BRADLEY — Bradley’s former IT director says his former boss let him get extra cellphones attached to the village’s account, but his boss was “adamant” she did not, according to a village investigation.
Last month, the village board voted unanimously to fire Chuck Elliot, but did not give a reason.
Elliot maintains the phone issue was used as an excuse to have a private contractor handle his job.
Through an open records request, the Daily Journal obtained documents in the investigation of Elliot.
In January, village administrator Catherine Wojnarowski launched an inquiry into the village’s cellphone accounts, according to the investigation’s report. She found the one-person IT department had five open phone lines.
When she asked Elliot about it, he said his daughters, his wife and his son had lines associated with the village’s cellphone plan. He said the village’s former administrator, Kim Dickens, gave him the authority years ago to have those lines for family, something Elliot told the Daily Journal shortly before he was fired last month.
In late March, Wojnarowski started talking with then-Mayor Bruce Adams and other officials about “potential misconduct” by Elliott in procuring phone lines for non-village use.
With the finance director as a witness, Wojnarowski called Dickens about whether she ever allowed Elliot to get phone lines for his family.
“Kim Dickens is adamant in her statement that she never authorized Chuck to obtain phone lines for his family,” the report said. “Further, she stated that in her employment with (Bradley), she worked hard to iron out conflicts of interest and abuse of village assets such as this.”
Dickens retired from the village in June 2015, while Elliot established the bulk of the lines for his family a few months later, according to the investigation.
The investigation also included an interview with a representative from the cellphone company, Verizon. The representative said Elliot’s situation resembled those in other cases that constitute improper use of Verizon’s municipal plan, the report said.
Wojnarowski and the village’s attorney, Jeff Taylor, interviewed Elliot on May 21 and asked him about his intentions with the phones.
Elliot told the lawyer that he wanted to save money for his family, but said he was aware the lines should not have been on the municipal account, the report said. He also said he used his village phone for personal use and knew he should not have, it said.
In response, Wojnarowski said these admissions showed “voluntary misconduct” and were in violation of village policies.
Elliott was asked about the location of the upgraded phones that were not traded in. He was inconsistent in relaying the whereabouts of those phones, according to the investigation.
Elliot apologized during the May 21 meeting, the report said. Wojnarowski then said she would recommend his firing.
They later discussed entering a separation agreement. Elliot, who is battling cancer, said he was concerned about obtaining health insurance after he was fired, according to the report.
In an interview, Elliot said he paid for the extra phones. Nothing in the village report appears to dispute that fact.
According to Bradley policies, employees are barred from using village property, including cellphones, for personal purposes; and they are prohibited from using their official positions to advance their personal interests.
The report said the discounts that Elliot received were lower than Verizon’s family-and-friends offer. Elliot’s fraud, the report said, put Bradley at risk with its cell service provider. He took advantage of the village’s tax-exempt status, it said.
“There is evidence that (Elliot) used the municipal account to procure phones and not trade them back into the Verizon account,” the report said.
The investigation concluded that Elliot intentionally misused the village’s cellphone account.
“This fraudulent behavior was intended to enrich Chuck Elliot personally at the vulnerability and expense of the village of Bradley,” the report said. “These actions are unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.”
As part of his termination, the village entered into an agreement with Elliot, giving him his unused sick and vacation time, which amounted to about $20,000. He was fired June 10.
‘SOME SMALL EXCUSE’
In a recent interview, Elliot, 57, said he never contacted Dickens, the former administrator, after the village started investigating him about the phones. He said he was diagnosed with cancer in February and has been focused on that, rather than working on his defense and hiring an attorney. Doing so, he said, would have been an “ordeal.”
“I’m still going through treatments,” he said.
He said the village had a private contractor do some of his work after he was diagnosed and that he believes the village wants a contractor to handle the work permanently.
“They thought, ‘We don’t need him anymore,’” Elliot said in the interview shortly before his firing. “They’re trying to twist it a little bit. They’re trying to get rid of me for some small excuse.”
The IT director’s position is not listed on the “employment opportunities” part of Bradley’s website. Officials did not return a message for comment on whether they planned to advertise the position.