Members of Bartlett's resident-run Fourth of July Committee say they are disappointed that one of their members has been charged with taking more than $4,000 from the committee for his personal use.
Committee Chairman Brian Clinite said the group immediately contacted Bartlett police when the theft was discovered in late September.
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"We weren't sure who exactly it was," he said, adding they later realized that one of the group's three debit cards was loaned out to committee member Thomas M. Schiferl and never returned.
"He had a reason to make some purchases for the (4th of July) event and then he didn't return it, and it wasn't thought of as a big deal because he's been a trusted member of the committee for numerous years," Clinite said.
According to Bartlett police, from July 3 to Sept. 9, Schiferl used the card to withdraw $4,475 for his personal use from various ATMs in Bartlett, St. Charles and South Elgin.
Schiferl was arrested Monday and charged with felony theft. A Cook County judge set his bond at $10,000 Tuesday, and police said Schiferl had to post 10 percent to be released.
Schiferl had no comment when reached by phone Friday.
The Schiferl family is well-regarded in Bartlett for its extensive community service. Schiferl's father, Thomas L. Schiferl, who died in 2011, was a founder of the Bartlett Little League, past president of the Bartlett Lions Club, a longtime park board member and member of many village commissions and committees, including the 4th of July Committee. He was named Bartlett's "Living Legend" in 1999.
There are about 40 unpaid volunteers on the 4th of July committee, including Schiferl's mother and some of his siblings, Clinite said.
"To find out something like this happened is disappointing," Clinite said. "It was pretty shocking."
The group was founded 20 years ago and has taken on the responsibility of planning the multiple-day festival. While mostly self-sufficient because it uses profits from one year's event to fund the next year's celebration, the committee gets about $12,000 a year from the village for fireworks.
Some committee members met Thursday night to discuss the theft and consider putting safeguards in place to prevent something like this happening again, Clinite said. Details on what those precautions will be are still being worked out.
Clinite said while he doesn't want to minimize the fact that more than $4,000 was lost, the committee was relieved more money wasn't taken. He is confident the 2014 celebration will go on as planned.
"It's just more of a disappointment than a huge financial blow to us," he said. "We can easily get by having a good festival next year."