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Former LOTS official under investigation

Assistant director resigns, gets unemployment

Published: Thursday, May 15, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, May 15, 2014 7:32 a.m. CDT

DIXON – A former employee of the Lee-Ogle Transportation System is under investigation, although officials aren't giving details.

Kathy Lalley, assistant director for LOTS, resigned March 19, after giving her notice a few days before.

Both Lee County State's Attorney Anna Sacco-Miller and Sheriff John Varga referred to investigative reports regarding Lalley in communications with Sauk Valley Media.

Last week, SVM sought documents related to an investigation of Lalley. Sacco-Miller released Lalley's resignation letter and employment contract Wednesday, but not other records.

"Once the investigative reports have been reviewed by another prosecuting agency and a decision regarding charging has been made, the remainder of the documents will be made available," she wrote.

On March 14, Lalley hand-delivered her resignation letter to County Board Chairman Rick Ketchum, D-Amboy. In it, she wrote, "I have decided to resign my employment with Lee County, effective March 19, 2014.

"For payroll purposes, I understand that it might be easier for the county if I use personal time for March 17 and 18, and I am willing to do that, provided that the county not contest my application for unemployment benefits," she wrote.

She called it a "private personnel matter," requesting the county keep her resignation confidential until March 19.

"I have enjoyed working with you and am pleased to have had the opportunity to serve the people of Lee County for the last 15 years," Lalley said in the letter to Ketchum.

In a telephone interview, Lalley had no response to Sacco-Miller's statement.

"My understanding is that they were going to eliminate my position. I have some personal things going on in my life," said Lalley, who made $44,000 a year. "I'm currently actively working to get another position."

She said she is receiving unemployment benefits.

Ketchum said the county was considering doing away with the position when her contract ended June 30, but he said no decision had been made.

"We created the position for Kathy. We were reviewing whether this position was needed," he said. "She left on her terms."

Ketchum declined to give details about the investigation.

"We chose not to fight the unemployment [request]," he said. "I think she has several applications at different places. She's looking for work."

It's not clear why a person who resigned from her position would get unemployment.

According to the state Department of Employment Security, which provides unemployment benefits, those who lose their jobs through no fault of their own such as a layoff or discharge are eligible. The program does not help people who are "idle by choice," the agency's website says.

Ketchum said he was surprised that the state would give unemployment to someone who resigned from a job.

On Election Day, March 18, Lalley wrote, "Good Luck today!!!!!" on Lee County sheriff candidate John Simonton's Facebook page. She was among a number of local officials who backed the victorious Simonton over Varga in the GOP primary.

Varga referred questions about the investigation to the state's attorney's office.

From the treasurer's office, Lalley served as LOTS' acting director from late 2010 until she took the assistant director's position in July 2012.

The county hired Jaime Blatti, a human service transportation planner with the state Department of Transportation, as director.

At the time, Lalley said she has applied for the assistant's position because it was a better fit for her – she needed more flexibility because she was expecting grandchildren.

LOTS gives rides to people of all ages. About half of passengers are senior citizens.

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