Joliet park officials offer different accounts on what led to financial probe

Park District Board President Sue Gulas discusses new business on Monday, Jan. 25, 2021, at Inwood Athletic Club in Joliet, Ill.

Two Joliet Park District board members appear to have different views on the discovery of what is being termed “potential financial improprieties” now under investigation.

Park board President Sue Gulas on Monday made a statement that staff identified the problem while one fellow board member continued to claim to have had a role.

“It wasn’t a board member,” Gulas said. “It was found internally by a new staff member.”

Gulas’ comments reenforced a statement put out by the park district last week linking the findings to personnel and system changes.

Park officials have said little about the matter other than that it involved the suspected use of a park district card by a former employee.

Board Vice President Joe Clement, however, continued to say Monday that he had concerns that led to the investigation.

“I never claimed I found it,” Clement said. “I’m just claiming that there were things that I wanted looked at by our CFO (chief financial officer). Now we have an investigation. She’s doing all the work.”

The CFO that Clement referred to is Lisa Banovetz, director of finance and human resources at the park district. Banovetz took the job in January after former Finance Director Matt Pehle left to become chief financial officer at the Forest Preserve District of Will County.

The forest preserve district put Pehle on administrative leave Friday, the day after the park district put out its statement confirming the investigation into potential financial improprieties by a former employee.

Sources have said that Pehle is the person under investigation.

The amount of money involved has not been disclosed, although park officials have said that still needs to be determined.

The matter has been referred to Joliet police.

The park district also has hired an accounting firm to conduct a forensic audit on the matter, said Steven Adams, attorney for the district.

Adams spoke briefly after a park board meeting on Monday in which the matter was not discussed publicly. The board did meet in closed session at the end of the meeting.