CALUMET CITY | Alderman Thaddeus Jones used a City Council session Thursday to vent his anger with the Better Government Association, which earlier this month released a study that was critical of his attendance at a film festival in Miami at taxpayers' expense.
Jones, 3rd Ward, used his aldermanic report during the meeting at City Hall to say the BGA used documents provided by a disgruntled former secretary to Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush, then misinterpreted the information contained in them.
The Times reported last year the City Council approved a $2,378 payment in April to cover hotel expenses and registration for Jones to attend the American Black Film Festival that was held from June 18 to 24 in Miami.
But the BGA conducted a study that found what it considered to be an irregularity – Jones’ travel and convention expenses for the event were covered by that city taxpayer payment, while records for his campaign fund indicated that it covered the costs.
Jones told the BGA that money from his campaign fund was for other people who were supposed to go with him to the Miami-based convention but did not. The alderman says the study makes it appear that he took both city and campaign funds to cover the trip’s costs.
Last week, Jones told The Times he was considering a lawsuit against the BGA — a threat he reiterated Thursday, although he said he has not filed any legal action yet.
“At the right time, I will defend myself against these allegations,” Jones said. “I’m a big boy. I will deal with it.”
He also was critical of Hope Allen, the former mayoral secretary who admits she contacted the BGA after receiving documents through the Freedom of Information Act concerning Jones’ trip. Jones said of Allen that she is “constipated with lies,” and is “so hell-bent on anger” because her city job was eliminated a few years ago.
For her part, Allen said she would contact an attorney to see if Jones’ insults rose to the level of slander and a lawsuit on her behalf.
BGA officials were not available Thursday night to comment on Jones’ diatribe. But Robert Reed, director of investigations and programming, told The Times last week, “We stand by our story.”
Jones said he has received telephone calls from local pastors supporting him in this instance, and he said he hopes many Calumet City residents will feel the same way. “Hopefully, I have earned the trust of the voters,” he said.
For her part, Qualkinbush has said city officials “did everything appropriate on our end” with regard to approving city funds to cover the cost of Jones’ trip.
Qualkinbush said her reading of the BGA study would indicate that Jones asked for city reimbursement for the trip after the fact. “They tried to say that the city paid (Jones) after the fact,” the mayor said. “The (association) twisted it around. We gave (Jones) the money first.”