URBANA, Ill. (WAND) - A taxpayer has filed a lawsuit claiming the Champaign County treasurer has neglected the duties of her job and should be replaced.
The plaintiff in the lawsuit, John C. Bambenek, pointed out issues he said happened in the office of treasurer Marisol Hughes after he filed property taxes with the county via escrow. He said his bank sent a first installment payment to the county on May 18, 2020, which was not posted until July. He claimed a second payment was sent on Aug. 18, 2020 and still shows as delinquent with late fees being added.
On Sept. 6, Bambenek said he filed for bond documents through the Freedom of Information Act. He said the county clerk responded in the required time frame, but the request was ignored by Hughes' office.
Bambenek accused Hughes of failing to file multiple monthly reports. He suit said the treasurer before her, Laurel Prussing, did not produce reports in a timely manner and in some cases not at all, then resigned because of these issues in early 2020. Problems continued with Hughes, the suit said, as only March and August 2020 reports have been posted.
The suit goes on to claim Hughes' office has not made timely public fund disbursals or paid interest for being late with those payments. It also claims she "closed" her office to the public on Sept. 10, with no person appearing to be answering phone calls. The phone was answered when WAND-TV called requesting a comment from the treasurer. The call was transferred to the treasurer, who was not yet responded.
Further, Hughes is accused in the suit of having her husband, allegedly a disbarred attorney, working in the office as a deputy treasurer. The suit said this person is not under oath or employed by the county.
The lawsuit said the "level of dysfunction" in the treasurer's office is high enough that the current treasurer likely won't ever be able to reconcile accounts.
Bambenek said in the suit he wants Champaign County to declare Hughes' office as vacant and an interim county collector to take over due to "neglect and misconduct," as he claims is allowed under state law. He also wants an outside auditing agency to perform a forensics audit to reconcile accounts in the treasurer's office and seeks to require Hughes to pay thousands of dollars in penalties.
"Every possible way tax dollars can be mishandled has been committed here - including some forms of misconduct I wouldn't have even thought possible until it happened here. Marisol Hughes needs to be removed from office to ensure our schools and public health authorities get their funds so they aren't forced to lay off critical staff in the middle of a pandemic," said Bambenek in a press release.
The full contents of this lawsuit are attached as a PDF document.