State Fair Officials Fined For Violating Gift Ban...For Beer Tickets
Two individuals are being fined for violating ethics rules in their capacities of running Illinois' two State Fairs. Both incidents involved free beer tickets.
The state's Executive Inspector General found John Rednour Jr., the former manager of the DuQuoin State Fair, guilty of soliciting free beer tickets from a vendor in 2012. According to a report, Rednour asked for "a roll or two" of beer tickets. The tickets were valued at $4 each, which would total $4,000 to $8,000, but the vendor did not comply.
Rednour resigned from his position in January, days after the complaint was filed against him.
But Rednour contends he did not ask for that many tickets. Further, he says it used to be common practice to give extra tickets to local media outlets for giveaways or to their sponsors, a move he says is just "good business."
When he became the DuQuoin State Fair manager in 2003, appointed by former Gov. George Ryan, those rules placing caps on gifts were not yet in place, he says.
David Morrison, with the inspector general's office, acknowledges Rednour used the tickets to promote the fair, but says that should have been above board.
"If that's the goal, that should be included in the contract, they should be accountable for it, there should be a public disclosure that that's going on," Morrison said. "Whatever happened was off the books, and that's why it was wrong."
The current state fair manager in Springfield, Amy Bliefnick, was found to have accepted free beer tickets, though she did not solicit them. She was given $540 worth in tickets — well above the $100 cap on gifts state workers can accept.
In a statement, Bliefnick said she also only used the tickets to promote the fair, never for personal gain.
"This practice will no longer continue at the fair," she said of accepting tickets. "I learned a valuable lesson and look forward to a great State Fair this year.”
Bliefnick was suspended without pay for two days and was fined $1,000, but remains in her management position.
Rednour was fined $5,000, the maximum penalty and cannot work for the state for five years. When he stepped down from his position seven months ago, he cited wanting to run the DuQuoin State Bank, which his recently deceased father had started. Rednour says his family's annual party on the opening night of the state fair is still on.
The Illinois State Fair runs Aug. 7 through Aug. 17 and the DuQuoin State Fair runs Aug. 22 through Sept. 1.