Why the City of Rock Island is looking to ‘tighten up’ what aldermen can spend city money on

ROCK ISLAND, Illinois -- Spending policies among Rock Island city leaders may be changing, according to Mayor Mike Thoms.

And the catalyst for this change? A newspaper article.

At the Rock Island City Council meeting on Monday, June 10, former Alderman Virgil Mayberry spoke to the members in response to what was written in the news article by the Rock Island Dispatch-Argus.   The article outlined a deep-dive into expense reports and receipts from the city's seven aldermen since 2015.

In the report, Mayberry was specifically named for items he bought during his time as an alderman.  Some of those items included a bulletproof vest, cuff links, dry cleaning, and gasoline.

In his own defense, Mayberry spoke in front of city council members at their meeting on Monday, June 10.

"I felt that I needed to tell my side of the story at the council meeting," he said.

In an interview with News 8 on Tuesday Mayberry said "none of the things that I did were illegal, immoral or unethical, none of them."  He said he wore the bulletproof vest while he was representing Rock Island in cities he considered to be dangerous. He said the gasoline was bought to help him travel around in his ward.  The cuff links, he said, were custom-made gifts that he gave to two leaders in Rock Island to help them represent the city.

"I believe that in his mind he was doing the right thing," said Mayor Thoms. "(but) I disagree with him, as I think a number of other people do. But I wouldn't say that he's lying I think he's very sincere and passionate about his beliefs."

Mayor Thoms said he too planned to bring up the article at Monday's council meeting. He said he doesn't agree that all of those purchases were necessarily justified, and wanted to "talk to the council members and see if we could make some changes on policies."

"We are going to tighten this up," he said.  "We are going to have a process, a tighter process of approval."

As it stands now, each alderman gets a purchase card.  Purchases are first approved by the city council and are ultimately signed off by the city manager.  The mayor explained that the catch in this system, however, is that purchases don't get approved until items and services have already been paid for.

"When you make a purchase on your purchase card you don't see the statement until later," explained Mayor Thoms. "So now the city's money has already been spent, so how do you undo it?"

Mayor Thoms said the council planned to discuss policy changes at their Study Session on July 8 at 5:30 p.m.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.