McHenry's County auditor calls Bianchi expenses excessive

  • McHenry County State's Attorney Lou Bianchi.

    McHenry County State's Attorney Lou Bianchi. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
By Amy Mack
Daily Herald Staff
Updated 9/19/2007 2:30 PM

Taxpayers picked up the tab for many a breakfast, lunch or dinner for McHenry County State's Attorney Lou Bianchi or his staff, county records show.

A list obtained through Freedom of Information requests of the McHenry County auditor show taxpayers paid for everything from Bianchi's $714 inaugural luncheon to a $3.14 Dairy Queen visit.

 

In between were plenty of visits to restaurants like Pirro's in Woodstock, a spot so popular for the state's attorney and his staff, they purchased gift certificates to use when assistant state's attorneys worked late or needed lunch.

That list shows the total of individual reimbursements given to Bianchi as an individual since January 2005 and is part of almost $60,000 in petty cash and individual reimbursements during his tenure.

The state's attorney says the large amounts are due to the lack of a county credit card forcing him to pay out of pocket for office expenses.

"We do not have a county credit card," Bianchi said. "As a result, I advance every expense in the office for every attorney in the office.
"Those aren't my expenses. Every expense in this office has to be advanced."

After seeing the lengthy list generated by the Freedom of Information Act request, McHenry County Auditor Pam Palmer called the amounts excessive and inappropriate. She has indicated she will ask the county board to initiate restrictions, particularly on food expenditures.

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Why isn't the auditor bouncing them back?," Bianchi asked. "The whole purpose of the audit is to review the bills."

"A petty cash fund is to be used for minor, nonrecurring types of expenditures, especially when immediate payment is required," the auditor said Tuesday. "I'll be looking at strengthening the areas I feel need to be strengthened."

"It's not just for me, but for whoever I'm with," Bianchi said. "I'm sure every elected official does the same.

"The only time I've asked for reimbursement is when it's a legitimate office meeting with witnesses or staff."

Palmer said she will meet with the state's attorney and county officials to discuss the glut of payments discovered after this newspaper filed Freedom of Information Act requests. More than $17,000 of those expenditures were for meals, candy, doughnuts, pop and other goodies, all paid for by taxpayers since early 2005.

"I will be talking to them," Palmer said. "I will be talking to them a lot about petty cash and what goes through there."

The auditor stressed it's vital to use regular payment processes for accurate record-keeping as well as an audit trail.

See the reimbursement spreadsheet

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