A Conversation With Gary Woll

The Forest Park Review is Now Partnering with The Village Free Press

Yesterday, we published an Op-Ed piece by former Maywood trustee and clerk Gary Woll. Today, we share the follow-up interview to that piece, wherein we explore Mr. Woll’s motivations and his regrets, among other things. 

By Michael Romain

What motivated you to share this information now?

The last year I was trustee, I asked for Trustee Audrey Jaycox’s line-by-line spending and my line-by-line spending. They weren’t there. They were somewhere in the Village manager’s budget. In order to survive an audit, they had to be placed somewhere. And it wasn’t just used for the trustees (whatever account it was).

The other motivation was, for whatever reason, it [the information about the misused credit card accounts] didn’t surface in writing during the campaign. The only place I saw it was in a piece of campaign literature [from the April 2013 election] that was like in six pages of small typing from Cheryl Ealey [then a candidate for trustee]. I didn’t even read it. I started to read it (I should’ve read it). And it was stapled to some campaign literature from [then mayoral candidate] Edwenna Perkins. But it didn’t seem to me that they put it out in a way that would hurt the Maywood United Party.

But you had a lot of time when you were clerk and even trustee to discover this corruption and notify the public of it. Why didn’t you do it back when you were still in office?

I could’ve requested the material, but I didn’t know what they [Mrs. Ealey-Cross, Mrs. Perkins, Joe Ratley and Dorothy Lane Thomas] were going to find.

Who do you think bears ultimate responsibility for what happened?

With respect to elected officials– Jason Ervin and Audrey Jaycox.

FIGHT TO KEEP MAYWOOD INFORMED

What about Mayor Yarbrough?

No, not under our [managerial] form of government. No matter who the mayor is [he or she can’t be held responsible for the actions of Mr. Ervin]. And Mayor Yarbrough didn’t sit on the finance committee.

Responsibility should fall on the lap of the majority of the Board, not the Mayor. For instance, [during Jason Ervin’s tenure] the Board did not spend a sufficient amount of time reviewing proposals for the new budget. They tended to [rush through the process]. There was little time for discussion and far less time than under previous managers. I’m not saying there was anything sinister. But [Jason Ervin] always he kept things close to the vest. He tended to do a lot of one-sentence answers. He was always very laconic.

Of course, it was the Mayor and the Board who positioned Mr. Ervin to be finance director and Village manager. He was a product of the Maywood United Party, the ticket on top of which Mayor Yarbrough campaigned and on which most of those Board members campaigned. So, if anything, your charges seem to be an indictment of that entire Party, through and through. What’s the status of the Maywood United Party now?

To the best of my knowledge, the Maywood United Party has never met in between elections. I can’t tell you how much they in concert talk to each other about how to govern, but that’s different. It’s not really an ongoing organization. It kind of just comes together for elections. For example, during the last election cycle, I wasn’t asked, nor did I seek, to advise them. I knew I wasn’t going to endorse Lightford. I endorsed Jaycox for clerk, although I regret it. I don’ think she belongs on the Board.

At times it seems as if Trustee Jaycox is being scapegoated (despite the fact of her complicity in the corruption). I think if the focus is too much on her part of the blame, we’ll lose sight of the larger picture. This was a problem that involved a constellation of characters. Do you think that this instance of corruption involving the credit card accounts (which were in the names of Jason Ervin and Lanya Satchell, the finance director) reveals a pattern of corruption that may even be ongoing?

All I really know about is that the trustee accounts, the football game, etc. And it does not go back before Jason. I don’t believe it does at all. In fact, for a number of years, I would make arrangements for people to go the [National League of Cities Conference], because I wanted to get a cheaper hotel. Before we had that expense account, some of us at least were looking for Holiday Inns.

The narrow area of abuse I’m talking about didn’t exist before Jason. And you know what, I don’t know whether he actually ever asked or thought about not charging into the expense accounts. He may not have known that it wasn’t right. I suspect he may have known, but didn’t care. I don’t know.

Is the credit card account still being used?

I think so. There are legitimate reasons to have a credit card.

What kind of measures might be implemented to prevent and/or stop the kind of rampant abuse that occurred during Mr. Ervin’s tenure?

The ordinance should be changed and penalties put in place. There needs to be clearer language that states, no matter where the expenditure occurs, it’s got to be charged back to the trustee’s account. Any overrun has to be approved by the board and if not, it’s subtracted from your next year. For example, I went about $30 over in my last year as clerk, partly because I took the current clerk [Viola Mims] to a conference.

Do you feel any personal responsibility for this kind of abuse happening?

I sometimes have trouble sleeping because, as clerk, I began to realize some of these things and didn’t speak up more often. In my defense, I never quite recovered emotionally from Audrey Jaycox telling me at a meeting during my first three months as clerk that I have no right to speak. So I knew I would never speak more than once in a meeting. From that point on, I felt kind of shut out. Only Mayor Yarbrough said anything in my defense — everyone else shut-up. VFP

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