CALUMET CITY | Seventh Ward Alderman Antoine Collins is upset that his expense reimbursements for a conference he attended in October are being questioned, saying he thinks it is political retribution by Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush.
Collins engaged in an argument at the end of Thursday’s otherwise quiet City Council session in which he said he thought he had provided adequate documentation of his expenses in November for attending the Illinois Municipal League conference held Oct. 17-19 in Chicago.
At issue are the expense reports that Collins and 3rd Ward Alderman Thaddeus Jones submitted for the conference the two attended.
According to a memorandum written for aldermen by Qualkinbush and provided to The Times, Jones provided a receipt for his hotel bill, but did not provide receipts for other costs connected to the conference. The memo says Collins provided a report listing his expenses, but did not provide the receipts.
Jones was absent from the City Council session, but Collins said he provided a statement for his bank card that he used to pay the expenses, saying it provided details for each cost.
Collins and Qualkinbush had an angry rhetorical exchange, with the alderman saying the mayor accused him of “finagling receipts.” While Qualkinbush accused Collins of “telling lies” about what was happening.
Collins went so far as to cite a recent Better Government Association report pointing out the fact that the mayor’s son, Paul Freyman of the city’s Public Works Department, had to reimburse the city $3,500 for assorted iPads and laptop computers that went missing.
“Let the mayor address the issues surrounding her family and our community,” Collins said. “Where is that computer equipment?”
Qualkinbush snapped back that she thought Collins was overhyping an old matter. “I don’t understand why we’re discussing this issue in January,” she said.
To which Collins retorted, “What is ridiculous is the way this city is being run.”
Even after the City Council meeting adjourned for the evening, the two quarreled.
Collins said he thinks Qualkinbush is bringing up the issue as punishment for past actions where he did not support her, although he did not specify what those actions were. In fact, he said he thinks he supports Qualkinbush too often.
“I get criticized in my community for the amount of support I give Qualkinbush," Collins said.
While Qualkinbush said there was no retribution involved in her actions, adding she consulted with City Attorney Burt Odelson before writing her memo that brought the reimbursement issue up.
“I don’t mind if he wants to criticize me, I just wish he wouldn’t tell lies,” she said.
The expense issue is significant because without proper documentation, the expense checks the aldermen have already received would have to be added on to their income for 2013.
The mayor’s memo says Jones’ income would increase by $894.33, while Collins’ income would increase by $914.21. Qualkinbush said the city is unable to prepare Form 1099 income statements until the question is resolved.
Her memo had also indicated the money would be considered income if receipts were not provided by Thursday night.
When Collins asked attorney Joe Montana, who works for Odelson’s law firm, exactly what additional documentation he would have to provide, Montana responded saying he would not be able to answer the question until Friday at the earliest.
Collins argued that a Friday response would be too late, although City Treasurer Gerald Tarka told the alderman he is willing to accept receipts as soon as Collins can get them to his office.