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Newly hired assessor facing felony charges

URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) --  Two women were fired from the Cunningham Township assessor's office in Urbana and one of them is being replaced by a man facing felony misconduct charges. 

Joe Meents used to be the Champaign County supervisor of assessments. He resigned two years ago after an after an investigation showed he used the County's credit card for personal use.

The new township assessor, Wayne Williams knew that Meents is still awaiting trial, but hired him anyway. 

But the women who were fired, still don't understand why all this happened.

"He said that we were still currently employed until January 9th but we were no longer needed at the office and yes, we were fired." 

Kim hooper and Jamie Willard were fired from their positions as deputy and chief deputy assessor for Cunningham Township. They're both long time employees and Hooper says, she never saw this coming. 

"Wayne just gave us a piece of paper that said there was no disciplinary action of any kind, no disciplinary reason of any kind he was just letting us go and going to go a different route." 

Because they're at will employees, their boss Wayne Williams, doesn't have to give a reason for firing them, and he never did.

Williams was appointed as Cunningham Township assessor two days ago and right away he hired the replacement for the new chief deputy assessor. His name is Joe Meents. He may look familiar. In 2016 he resigned as the Champaign County supervisor of assessments after an investigation showed he charged thousands of dollars to the county's credit card.

The state's attorney said he made several personal purchases in cluding a phone bill, restaurants, Illini tickets and more. The total came to about 35-hundred dollars, money that wasn't his to spend on things like that. 

Now he's waiting for his trial. 

When a township hires someone who's facing felony misconduct charges, there are some questions that need to be answered.

Wayne Williams explained why he hired Meents. 

We asked him if it is irrelevant that he has those felony misconduct charges versus having so much experience in this job position?

Williams responded, "What's relevant to me is his experience, his familiarity with the software we use and his general knowledge of the interface between the county office and the township office." 

Hooper says both she and Willard meet all of those qualifications, but still they were fired in favor of a man facing felony charges.

But Williams says Meents experience is more important than what he's accused of doing. 

"His charges were a very specific issue. He will not have access to township finances." 

Williams says he wants to build a greater focus on taxpayer education and bring changes to the office. 

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