Former Tri-State Fire Protection District trustee charged in disclosure case
Michael Orrico, a former Tri-State Fire Protection District (FPD) trustee and board treasurer, has been charged with “filing a False Statement of Economic Interest in violation of the following Illinois Compiled Statute 5 ILCS 420/4A-107,” as stated by the Darien Police Department.
The Orrico case was reported by Edgar County Watchdogs in several recent articles in Illinois Leaks.
“Michael Orrico sells fire equipment for Fire Service Inc.," the article said. "What did he say about his employment in his Economic Disclosure Statement for his trustee position? Not a word."
According to Statute 5 ILCS 420/4A-107, “Any person required to file a statement of economic interests under this Article who willfully files a false or incomplete statement shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.”
By allegedly failing to report that he worked for Fire Service Inc., Orrico may be in violation of Statute 5 ILC 420/4A-107.
Orrico was arraigned on Oct. 11. A continuance was filed, and the case returns to court next week.
The Edgar County Watchdogs began looking into allegations that the Tri-State FPD used taxpayer money improperly in purchasing three ambulances. While seeking two new ambulances, the agency put out a request for proposals (RFP) instead of a request for bids. Several companies sent in offers, including Foster Coach, Alexis Fire and Fire Services Inc., with prices ranging from $181,150 to $161,935 per ambulance. Alexis Fire sent in the lowest offer. The RFP responses were sent to Tri-State via email. The agency did not use a sealed bid process.
In addition to the new ambulance offers, Fire Services Inc. offered a used ambulance at $170,000. Although Fire Services Inc. did not provide the lowest quote, it was the only company considered. The two new ambulances were purchased under the RFP for $166,087 and $169,702. The third, used ambulance was also purchased without an RFP or request for bids for $167,965.
The conflict entered into the picture when the watchdog group revealed that Orrico sells fire equipment for Fire Service Inc. He failed to reveal his employment in his Economic Disclosure Statement for the trustee position and later during the purchasing process for the ambulances.
As the watchdog group pointed out, 70 ILCS 705/4 clearly states, "No trustee or employee of such district shall be directly or indirectly interested financially in any contract work or business or the sale of any article, the expense, price or consideration of which is paid by the district; nor in the purchase of any real estate or other property, belonging to the district, or which shall be sold for taxes or assessments or by virtue of legal process at the suit of the district.”
Illinois Leaks followed the initial article published on August 6 with a series of updates regarding the ambulances and other issues revealed by the group's investigation. Among the group's revelations was Orrico's residence. One of the legal requirements of holding a trustee position is living within the district. Orrico had purchased a home in Joliet in April 21, 2015 and received a $6,000 homeowners exemption on his property tax bills. This indicates that the home in Joliet, which is outside of the Tri-State FPD, is his primary residence. That would make him ineligible for the trustee position.
After the August 9 issue of Illinois Leaks, Orrisco emailed a cease and desist letter to Kirk Allen of the Edgar County Watchdogs. Allen's repeated attempts to contact Orrisco received the following response.
"Please allow me to notify you and your publication with official notification to cease and desist in your further attempts to call or contact me," Orrico wrote. "I now feel that your excessive attempts via various means are harassing. Further attempts by you and/or any person or agent associated with you will result in further consultation with my legal counsel and a pursuit of legal remedies."
Allen's swift and sharp response reminded readers that the media is able to contact public officials and ask for information regarding their actions. As a trustee, Orrico could be questioned regarding his position and possible resignation from the board.
Orrico submitted his resignation on August 12, after the stories on his primary residence and the conflict of interest were published.
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