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Ex-Avon Twp. supervisor faces inquiry
By Bob Susnjara | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 6/3/2009 12:01 AM

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Missing government papers, eight garbage bags stuffed with shredded documents, and a deletion of computer files are among the discoveries listed by new Avon Township Supervisor Sam Yingling in letters seeking an investigation of his predecessor by Lake County prosecutors.

Yingling topped Shirley Christian in the election for Avon Township supervisor in April. Christian was appointed supervisor in 2006 after health problems forced her husband, Russell, to leave the post.

Lake County Chief Deputy State's Attorney Meg Marcouiller confirmed Tuesday the receipt of Yingling's two letters seeking a probe into potential wrongdoing by Shirley Christian toward the end of her term. Marcouiller, who oversees the civil division, declined further comment.

Christian said she has informed the state's attorney's office she meant to erase only some e-mail addresses and other personal information on the supervisor's computer that wouldn't have been valuable to Yingling. Instead, she said, everything wound up deleted by accident before she left the office.

She said prosecutors have backup tapes that can restore all township information to the supervisor's computer. She also said there are hard copies of whatever documents were deleted.

"I had no intention to wipe out the operating system," Christian said. "The disk that was used was more powerful than any of us realized. That is being rectified, and I have offered to pay for the reinstallation of the program. It was an honest mistake."

Christian said she had nothing to do with the eight trash bags of shredded documents Yingling cited in a May 26 letter to prosecutors. Yingling said he found the papers in a recycling bin behind Avon Township's headquarters in Round Lake Park on May 21 and now has them.

In the first letter to Marcouiller sent three days after he assumed office May 18, Yingling noted the deleted computer files and stated he couldn't find several audit reports Christian showed to him before she left.

Christian responded, saying the audit reports are public documents that Yingling can find through other channels.

Yingling said state's attorney investigators were at his office Tuesday. He said there may be many missing documents, but he declined to provide specifics.

Meanwhile, Yingling and Avon Township trustees held a special meeting Tuesday night for an update on the Christian situation and to discuss rescinding a previous board's approval last month for outgoing Assessor Rick Dishman and an assistant to spend nearly $3,000 to attend a convention in Miami.

Dishman and the assistant, Penny Heckel, were to attend the ProVal International Users Group event from Sept. 26 to Oct. 1 at Loews Miami Beach Hotel. The users group is involved with a real-estate tax bill software product.

Township trustees and Yingling voted 4-1 in favor canceling the Miami convention payment, with William "Bill" McNeill the lone dissenter.

Yingling and three trustees questioned what value taxpayers would get from Dishman attending the convention about three months before he leaves office. Before the vote, Yingling asked Dishman if he was willing to contribute from his own pocket toward the Miami trip.

Dishman said no.

Bryce Carus beat Dishman in the April election for township assessor. Carus will take over for Dishman in January.

Dishman and Christian were aligned on the Avon One ticket, while Carus was part of Yingling's Avon Forward slate.