Argiris attempts to act free of accountability
Whether it was the public paper trail pointing to private activities, rotten luck or a combination of both, Wheeling Mayor Dean Argiris recently encountered rough terrain as he faced consequences of his personal spending habits.
“Argiris has been telling some tall tales lately in an effort to thwart bad press that he brought upon himself,” the Edgar County Watchdogs said during its recent investigation of the mayor.
Argiris allegedly charged Wheeling’s government for his use of city vehicles for private purposes in early February for example; but the Edgar County Watchdogs stressed that truth became the more important matter in this case.
In other words, using vehicles inappropriately and billing personal expenses to the municipality are all mistakes; but the Edgar County Watchdogs allege that lying about them created multiple layers of wrongdoing.
Argiris’ credit card purchases have gained notoriety, however, with repeated use between mid-2013 and Fall 2016 totaling almost $13,000. The bulk of the purchases appeared to go toward dinners and drinks, with approximately 15 bills unaccounted for, according to the Daily Herald, which began an investigation into Argiris' time in office after a Wheeling resident produced documents alleging the village president lied in a Daily Herald questionnaire before the 2013 election.
In 1994, Argiris was fined for offering $20 to an undercover Chicago police officer for oral sex, according to the Daily Herald. Argiris subsequently denied lying on the questionnaire. The Daily Herald reported that Argiri claimed he was not arrested. But Edgar County Watchdogs produced a document showing the details of his arrest on Oct. 13, 1994, at 10 p.m., during a Chicago Police Department prostitution sting operation.
The Edgar County Watchdogs claim Argiris fibbed about reimbursing the Village of Wheeling at the Jan. 16 Village Board meeting regarding a bill of $462 for a meal at a local Italian restaurant, which Argiris claimed he remitted on Oct. 22, 2016.
However, a copy of the cancelled check in that amount was dated Dec. 22, 2016, roughly 60 days later. The Edgar County Watchdogs also claimed the village clerk appeared to hold the check longer than was customary and/or legal before depositing it, based on the watchdog organization’s acquisition of bank records.
“Wheeling is financing [Argiris’] personal use and his business deals with the public credit card, when their policy on purchase card use clearly states personal purchases are unauthorized,” the Edgar County Watchdogs said in early February.
When queried previously at public meetings as to his purpose in using Wheeling’s official vehicles, Argiris was documented as answering “that he can use it for whatever purpose he feels like using it for, including private business purposes,” the Edgar County Watchdogs said via its Illinois Leaks website last month.
The specific mode of transportation claimed was a Police Interceptor SUV, indisputably a specialty vehicle normally used only by police personnel. The watchdog group posted video documentation of the mayor claiming that no restrictions prohibited him from using the property.
“Kind of makes [us] wonder if he has ever read the Illinois Constitution, Article VIII, Section 1 (a) which states that public funds, property, and credit shall only be used for public purpose,” the Edgar County Watchdogs said in its Illinois Leaks coverage.
Believing Argiris' financial situation developed due to personal bankruptcy issues, the Edgar County Watchdogs confirmed revealed the mayor had failed to pay personal utility bills — with the village having threatened to shut off his water supply 17 times since 2015, according to the Daily Herald. Argiris eventually paid his bills.
Edgar County Watchdogs principals cited several potential counts of misconduct with the vehicle use alone, including tax evasion, misappropriation of public property and use of public property for personal gain.
As of Feb. 21, according to the Daily Herald, Argiris relinquished his village credit card and the SUV following questions about his spending. He said that the restaurant bill was “a mistake,” said the publication. Future village presidents will no longer be issued credit cards in the government’s name and stricter limitations will be implemented for vehicle usage, said the Daily Herald.
"I used that card for village-related expenses, and always with the goal of improving the village," the Daily Herald quoted Argiris as saying. "I have never intentionally used the village card for personal expenses."
and had incurred a fine for the action, and not only did he neglect to admit it on an election questionnaire prior to the 2013 election;