Local realtor JoAnne Gretencord and her employer are suing Grundy County Treasurer Marcy Miller for defamation.
Gretencord, a real estate agent in the county for more than 30 years, works for RE/MAX Top Properties, which is a business of Vicmark Inc. Vicmark is partly owned by Vicki Geiger, who is also a Grundy County Board member, according to the case file.
The filing alleges that Miller wrote a letter to Geiger and also sent it to all of the county board members, Grundy County State’s Attorney Jason Helland, and board secretary Sandy Pommier.
It’s in the letter that Gretencord is allegedly defamed.
“The March 15 letter contained statements prejudicing Gretencord in her profession and business...,” states the case file.
Miller refused Friday to comment on the case against her and Gretencord was unavailable for comment. Geiger said she could not comment more, other than to say that, as an owner, she is a supporter of her agents.
In the signed letter included in the case filing, Miller states she is writing regarding an issue she found unprofessional and disturbing. It states that, on March 12, Gretencord was showing a property on Liberty Street to Don Kay, who is married to Jane, a Grundy County Treasurer’s deputy.
“During the Tuesday, March 12, 2013, ‘showing’ Mrs. Gretencord casually mentioned ‘they are going to get Mr. Halpin tonight’ and that ‘Mr. Halpin would bring his voucher into the Treasurer’s Office and they would just pay him,” states the letter.
Miller continues in the letter that she finds it disturbing that Gretencord would solicit Kay “just to give him her political beliefs.” Miller also says she would expect Geiger to be “alarmed” having a representative of RE/MAX giving “unsolicited political gossip during a ‘showing.’”
Gretencord’s case argues that she at no time acted unprofessionally and that she contacted Kay to show him the property in hopes of selling it to him. Miller’s statement that she solicited him just to give him her political beliefs, and Miller’s use of quotes around “showing” in the letter, implies Gretencord only asked for the meeting to give her political views.
Gretencord’s case states this is false and that she called Kay to show him the property with the purpose of selling it. In addition, the case states Kay was actually the one who solicited political comments from Gretencord during the showing.
The statements in the letter constitute defamation, according to the filing, because they impute a lack of integrity of Gretencord in performing her work, and prejudice her in her profession.
Gretencord is suing Miller for compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $50,000, plus costs.
Since Vicmark is Gretencord’s sponsoring broker and, therefore, Miller allegedly prejudiced the company as well, it also wants in excess of $50,000, plus costs.
At the March 12 Grundy County Board meeting, the board voted to hire a special prosecuter to look into a possible civil case against board member Halpin. Halpin was not present at the meeting.
This action came following allegations first raised by current Board Vice Chairman David Welter more than two years ago. At that time, Welter – based on an investigation he did prior to his first being elected to the board – accused Halpin, a former chairman of the board, of receiving reimbursements for meetings he either did not attend or, in some cases, that did not take place. He said Halpin was paid $71,000 in a year, while the previous chairman was paid $26,000.
Welter said he found that one board member – Halpin – instead of following procedure of turning vouchers over to the board secretary and having them countersigned “always bypassed the board secretary and took them to the treasurer himself.”
In Miller’s letter, she states, “Many board members presented their per diem vouchers directly to the Grundy County Treasurer’s Office in the past...” she goes on to name specific board members who have allegedly done this. At this time, the vouchers did not go through the Finance Committee because it was not part of the board’s rules then, she said.
“It is not the Grundy County Treasurer’s Office responsibility to check the claims, as I would have no way of checking these to the meeting minutes or the sign-in sheets,” Miller states in the letter.
“It is being mentioned over and over again that Mr. Halpin bypassed the County Board Secretary and took them to the treasurer himself. It should be referenced that the Grundy County Treasurer’s Office receives ALL payroll and claim vouchers for ALL the county bills. And the rules for the County Board changed Jan. 11, 2011, which required the per diem vouchers to be reviewed and initialed by the board secretary and then presented to the Finance Committee.”
She continues that since the procedures have changed, the vouchers are signed by the appropriate individuals, but errors still happen.
And although its not the treasurer’s office duty to “police” payroll and claim vouchers, they do fix errors that are obvious.
Assistant State’s Attorney Perry Rudman said Friday there has been no update from the special prosecutor regarding the Halpin allegations. Rudman said the Kendall County State’s Attorney’s office is handling this.