LYNDON – In the village of Lyndon's April deposits report, an unusual item appeared: "Becky repaid Vet. Mem. Acct."
Becky, it turns out, is village Trustee Becky Piester.
The item prompted questions in the community: Why did Piester have to repay the account? Why did she have money designated for the veterans memorial in the first place?
Village officials say the account is for the revenue from the annual motorcycle poker run – an account, they say, that was transferred to the village in April. They say it's separate from the longtime "LEAP Memorial" account that shows up on monthly treasurer's reports.
The May and June treasurer's reports include the LEAP account, but no record of the new poker run account.
In July 2010, residents dedicated a veterans memorial outside Village Hall, which resulted from a fundraising effort that, officials say, yielded $100,000, including a sizable grant.
The walls of the black granite memorial form a "V," featuring the names of area veterans who served in all branches of the military. The memorial includes a walkway and American, state and POW flags.
'It was an investment in Lyndon'
In his successful re-election campaign this year, Village President Tim Crady pointed to the veterans memorial as an accomplishment.
"We had a lot of opposition to that," he said. "People didn't want to spend the money. It was an investment in Lyndon. We need to make the town presentable, where people can come and live."
For years, a village committee, the Lyndon Economic Advisory Panel, commonly known as LEAP, has handled the memorial's finances.
In April, the poker run account – officially called the Veterans Memorial Account – saw some changes.
On April 19, Piester notified Farmers National Bank that she had been succeeded as account officer by Crady, according to village documents. She asked the bank to cancel her signatory authority on the account, effective immediately.
On April 26, Crady, using city letterhead, wrote in a message "to whom it may concern" that he was closing the accounts for the veterans memorial and the village's Crow Festival and transferring the balances to the village. The letter, obtained by Sauk Valley Media through the state's open records law, was presumably sent to Farmers National, the village's bank.
Crady hasn't returned calls for comment.
The village's April deposits reports indicated Piester repaid the $800. It didn't state why she had money intended for the memorial in her possession.
Piester, a Gulf War veteran, has been involved in both the memorial and the annual Crow Festival.
On Sept. 6, Piester wrote a check to cash for $400, and on Nov. 29, she made a phone transfer for the same amount. That adds up to $800.
"No records exist as to the purpose of the transfer/cash," Village Clerk Shelly Moore wrote in response to Sauk Valley Media's records request.
The village board of trustees never approved transferring the balances for the veterans memorial and Crow Festival to the village.
Village Attorney Tim Zollinger, who started representing Lyndon in May, said the trustees' approval wasn't needed to accept a gift.
Account 'had nothing to do with village'
In an interview, Piester said Crady transferred the funds to the village to end "all the bull----" about the $800. However, the deposits report revealing the $800 was released at the board of trustees meeting in May, weeks after the account changed hands.
She said she took out the first $400 to buy a gun as a raffle item in the annual biker poker run, which, she said, raises money to maintain the memorial and helps to pay for engravings.
Piester said she got the second $400 later because she needed more money to pay for the gun. The price of guns, she said, increased after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, where a man killed 26 people.
But the date of that shooting – Dec. 14 – doesn't square with when Piester got the second $400 – Nov. 29. Asked about that discrepancy, Piester backtracked. "Prices had already gone up," she said.
Piester said she ended up not buying a gun, so she returned the money to the fund.
"The account was not the village's account in the first place," Piester said. "It had nothing to do with the village. It was a private account that Tim and I set up for the poker run."
Asked about the veterans memorial account recently, Trustee Larry Stone said, "You'll have to talk to our lawyer about that."
In response to Sauk Valley Media questions, attorney Zollinger released an Aug. 1, 2012, resolution signed by Piester and Crady, listed as officers of a group called Lyndon Veterans Memorial. The document lists the organization's address as Piester's home and Farmers National Bank as the group's financial institution.
On June 22, 2012, another document indicates, the IRS issued an employer identification number to the Lyndon Veterans Memorial. The group's name didn't turn up in the state's database for charities. Under Illinois law, charitable organizations seeking donations must register with the state.
Attorney Tim Zollinger said the issue over the $800 doesn't involve the village.
"Action taken by a private account holder before the account became a part of the village has nothing to do with the village," he said. “Before it was accepted, it was not a village account. Village monies were not placed into the account."