Resident questions records, conduct of commissioner

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CLINTON — A Clinton resident questioned the city council Monday about what he said were unexplained discrepancies with city gasoline usage and fire department pay involving a city commissioner.

It was the third time in recent weeks Seth Redington addressed the council about the matter, presenting records obtained from the city he claims show commissioner Dan Ballenger used city gasoline pumps multiple times to put fuel in his personal vehicle.  Redington also questioned Ballenger’s collection of fire department pay, something he said he considered a conflict of interest.

Ballenger serves as commissioner of public health and safety, overseeing the fire and police departments.

Earlier, Redington obtained records from the city through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) showing the number of times during a one-year period in 2020 and 2021 Ballenger put gas in a vehicle recorded as a truck belonging to the fire department.  The Clinton Journal requested the same records, which show Ballenger put gasoline from the city pumps into vehicle 9053 totaling 186.8 gallons during the period.

Redington claims, however, he witnessed Ballenger pumping fuel into his own vehicle on some of the dates recorded.  Redington lives in the vicinity of the city gas pumps.

He claims the record-keeping does not reflect how the fuel was actually used.

Last fall, Ballenger drove to Benton, Ill. to pick up a small boat the Clinton Fire Department bought for water rescue work.  Ballenger previously acknowledged he used his own truck to pick up the boat and was reimbursed his gasoline usage using the city pumps.

Redington filed a police report after he said he saw Ballenger using the pumps on Oct. 17.  In a response from the Clinton Police Department, Redington was told that then city administrator Tim Followell and Ballenger reported to Police Chief Ben Lowers the fuel was reimbursement to Ballenger for picking up the boat.

In November, Followell forwarded to Redington a response from Clinton Fire Department reporting the boat was picked up a little more than a month earlier, on Sept. 12.

Redington questioned the city council about the discrepancy.

“Danny (Ballenger) never denied that he put gas in it (his vehicle) on that incident,” said commissioner John Wise during Monday’s council meeting.  “And, that was what was told and interpreted as the day (Oct. 17)  that he picked it (the boat) up.”

“Was that what happened,” Redington asked.

“That was the information that I had,” Wise responded.  “Danny never, ever denied it.”

Wise said it was the only incident about which he ever commented, and he asked Redington if he had evidence about the other allegations.

“But, what does this page show,” Redington asked, pointing to one of the documents showing gasoline usage

“It doesn’t show it going into his truck, (on Oct. 17)  it shows it going into a fire truck, 9053.  Vehicle 9053 is a 2015 Ford F350 registered to the fire department, Clinton, Ill.”

Redington questioned previously whether a reimbursement request form for the fuel was completed, as required for city council members by city ordinance.

Redington also claimed Ballenger collected fire department pay during watch duty at the Clinton Chamber Haunted House, in October, and that he reported more hours than firefighters were scheduled to be on duty.  He also said records show Ballenger was paid an hourly rate higher than the $22 an hour rate paid to firefighters for the event.

Redington said he felt it was unethical and a conflict of interest for a commissioner to collect wages from the city.

When asked by the Journal about Redington’s claims, Ballenger said he preferred not to comment.