(TNS) — The state Ethics Commission has advised Boone County ambulance director Randy Lengyel that he shouldn’t have solicited and accepted a $103,000 personal loan from his agency’s board.
The ethics opinion comes amid a state investigation into the no-interest loan, which Lengyel used to enhance his retirement benefits.
Lengyel told the Gazette-Mail in August that he would pay back the money in full immediately, but Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Keith Randolph said Wednesday that he’s yet to see any records that show Lengyel repaid the loan. Lengyel must reimburse the Boone County Ambulance Authority by Sept. 30 — or face possible criminal charges. The Boone ambulance board meets tonight in Racine.
“I have requested documentation [of the loan being repaid], and I haven’t received anything to date,” Randolph said.
The Ethics Commission found that Lengyel violated state laws that ban public officials from using their office for private gain.
“Executing personal loans does not fall within the usual and customary duties associated with a county ambulance authority, whose purpose is to establish and maintain adequate emergency ambulance systems,” the commission wrote in a recent opinion.
In September 2013, Lengyel persuaded ambulance authority board members to loan him $103,000 so he could switch from a state employees retirement plan to a more lucrative plan set up for emergency medical service workers. Under the loan’s terms — which the board never voted on — Lengyel agreed to pay off the no-interest loan in monthly installments of $350 after he retires.
The Ethics Commission noted that Lengyel wrote a letter to his board requesting a loan — and promising to sign a contract to pay back the money. But the letter didn’t disclose the loan amount or contract’s terms, according to the commission.
State law bans public officials from profiting from contracts over which they have “direct control.”
“The contract between [Lengyel] and the board is a prohibited contract under the Ethics Act,” the commission found.
After the Gazette-Mail reported on Lengyel’s loan last month, the ambulance authority voted to rescind the contract. Several board members said they never saw the contract or any loan documents.
Earlier this month, the Boone County Commission took steps to remove ambulance authority President Harold Green and Vice President Joseph Gollie. Boone County commissioners are planning to ask the state Supreme Court to appoint a three-judge panel to oust Green and Gollie, who allegedly gave Lengyel the go-ahead for the illegal loan.
“We’re preparing a petition and trying to get all of our documents squared away,” said Randolph, who also serves as the commission’s attorney. “I imagine it will be completed by the end of the month.”
In a July 31 letter, Randolph notified Lengyel that he could refer the ambulance authority investigation to a Boone County grand jury. Randolph added that he would file a “civil action” to void the authority’s loan, if Lengyel doesn’t pay it back.
Lengyel has denied doing anything wrong. He did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
The state Legislature’s Commission on Special Investigations started looking into Lengyel’s loan five months ago.
Reach Eric Eyre at email@example.com, 304-348-4869 or follow @ericeyre on Twitter.
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