Wheeling incumbent trustee candidates support Argiris
Wheeling trustees seeking re-election fully support Village President Dean Argiris -- who's been under fire for charging nearly $13,000 on a village-issued credit card and for driving a decommissioned police SUV -- while a challenger criticized incumbents for neglecting residents.
Trustees Mary Papantos, Ken Brady and Mary Krueger vowed solidarity with Argiris in an endorsement interview with the Daily Herald editorial board last week. The described him as a dedicated village president who works hard for taxpayers.
Yet they also advocated support for policy changes implemented to curtail Argiris' use of the taxpayer-funded perks. The changes will: bar village presidents from possessing village credit cards, implement formal restrictions on village vehicle use, and advise elected officials to follow the same laws as residents.
Argiris has voluntarily turned in his credit card and village vehicle.
Lee Waller, the fourth candidate vying for three open board seats, criticized his opponents and described himself as a reformer.
"I'm running for this board because I think the six trustees are in absolute dereliction of duties," Waller said. "They're letting this village just go off the cliff. They all seem to be following this village president and saying 'Yes, yes, yes, yes' to everything he's got to say or do."
Papantos, Brady and Krueger argued Argiris' spending indicated he is an active village president.
"I stand behind the things he'd done for the village," Brady said. "I've sat in one capacity or another for all these years under four village presidents, and not one has held a candle to what Dean has done this past four years."
Papantos, whom Argiris appointed to an open seat in 2016, said it's important the village president be visible in the community.
"Really, I hope we're not going to stress this," she said. "I hope we're going to look at what the village needs to do and to move forward."
The village has improved policies and will continue to monitor spending, Papantos said.
"And please remember the purchase card was not just used for Dean's personal use," she said. "It was business expenses. There are business lunches. There are business meetings to attend and it's important."
Argiris used the credit card on 26 purchases he promised to later reimburse the village. These purchases do not mention village business, and Argiris sometimes repaid them years later, according to documents obtained through public records requests. Argiris, who did not provide receipts for 15 purchases, has denied using the credit card for personal purchases.
Village Manager Jon Sfondilis said a new credit card policy will require more stringent descriptions of the purpose for the expense.
Krueger said she's had no reason to question Argiris' use of village resources, because he participates on numerous boards and often meets with economic developers.
"I don't necessarily want a village leader that doesn't keep our name top of mind in the organizations that need to know our name," she said.