Welch, aide spend freely on taxpayers’ dime
BY CASEY TONER firstname.lastname@example.org June 22, 2011 11:30PM
Country Club Hills Mayor Dwight Welch
Country Club Hills Mayor Dwight Welch and former city manager Henrietta Turner have used their city credit cards to rack up thousands of dollars in expenses at restaurants and on other entertainment. Here’s a sampling of what the SouthtownStar found in a review of their statements:
$5,351, at Britten Media in Traverse City, Mich.
$435.91, Apple store in Orland Square.
$64, Cog Hill Golf Course.
$7,644.52, AA Vacations, transportation services.
$550, Dominick’s in Matteson.
$451.95. Bob Chinn’s Crabhouse in Wheeling.
$87.08, G In Sushi and Grill, Tinley Park.
$252.41, Grand Lux Cafe Chicago (includes $40 tip).
$466.22, Joe’s Crab Shack in Gurnee (during two separate visits).
$46.03, Godiva Chocolates in Oak Brook.
$69, Intimo Night Club, Tinley Park.
$748.32, Harry Caray’s, Chicago
$198.77, Bartolotta’s Restaurant, Las Vegas.
$89.22, Hooters, St. Louis
$134.22, Hooters, Orland Park (three days later).
$376.46, Hooters, Orland Park (in May).
$102.35, Renaissance Hotel, Las Vegas.
$295. 80, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Indianapolis.
$2,644.20, Airfare to Las Vegas for Welch, Turner and city official Ronald Evans.
$3,172.75, Plasticard-Locktech International, Asheville, N.C.
$63.54, Chuck E. Cheese’s, Tinley Park.
$9,484.26, Home Depot, Matteson
$35.28, (including a $20 tip) Chatham Pancake House, Country Club Hills.
$541.97, Wal-Mart, Country Club Hills.
$1,200, Roof restaurant, Chicago
$32.12, Burger King, Tinley Park
$376.75, Jewel-Osco, Homewood.
Updated: October 28, 2011 11:24AM
The Country Club Hills mayor and his city manager spent thousands of dollars last year on restaurants, movie tickets and even Teddy bears, a review of city credit card statements shows.
Mayor Dwight Welch and former city manager Henrietta Turner racked up a combined $75,000 in credit card charges at various restaurants alone and spent $2,000 for movie tickets.
The mayor also spent thousands on evening wear, tickets to musicals and a trip to a water park in Gurnee, among other expenses, according to a SouthtownStar analysis of Welch’s and Turner’s credit card statements.
Welch refused to explain the charges to the SouthtownStar, saying, “I’m done with it. That’s old news. There’s no reason to talk about it.” He also did not return subsequent calls seeking comment.
Welch is the Southland’s highest-paid mayor, with a yearly salary of about $109,000. He earns an extra $36,000 as liquor commissioner.
In addition to that pay, the city council gave him an expense account of $36,000. But his spending habits exceeded that amount last year, the analysis found.
Welch dined all over — from Wildfire Restaurant in Chicago to El Cortez in Country Club Hills to Hooters restaurants in Orland Park and St. Louis.
Turner, whom the city council recently placed on administrative leave, charged more than $30,000 in restaurant expenses to her city-owned American Express card. She dined at ritzy restaurants such as Bogart’s Charhouse in Homewood, Mr. Benny’s Steak and Lobster House in Matteson and Hamada of Japan in Tinley Park. She also spent $784 on Aug. 12 at the Spirit of Chicago, a city-cruise line.
She did not return messages left on her cell phone, seeking comment Wednesday.
Turner was one of 13 city workers to be laid off by aldermen this month. The city council also voted to cancel all city credit cards for employees except the card belonging to Welch.
Ald. Steven Burris (4th) said Wednesday that city credit cards had been given to Welch and Turner as well as all department heads. Only Welch, the aldermen and City Clerk Deborah McIlvain have expense accounts. Each alderman has a $9,000 expense account; McIlvain has a $2,875 account.
Ald. Vince Lockett (2nd), who lost a bid for mayor in April, provided a copy of Welch’s and Turner’s 2010 credit card statements to the SouthtownStar. A Freedom of Information request submitted by the newspaper last week is pending, and the city has delayed producing the documents.
Lockett called the pair’s spending “outrageous.”
“It’s a shame that the poor people of Country Club Hills have to pay for (Welch’s) shenanigans,” he said, adding that he believes Welch and Turner have additional city credit cards. “It’s unbelievable that he would go out every day to lunches.”
The analysis also found charges for more than just lunches. On Jan. 16, Welch spent $83.47 at the Disney Store in Chicago, $165.38 at the Niketown store in Chicago, $252.41 at the Grand Lux Café in Chicago and $20 for parking in the city.
In February, Welch spent $585 at Nordstroms in Oak Brook and $117.07 to visit the Key Lime Cove Waterpark in Gurnee later that month. Welch also charged $226 to buy baseball hats and a pink hooded sweatshirt in April at U.S. Cellular Field, and $104.52 at Build-A-Bear Workshop in Oak Brook.
On Sept. 29, Welch splurged and spent $1,380 on musical theater tickets in Chicago, $18 for parking, $53.37 for food and drinks at 312 Chicago and $93.41 at Grady’s Grille in Homewood.