These seriously questionable irregularities have happened over the past ten years (at least) against a backdrop of growth and development in Marion, Illinois. The municipal tool used to drive this growth has been Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) used in designated “blighted” areas as an incentive to developers.  Properties located in a TIF district have a percentage of their real estate taxes apportioned to the TIF district, clearly listed as a “taxing body” on their property tax bills, along with schools, parks, airports, etc.  The TIF monies are then disbursed by the county tax collector to the city for disbursement to developers as reimbursement for “cost eligible” expenses.  By Illinois statute, TIF districts have a lifespan of 23 years, and can be extended by city ordinance to 35 years.

Marion Heights, LLC. ( MHLLC ) is listed on numerous property tax bills as a taxing body alongside schools, roads, and the airport.   Clearly Marion Heights LLC. is not a taxing body.  MHLLC is a private entity created by  Douglas Bradley and Lynn Holmes etal.  Among other things, Doug is a CPA, with established connections with the mayor, city engineer, council, county treasurer and tax assessor.  ( And to quote him, “has lobbyists in Springfield”)  Lynn has a “3 generation” well known construction business. The City of Marion created “Marion Heights TIF 1” in 2003 expressly for MHLLC.  In addition to profiting from getting reimbursed with TIF funds for costs of land acquisitions and improvements, MHLLC also profits hugely from the subsequent sale of that land.  In addition,  MHLLC  has been installed on those property tax bills as a taxing body to receive 99% of the tax monies for the life of the “TIF” after the sale .  How did that happen?  A phone call to Doug Bradley didn’t produce an explanation as to how MHLLC, a private entity, was able to get installed on county property tax bills as the recipient of those property taxes.  The Williamson County Commissioners refused to provide satisfactory answers, and showed no inclinination to call for a state or federal investigation, stating that they see no wrongdoing here.  ( view recorded public meetings )


Of these, 15 property tax bills alone ( listing  MHLLC as a taxing body) raked in over one million property  tax dollars just in 2012.  MHLLC is allocated 99 % of the total tax collected.  We have copies of ten years of tax bills for over 1200 pieces of property in affluent west Marion.  MHLLC has been listed as a taxing body on tax bills since 2003. Literally millions of property tax  dollars appear to have been hijacked over the recent past decade to MHLLC.

Williamson County Treasurer checks have been written directly to Marion Heights, LLC.  out of the “taxing body” county bank account ending in # 5639. We have copies of those checks and copies of the Williamson County “taxing district” check disbursement registers showing the same for 7 years.  We have copies of the Williamson County bank statements verifying the same. Marion Heights, LLC.  received at least 4 checks a year from this county account.  There are irregularities.   Again, Marion Heights, LLC. is not a TIF district, yet the Williamson County Treasurer writes checks directly to them, bypassing the normal TIF channels.  As evidence shows, when a county treasurer “new girl” wrote the MHLLC checks to the City of Marion instead, when issuing TIF checks, someone in the treasurer’s office “corrected” it back when she left, indicating it was not merely a typo.  Marion’s other TIF districts receive separate county checks made out to the City of Marion, with specific TIF name as a line item.

The Williamson County TIF checks written to the City of Marion TIF districts are not directly deposited into the US BANK ILLINOIS FUNDS “ TIF account” set up for TIF funds by the CITY of Marion.  City treasurer Steve Hale admitted that, but would not explain the circuitous route the TIF monies take before making it into that account.   Again, this “accounting practice” raises serious questions including its legality in the handling of TIF monies. We have copies of 7 years of the City of Marion’s US BANK ILLINOIS FUND (TIF) account.  It is a money market account, with very few paper checks written into or out of it ( a few huge checks to City of Marion Accounts Payable ).  City of Marion Treasurer Steve Hale stated that the US BANK ILLINOIS FUNDS account was set up just for TIF district funds, and yet it offers zero transparency as to the actual trail of TIF dollars.  The City of Marion is refusing to provide e-mail copies of the city’s bank account ending in #5898, which would provide information as to where the money is actually going.

The City of Marion seems to use City Ordinances as a tool to validate whatever decisions they decide to make regarding the TIF districts and the TIF funds in the closed door “executive sessions” meetings of the city council.  Changes are numerous and frequent and irregular, as evidenced by the Williamson County file copies we have.  ( It’s ok if they say it’s ok )  The deals made with developers in these ordinances and agreements raise serious questions as well. Broad interpretation of “cost eligible” expenses is allowed, including land acquisitions.

Huge irregularities exist in both the method of taxation and the fair cash value assessments made by the Williamson County Tax Assessor with regard to TIF developer’s properties in stark contrast to adjoining parcels owned by others.   The volume of serious irregularities, and repeated patterns of the same, raise enormous questions as to the propriety of the cooperation and involvement by and between municipal offices and officials and the developers in the “good ol’ boys club” style. ( Civil rights issues raised deserve a book of their own here. ) There is neither time nor space here to list all the irregularities we have uncovered in connection to our research on the property tax assessments in West Marion alone. Developer names seem to be the common theme connecting those irregularities.  We have not even had the time for complete review of all of the tax records we have collected to date.  The seriously questionable irregularities contained in the following pages of this expository stem from only a small portion of those records.

The lack of accountability and transparency, arrogant dismissal of inquiries, and open contempt for the rights of the taxpayers displayed by city and county officials is astounding.  We taxpayers have been defrauded of our expectations for fair and honest services.  We are seriously alarmed at the lack of standard secure accounting controls with the handling of TIF property tax dollars by municipal officials.

None dare call it corruption….

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