EUREKA - A Woodford County Board member seeking to have his legal fees reimbursed after a property tax assessment fight now will have to explain his mileage requests to a county committee.
The County Board voted 9-3 to remove board member Pete Lambie's mileage claim from the monthly bills because of a discrepancy between his request and actual expenses, including how many miles he drove.
County Board member Larry Whitaker told the board Lambie attended an informational meeting about tax caps in Southern Illinois, and his costs included a rental car, meals and hotel stay.
Receipts show the rental car cost slightly more than $100, including gas, but Lambie requested a $279 reimbursement based on miles driven, not the cost of the rental car.
Mileage reimbursement is meant to pay for fuel, maintenance and wear and tear on a personal vehicle, said Whitaker.
"When you rent a car, your mileage is included," said county Adminstrator Greg Jackson. "What would have been more cost-effective for the taxpayers would be to rent the car and bring in the gas receipts."
Part of the claim listed 575 miles driven, but that number was changed in the county administrator's office when an online search showed the actual mileage was about 450. The county pays 48.5 cents per mile.
Jackson said the claim was adjusted in his office, but further scrutiny by the committee was in order.
Lambie said he rented the car because his personal vehicle was in the shop being repaired. He added that mileage reimbursement is owed to a driver regardless of what vehicle they drive.
"I paid for that car out of my own pocket," said Lambie. "I don't set the prices for rental cars and I don't make the rules for how I get paid."
Board member Marcus Adams and Chairman John Krug joined Lambie in voting to leave the claim as is.
The Central Services Committee will review the claim at its next meeting, at which point members also are expected to consider Spring Bay Township's request to reimburse it for $3,500 in legal fees spent for Lambie.
In his role as Spring Bay Township assessor, Lambie altered the assessments on two properties of fellow county board member Joel Lemkemann in early 2006. One property increased from $16,000 to $54,000 and another from $79,000 to $144,000 in a move Lemkemann said was politically motivated.
Lambie and his lawyer previously said the first of the two was a valid increase, but he admitted he made an error in assessing the second one.
After a yearlong investigation, appellate prosecutor Chuck Zalar said the changes may be "morally wrong" but couldn't be criminally prosecuted because Lambie has the statutory right to alter assessments.
"Just because a violation of criminal law doesn't occur, that doesn't necessarily mean the official is acting properly," said Zalar.