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Article posted: 1/27/2013 8:00 AM

'Finders keepers' for Grafton Twp. food pantry?

By Lenore T. Adkins

A Huntley neighborhood leader accuses Grafton Township Supervisor Linda Moore of playing a cruel version of "finders keepers" when it comes to more than $1,000 mistakenly donated to the township food pantry, money she has yet to return.

But Moore says she can't give anything back until she has proof the donors want their money returned. Either way, on Feb. 14, the Grafton Township Board is scheduled to take a vote on returning the money to the donors.

Gerald LaBonte, an elected representative for Neighborhood 12 within the Sun City retirement community, brought the issue to the board after he said Moore spent two months stonewalling him. The money, he says, was meant for the Grafton Food Pantry, not the food pantry Moore runs.

"I turned to the board of trustees as a last resort," LaBonte said. "The supervisor won't give us the money back."

Meanwhile, Moore accuses LaBonte of starting a political witch hunt perfectly timed for the upcoming primary -- two other Republicans are running against her.

"The township received a donation to support our food pantry here last year from them, so about three months later, he brings it to my attention, despite the fact that he never actually made a donation," Moore said. "So how is it possible that this gentleman is asking for a refund when he never made a donation at all?"

Last October, Neighborhood 12 held its annual food drive for the Grafton Food Pantry, a nonprofit organization that's been around since 1989, and raised $1,080.

Moore operates her own food pantry with a similar name called the Grafton Township Food Pantry. A resident new to the neighborhood delivered the checks to Moore's food pantry, not knowing there were two food pantries in Huntley, LaBonte said.

LaBonte, who says this has nothing to do with politics, connected with Moore a days later to ask for the money's return so it could be given to the other food pantry.

Moore's response was that the checks were already cashed and the money would not be returned, LaBonte said.

"It's a matter of ethics," he said. "If I get money by mistake, do I say, 'Finders keepers, losers weepers?'"

When LaBonte kept trying to contact Moore, she referred him to her attorney, who in a letter to LaBonte, said the donors had to present proof in the form of a letter, a canceled check and a request to pay the money to the Grafton Food Pantry because the donation was made in error. That would allow the township to make sure the claims were legitimate.

"I have to get verification in writing to ensure that the people actually do want a refund," Moore said.

"As the person in charge of the township finances, I have to be able to present to the board documentation if I expect them to approve a payment."

In the end, LaBonte, who was able to stop payment on his own $75 check, accounted for 14 checks that totaled $640.

That's the money LaBonte wants returned -- Moore can have the rest for the inconvenience, he said.

But Township Trustee Barb Murphy said it isn't right LaBonte has to go through so much get the money back, when Moore can end the drama now.

"She knew about it for two meetings before this man even came," Murphy said. "I don't think it's right that they have to jump through all these hoops and go through this nonsense."

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