During summer training camp in Bourbonnais, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler tried to prove he still has a bullet arm.
Over at Bourbonnais Village Hall, bullets have been the subject of controversy, with a top village official leaving his $100,000-a-year job after a gun shop he runs as a side business sold ammunition to his own police department, causing a stir.
Now-former Village Administrator Gregg Spathis’ Manteno gun shop, SWAATS, was paid nearly $4,000 in taxpayer money earlier this year to provide the police department – which he oversaw at the time – thousands of rounds of rifle and handgun ammo for training and duty use by the village’s two dozen police officers, according to records and interviews.
Police officials ended up reporting problems with the ammunition – some of which was described in village records as “defective” and “dented” and “unsafe.”
Spathis disputes that characterization, but either way swapped out some of the bullets in question. The police department still wasn’t happy so it kept some of the ammo and took a refund on the rest.
Meantime, some village board members said they didn’t know about the transaction until afterward, and wanted to know why they weren’t alerted to the deal in advance.
Village rules restrict but don’t bar village officials from doing business with their own municipality.
But among the problems that emerged: The municipal check cut to SWAATS never made its way to the village board’s Finance Committee for approval, as is the protocol, officials said.
Some village board members also wondered whether the sale to Spathis’ company constituted a conflict of interest.
Spathis said he was simply trying to save the village money on the deal and sold the ammo to the police “at cost,” at a better price than two competitors that the police department checked with.
Spathis added that he had nothing to do with the check not going through the Finance Committee – saying that was the failure of other staff.
Amid the turmoil, Spathis left his job by mutual agreement, with three months of severance pay, in July, records show.
“Quite frankly I didn’t feel I had any support from the board,” Spathis said, adding he left because he “didn’t want to create a political storm.”
The mayor, Paul Schore, said he didn’t know about the ammo sale until “after the fact,” and wished the situation had been handled differently, though he also doesn’t think this dust-up is worthy of a news story.
Bourbonnais, which is in Kankakee County, hasn’t yet hired a new village administrator.
This blog post was written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Robert Herguth, who can be reached at rherguth@bettergov.org or (312) 821-9030.