Country Club Hills eliminates city-issued credit cards
BY A. Jay Wagner Correspondent June 27, 2011 10:50PM
Country Club Hills alderman Vincent Lockett (left), an opponent of Mayor Dwight Welch, speaks out against the mayor during Monday’s city council meeting. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 28, 2011 12:40PM
Sheila Walker sat on a bench outside Country Club Hills City Hall with a sign with bold letters that demanded, “Welch! We want our money back!”
Walker was one of many irate citizens who turned out for Monday’s city council meeting to voice their displeasure over allegations of Mayor Dwight Welch’s misuse of his city credit card, which he has been accused of using excessively for personal expenses.
“With the money he used to eat at all these restaurants, he could have done something productive for the city, like building a library,” Walker said, with some exaggeration.
The SouthtownStar reported last week that Welch and former city manager Henrietta Turner spent more than $100,000 during the past year on their city-issued credit cards, mostly at restaurants and for entertainment expenses.
On Monday night, aldermen, with Welch agreeing, eliminated all existing city credit cards and approved one new card to be assigned as needed to city officials with permission of the city treasurer.
Early in the meeting, a passionate Welch addressed the spending allegations.
“Do I take city workers out for breakfast after plowing the streets? Guilty. Did I go to Vegas to help bring outlet malls to Country Club Hills? Guilty. Is it wise spending? I think so,” he said.
Welch grew animated as he listed a number of the expenditures under question and framed each as beneficial to Country Club Hills.
“I make no apologies for Dwight Welch. I’m not ashamed of what I’ve done,” he said.
Also Monday night, Welch vetoed the city council’s decision earlier this month to eliminate 13 city positions.
“No reason was given for the elimination of these positions,” he said. “It’s political retaliation. There has been no research, no competitive analysis study. (Those laid off) were picked out because of their relationship to me, and the city is worse off for it.”
Welch challenged aldermen to not override the veto, which drew laughter from the council and the crowd of about 150.
During Monday night’s meeting, city treasurer Rhonda Williams, who defeated the incumbent treasurer in the April 5 election, reiterated her problems in gaining full access to city financial records. She said she met last week with city clerk Deborah McIlvain to discuss the issue.
“I think (the meeting) went well, though there is still a lot to work on,” Williams said. “... When you’re not providing all of the information, that does raise red flags.”
Williams also questioned the city using the same accounting firm to audit city records for the past 15 years.
“In my prior experience, you want to change up companies every once in a while. Often comfort is not something you want in an audit,” she said.