Former Steph. County Board Member Under Criminal Investigation

By: Tina Stein
By: Tina Stein

STEPHENSON COUNTY (WIFR) -- A criminal investigation is underway on activities involving the Stephenson County Board. The Sheriff says a board member lied about her address to get elected and he tells us she continued that lie for several months.

For nine months, the Stephenson County Sheriff says Ashley DeMeester had her mail sent to someone else's home. A Freeport address that helped her get elected to the County Board's District "G".

"This individual never represented her district. She moved well before the General Election," says Sheriff David Snyders.

In August 2012, three months before the General Election, Ashley got a speeding ticket and listed Rock City as her address. She used the same address this March in another traffic incident. Rock City is not in District "G" but 14 miles away.

"What she did was wrong, and there are criminal charges she could be facing because of this," says Sheriff Snyders.

Ashley did once live in District "G", but authorities say never as an elected official.

"I think the voters in her district should be very upset," says Chairman Bill Hadley.

Hadley is now searching for Ashley's replacement. She resigned in writing last month, saying she decided to "permanently move out of the district." The announcement came after first being interviewed by investigators.

One of the biggest issues in Ashley's district is the building of a roundabout at Pearl City Road and Kiwanis Drive. She voted against the measure. And now the board is looking into her voting record on other issues.

"If some of these votes were close, some of these votes won't count for her and it could change the outcome of some issues. Right now were looking into some of those also," says Hadley.

Chairman Hadley questions her intentions from the start. She's 22 and her dad and uncle are on the County Board. A Board known for being quite divisive. And according to the Sheriff, secretive too. He's now investigating all members about their knowledge of Ashley's residency.

"This whole issue of keeping silent of a board member that committed this crime is wrong. And the fact that others may have known about it, is wrong also," says Sheriff Snyders.

"If these board members knew she moved out of the district, I wish they would have come forward and admit we gave her some bad advice to stay on the County Board," says Hadley.

Hadley is especially irked all board members signed a pledge promising transparency.

23 News made multiple attempts to contact Ashley. We left her voicemails, showed up at her home. Tina even talked to her dad Jim DeMeester of District K. He said he didn't want to comment.

Stephenson County State's Attorney John Vogt has not yet filed formal charges. But his office does take these types of issues seriously. Former board member Jim Kuhlmeier was convicted of perjury in 2010 for forging petition signatures.

Chairman Hadley thinks Ashley made at least a thousand dollars for her stint on the County Board. He's now looking into whether she'll need to pay that money back.


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