MADISON — Boone County Commissioner voted unanimously to file a lawsuit to recover an illegal personal loan given to Boone County Ambulance Authority Director Randy Lengyel.
“I write to seek authorization fromt the Boone County Commission to file suit in the name of the Boone County Commission in order to recover the $103,000 on behalf of the Boone County Ambulance Authority,” wrote Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Keith Randolph in a letter to the commission. The letter was read at the regular session meeting on Tuesday evening, Sept. 29, 2015.
Randolph said his office or the ambulance authority can file the lawsuit against Lengyel.
“If the money is not in by September 30th, we will go through the process of suing to get the money back,” said Commission President Eddie Hendricks.
Hendricks said once the loan is payed in full, the money will be returned to the Boone County Ambulance Authority.
“I have been provided with documentation confirming that the Executive Director (Lengyel) is in the final stages of collecting the funds, and that the money should be timely reimbused to the Ambulance Authority,” Randolph also said in his letter to the commission.
The state Ethics Commission has advised 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 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.
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.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, the commission appointed Jake Warren, Freddy Harless, Josh Barker and Kevin Hill to the ambulance authority board of directors. The board can have from five to 15 members. It had seven when Lengyel received the loan and now the board has 11 members.
It has been rumored that Green and Gollie will step down, but that has not been confirmed. Also, the commission did not say if it will appoint more members to get the total number of board members to the 15 maximum.
In a July 31 letter, Randolph notified Lengyel that he could refer the ambulance authority investigation to a Boone County grand jury. Randolph has not said yet if he will take the matter before a Boone County grand jury if Lengyel doesn’t pay it back.
Lengyel has denied doing anything wrong.
Fred Pace is an editor for Civitas Media. He can be reached at 304-369-1165, ext. 1661, in Madison; at 304-752-6950, ext. 1729 in Logan; by email at email@example.com or @fcpace62 on Twitter.