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Avon Twp. seeking refunds for '11th hour junket'
By Bob Susnjara | Daily Herald Staff

Shirley Christian

 

Sam Yingling

 

Rick Dishman

 

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Published: 6/3/2009 5:16 PM | Updated: 6/3/2009 7:46 PM

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New Avon Township Supervisor Sam Yingling says he's trying to recoup about $3,000 in taxpayer money the previous town board agreed to spend so the outgoing assessor and an assistant could attend a Miami convention.

By a 4-1 vote Tuesday, trustees and Yingling voted to rescind the expenditures. The majority contended taxpayers wouldn't benefit if Assessor Rick Dishman made the trip in late September, about 90 days before his four-year term ends.

Dishman declined to comment. Bryce Carus, who was part of Yingling's political slate when he beat Dishman in the April election, becomes assessor Jan. 1.

Avon Township includes all or part of Grayslake, Hainesville, Third Lake and the Round Lake area.

Last month, a board majority aligned with Dishman granted approval for him to attend the ProVal International Users Group event, Sept. 26 to Oct. 1, at Loews Miami Beach Hotel. Assistant Penny Heckel would have accompanied Dishman.

"There was no urgency to have this trip approved unless it was meant to be an 11th hour junket," Yingling said Wednesday.

Yingling said he made a written request of the past town board to refrain from allowing any travel spending at its final two meetings before he took over May 18. He asked that only critical expenditures be granted.

Township Trustee William "Bill" McNeill, who was on the board in May when the Miami conference expenditures were approved, voted against seeking the refunds Tuesday. McNeill said Dishman would benefit from attending the gathering and that he'd also be there as president of the Lake County Assessors Association.

"If it's in the budget and it's a legitimate bill, then it gets approved," McNeill said.

On Wednesday, Yingling said he was successful in getting ProVal to return $870 in convention fees the township had paid. ProVal is a private group involved with a real-estate tax bill software product.

Dishman has been instructed to cancel two rooms at Loews Miami Beach Hotel so taxpayers can be refunded $1,638, according to Yingling. The 790-room oceanside hotel is in the heart of South Beach.

Another $478 was spent for airline tickets. Yingling said the township will be money ahead even if he can't obtain full refunds for the airfares.

Separately, the Lake County state's attorney's office confirmed Yingling sent two letters seeking an investigation into computer file deletion and other possible wrongdoing by former Avon Township supervisor Shirley Christian toward the end of her term.

Christian said she told prosecutors 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. She said a disk more powerful than expected was used and accidentally deleted everything before she left office.

Trustees appointed Christian as supervisor in 2006 after health problems forced her husband, Russell, to depart the post after 17 years. Yingling edged Shirley Christian in the April election.