Posted Online: Sept. 04, 2013, 7:20 pm

Mercer County Board will question county treasurer

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By Cathy Decker, correspondent@qconline.com

ALEDO -- The Mercer County Board on Tuesday discussed several issues related to county Treasurer Michael Bertelsen, who is facing charges he stole money from both the Mercer County Republican Party and from the county government.

State's Attorney Greg McHugh said the treasurer, who is on a paid leave of absence, cannot be removed from office unless he is convicted on the charges or refuses to answer questions posed by the board.

Board chairman Jeff McWhorter asked members who have questions about the county's finances to submit them for presentation to Mr. Bertelsen. He said Mr. Bertelsen has not been in the treasurer's office for the past month.

Mr. Bertelsen is accused of taking more than $500 from the Republican Party. He also faces three counts of taking between $500 and $10,000 from the county's 911 account, He has requested a jury trial.

In a related matter, the board approved a resolution removing Mr. Bertelsen as the signatory on county funds and on treasurer accounts. Deputy director for the treasurer Bev Lower was authorized to log into the treasurer's EPay account for online tax payments and to be the county's signatory to transfer balances to the real estate fund for distribution.

At a finance committee meeting prior to the regular meeting, Ron Fullerlove, a former Mercer County board member who is serving as a consultant to finance committee, said the first installment of $11,627,202 in property taxes has been distributed to the 111 governing units in the county.

Mr. Fullerlove suggested the board buy 60- or 90-day certificates of deposit, rather than 30-day ones, to increase the amount of interest earned. The county has more than $2 million rolled over into CDs, he said. "Why not put it out further? That's just good money management."

The board learned the 2012 annual audit is going well. Mr. McHugh said a forensic audit still needed to be completed. Last month the states attorney suggested a forensic audit be continued after the annual audit is completed.

In other financial business, the board agreed to partially repay $656,692.12 of an $825,000 interfund loan to the liability fund that dates back to December 2009.

The county is also looking into refinancing its bond for the jail expansion, with a potential to save $430,000 - $450,000 a year. The public building commission will meet Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. to hear proposals on refinancing the bond.

In other business the board:

-- Asked the state's attorney to investigate procedures leading to a July decision to revise the county's 1984 zoning ordinance. Board member Dan Schroeder said there were errors on the ordinance and there had not been a public hearing held, nor had it been published.

-- Learned the jail's bed count on Tuesday was 94, with 45 from Cook County, 30 federal prisoners and 19 from Mercer County. The jail can hold 102 prisoners.