Special investigation into public health spending

IROQUOIS COUNTY -- Members of the Iroquois County board are taking a closer look at what they believe to be suspicious spending by the Ford-Iroquois Public Health Department. Earlier this month, the county board started a special audit.

Board members said they want to make sure taxpayer money is in good hands, but the health department's director said they haven't done anything wrong. WCIA-3 News sat down with the department's director, Doug Corbett, after requesting its financial records for the past three years.

WCIA-3 News wanted to ask specifically about different things the money has been used for. Corbett says he wants to know what the board thinks the department is doing wrong.

"We want to continue here and continue to provide all our programs and services," said Corbett.

Corbett started as the director of the Ford-Iroquois Public Health Department six years ago. His department's 43 full-time workers are responsible for about 44,000 people between both counties. But the Iroquois County Board said the department's not doing a good enough job.

"There's just been no evidence brought forward," said Corbett. "Other than just there's things wrong, there's things we need to correct, there's red flags everywhere."

Our investigation revealed $1,510.16 spent on flowers and planters since 2010. That includes flowers for retirements, funerals and several different people. But Corbett said they collected money for those bouquets.

"It's just so much easier to cut a check and then we collect it," said Corbett. "You can't really go to a flower shop and say over the next five days, you're going to get a $5 check but I need them delivered right now."

We also discovered the department spent $360 on flowers for a Christmas party in 2010. And the department spent $5,616.22 on gift cards in those three years. The director said they gave most of those away.

"We buy plants and flowers for door prizes for raffles, things like that," said Corbett. "They're not for the employees, they're for when we go out in the community and do things."

The department spent $133.90 on calendars in 2011. But our investigation shows that number jumped to $2,273.98 the next year.

"We used to get regular calendars," said Corbett. "What we decided is if we really need to get the word out there with chronic disease and this grant in place, let's go get healthy calendars."

And last year, $1,255.57 was spent on fly swatters.

"They're simple," said Corbett. "They're 47 cents apiece. You buy them in thousand lot increments and they've got our logo on them."

Corbett said giving away fly swatters and calendars is just another way they can promote the department. He said they have to because of the grants they receive.

The director said the money they spent on gift cards or on different incentives, calendars and other things like that were a good use of taxpayer money. But despite those convictions, there's still scrutiny. Diane Clatterbuck sits on the health department's board for now.

"I have been asked to resign," said Clatterbuck.

Clatterbuck's a registered nurse. She's volunteered on the health department's board for 20 years. But she said the county board doesn't want her or the other members there anymore.

"I'm not going to resign," said Clatterbuck.  "We have upheld the bylaws and the policies and the procedures of the board of health."

Clatterbuck said she expects to be ousted at a special county board meeting Monday morning, but she and Corbett said they still stand by what they've done.

"If it's not going to benefit your health, I don't have the personal wherewithal to pay for things like that," said Corbett.

The director said they get a lot of money from federal, state and local grants. But it's not clear how much of that money was spent on the different items we looked at.

We also spoke with Ford County's Board chair, Rick Bowen. He said they don't see any major concerns and they believe the department is doing a good job.

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