Of all the worthless layers of government in Illinois, the most worthless is the obsolete contraption of the “township schools treasurer.” Lyons Township has one. Proviso Township, too. Riverside Township doesn’t, but instead has the honor of being lumped in with the Proviso office.
These entities pay out generous salaries, clog up accountability that should be on the shoulders of the local school districts, and give deniability to those same districts, which can legitimately claim they don’t have full control over their own tax dollars.
What can go wrong with these offices? Well, consider that within the past couple of years, the Lyons Township Schools Treasurer, Robert Healy, has been indicted of stealing $1.5 million from that office.
And, then there’s Proviso — operated for the past quarter century by Daniel Coglianese, who is paid more than $96,000 to oversee an office with no website and no capacity to accept emailed documents from his client districts. Phone and fax only.
It’s always 1989, apparently, in the township schools treasurer’s office.
Late last year, the Proviso Township Schools Treasurer learned that it was out about $2 million as the result of one of its investment funds being defrauded. And, while the office was clearly the victim in this case, you have to wonder why Coglianese didn’t bother formally informing his client districts about the issue until about a week ago. Municipalities who invested money in the same fund found out about the problem last November.
And you have to wonder about the Township Schools Treasurer’s response to at least one school administrator who tried to pry some information out of the office.
Todd Drafall, CFO of Proviso High School District 209 has persistently, thoughtfully pressed the office to produce information, to open its books, to segregate the funds of each member district in its recordkeeping.
Finally, last week, the Township Schools Treasurer held an important meeting of its constituent members of local elementary school districts and high schools. Except that District 209’s Drafall was specifically excluded from the invite list.
The meeting was held by Coglianese to explain that his office was, along with some 300 other local Illinois taxing bodies, an investor in a well-regarded investment fund that had, in turn, been defrauded in one of its investments.
While not ideal, there is no shame for the treasurer’s office in finding itself in this position. There is shame though in actively excluding a legitimate critic from an informational meeting. Drafall heard about the meeting, showed up at the appointed hour in Westchester and was turned away.
Why? Because he was making demands, talking to the newspapers and talking to other government bodies about how to abolish the office.
A decade ago, the public high school in Oak Park worked with a friendly state legislator to pass legislation forcing the abolition of the Cicero Township Schools Treasurer’s office. Same issues. Same nonsense. Same turf protection.
It’s time for local state representatives in Riverside, North Riverside and Brookfield to seek the same outcome.