Dan Weaver’s battles with Stookey Township leaders on how to spend the district’s money have not stopped with his election as a township board trustee in April.
In 2015, former Township Supervisor David Bone banned Weaver from speaking during the public participation section of a couple of meetings.
And this month, newly elected Township Supervisor Mark Bagby and the board formally censured Weaver for “official misconduct.” The measure was spurred by comments Weaver posted on Facebook about township spending for Stookey Township Park off South 74th Street and for road maintenance in the township.
The board’s vote on the two-page resolution on Nov. 1 was 4-1, with Weaver casting the lone “no” vote, according to documents and an audio recording of the meeting released under an Illinois Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Belleville News-Democrat.
Bagby along with trustees Jim Lougeay, Allen Scharf and Ryan Stookey voted for the resolution to censure Weaver.
“There have been a number of comments posted online that were false and untrue,” Bagby told the board as he kicked off the discussion about the censure resolution.
Board members were following their attorney’s advice to introduce the censure resolution, Baby said. While the resolution is the formal way in which the board can collectively declare its opinion, it does not include any penalties for Weaver, who remains on the board.
Weaver told the board that he has “not lied”and that he is trying to let Stookey residents know about the township’s finances.
“I want people to know where we’re spending the money on. It’s their money,” Weaver said. “I wasn’t trying to use malice in any form.
“I feel that this is a conspiracy to waste taxpayer’s dollars.”
Weaver said in an interview that the board may be upset with him because he sued the township in April over the way the township’s sewer department bills two of his duplexes. The lawsuit is pending in St. Clair County court.
Jerry Crabtree, executive director of the Township Officials of Illinois organization, said that he couldn’t recall details of a similar resolution taken by a township board since he first joined the organization in 2005.
Stookey Township trustees have “observed and endured the egregious, slanderous and defamatory behavior of Trustee Dan Weaver,” the resolution states.
The resolution states Weaver “has attempted to enhance his personal stature and seeking attention and fame to himself from the public by holding himself out as a ‘whistle-blower’ and valiant crusader against alleged false claims of outrageous fiscal irresponsibility and corruption” by the township officials.
The resolution has seven counts against Weaver regarding “falsehoods” in his social media comments.
One count involves the discussion Weaver and Bagby had earlier this year about whether a picnic shelter should be built at Stookey Township Park. Weaver said in an interview that he thought a wooden structure would suffice while he said Bagby remarked that a steel building would be preferred.
In October, Weaver posted a Facebook comment that there was a plan for a $200,000 building at the park and that the township should spend its money on road improvements. Another person responded that “no one” needs a $200,000 building at the park.
But Bagby denied this amount of money had been discussed.
“When have we ever said we were going to spend $200,000 to build a building at the park?” Bagby asked Weaver during the Nov. 1 board meeting.
Bagby then answered his own question: “Never. Never.”
Weaver said in an interview it was “probably a mistake on my part” to bring up the building issue since that discussion was between him and Bagby.
Another count in the resolution states that Weaver falsely claimed in another online post that the township wanted to spend $100,000 on the park for work that was “not needed.”
But Weaver told the board this figure “was not a lie.” He believes the board is spending an “excessive” amount of money at the park.
“We’re going to be spending a lot of money,” Weaver said.
Weaver said in an interview that the board has received bids for possible improvements at the park that are worth around $100,000.
Also, the board has considered a bid for $38,785 for the development of a park master plan; the board has received a $25,000 grant from St. Clair County to help pay for replacing the safety mats on the playground at the park; and the township has decided to buy new trash cans and pet waste containers for the park for about $9,000.
Bagby said in an interview that the township has $250,000 in park grant money that can be used to cover costs.
Weaver, meanwhile, was critical of the plan to use grant money.
“Grant money is still taxpayer’s dollars, I don’t care how you cut it,” he said. “It’s still spending. I don’t give a damn if you get all grants for it.”
The resolution against Weaver states that he has invited Facebook readers to criticize the township and its road maintenance, then notes that the board has no authority over highway maintenance because the township highway supervisor is elected separately and has a separate budget.
Weaver argues that the township board can send “surplus” money to the highway fund.
“The roads in Stookey Township are horrendous,” he said. “All I want is good roads. I really want that badly.”
During the Nov. 1 board meeting, Weaver and Bagby got into a dispute about the township’s ability to plow roads during a snowstorm this winter.
Weaver argues that three of the township’s four trucks were recently in the garage for repairs and he has raised the issue of whether the crews would be able to plow roads.
“You’re not the road supervisor,” Bagby told Weaver. “Have we ever had a year where we haven’t been able to plow snow?”
Trustee vs. supervisor
On election night this spring, a jubilant, backslapping crowd, including Weaver, gathered at Bagby’s house.
Weaver and Bagby were celebrating their wins in the April 6 election for their respective seats on the township board, which oversees a district with 9,219 people along the western Belleville border. But by the time fall rolled around, the two men were at loggerheads.
Bagby said the board had to take action against Weaver “to put out the truth.”
“We believe in transparency and the truth and myself and the board members all agree that we’re to abide by that and when an individual puts out wrong information or just outright lies, we can’t stand for that,” Bagby said in an interview.
Weaver said his mission is to watch how the township spends taxpayer’s money. He also suggested that the township could be dissolved to save taxpayer’s money.
“I don’t want to be spending it egregiously,” he said. “We can do things differently. We don’t have to do it like a monument to somebody.
“It’s just not fair to people to do that to them just because Mark wants to be a big shot.”
Following the board’s meeting on Nov. 18, Weaver and Bagby got into a heated discussion about a letter the township sent Weaver about his volunteer work at the township park.
Weaver said he has been banned from volunteering at the township park because he has a spinal condition that causes him pain.
Bagby said the letter was sent via certified mail while Weaver said he never received it or signed for it.
During the argument over whether the letter had been properly served, Weaver brought up a personnel issue that had been discussed during a closed meeting of the board earlier this year.
The personnel information is not supposed to be released to the public but Weaver mentioned it in the presence of a News-Democrat reporter.
Bagby later said he would bring up the issue with the township’s attorney. Weaver said he had forgotten a reporter was present.
A ban on speaking
The censure resolution is not the first formal sanction the township board has taken against Weaver, who was banned from the “public participation” portion of two township meetings in July and August 2015.
The former township supervisor, David Bone, said at the time that he banned Weaver because he had “harassed” township employees.
Weaver, who denied that he had harassed employees, was critical of Bone’s administration and believed he had a right to express his opinion.
During the September 2015 meeting, Bone let Weaver speak during a meeting after the News-Democrat published an article about the ban.
Bone was defeated by Bagby in the April election and now Bagby is dealing with Weaver, who was elected as a trustee in April. Before the township board voted on the censure resolution against Weaver this month, the two argued their positions.
“I’m here for the people. I’m not here for anything else,” Weaver said in the debate.
Bagby countered: “No one is discounting that Dan, but you cannot put out misinformation and lies.”