it clear what is allowed and what isn’t. He stressed that he thinks whatever is written in the policy should only include what is allowed and if it’s not in the policy – then it’s not allowed.
The discussion around travel expenses was surrounding conference costs and traveling anywhere over 25 miles away.
rock island finance department says they expect for a draft of the city's expense policy to be available around the first week of August. And that it will likely be presented as a resolution.