Metro East Mayor Resigns After Indicted By Grand Jury On Federal Charges
Editor’s note: This story was originally published by the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.
Longtime Columbia Mayor Kevin Hutchinson has resigned, less than a week after a federal grand jury indicted him for allegedly lying to investigators about referral commissions he received on city insurance contracts.
City Administrator Doug Brimm announced the resignation in a news release emailed on Monday. It referenced a letter Hutchinson wrote to the Columbia City Council.
“It is with a heavy heart, but due to the recent events, I feel it is in the best interest of the City and my family for me to immediately resign my position as Mayor,” the letter stated.
Last week, Hutchinson didn’t respond to BND requests for comment through email or voicemail at City Hall. He was earning a $22,950 annual salary in the position, which is considered part time.
City Council members are expected to hold a special meeting this week to chose an acting mayor from their ranks.
“The acting mayor shall complete the remainder of the mayor’s term and shall perform the duties and possess all the rights and powers of the mayor until a successor is elected,” according to city code.
Hutchinson is finishing his fourth term as mayor. He announced last summer that he wouldn’t run for re-election in April. Candidates Bob Hill and Wesley Hoeffkin are vying for the position.
On Feb. 24, a grand jury indicted Hutchinson in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois in East St. Louis.
Hutchinson is charged with one count of making a false statement to the federal Southern Illinois Public Corruption Task Force, also referred to as the Metro-East Public Corruption Task Force.
That’s a felony with a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison, according to Nathan Stump, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Fairview Heights.
State law prohibits elected city officials from “being financially interested, directly or indirectly, in any contract, work or business of the municipality,” according to the indictment. An ethics law also requires them to disclose their financial interests with their county clerks.
In an interview Friday, Brimm said the city had been cooperating with the federal investigation and the case would have a “negligible” effect on day-to-day operations.
“Our main mission is to continue providing services to our residents and that will go on uninterrupted,” he said.
Hutchinson works as a director with St. Louis-based C.J. Thomas Insurance Co., according to its website. His bio states that he joined the company in 1993.
The federal indictment doesn’t mention C.J.Thomas. It describes Hutchinson as a licensed insurance agent who owned a closely-held Illinois corporation called BMC Associates, Inc.
The city of Columbia provides health-insurance coverage for employees and also contracts for property/casualty loss insurance, according to the indictment.
“Unbeknownst to the city council or the city manager, Hutchinson and his corporation, BMC Associates, Inc., received referral commissions from the insurance contracts that the city of Columbia placed with MRCT and ICRMT,” the indictment states.
MRCT is now part of OneDigital, a health, retirement, wealth and human-resources firm based in Atlanta, Georgia. ICRMT stands for Illinois Counties Risk Management Trust.
The federal indictment gave the following background on the Hutchinson case:
- As an elected municipal official and a public officer, the mayor was prohibited under the Illinois Public Officer Prohibited Activities Act from being financially interested, directly or indirectly, in any contract, work or business of the municipality.
- The Illinois Governmental Ethics Act required him to truthfully complete an annual Statement of Economic Interests and file it with the county clerk.
- On June 28, 2018, Hutchinson allegedly filed a false Statement of Economic Interests with the Monroe County clerk, stating that he didn’t have a personal financial interest, directly or indirectly, in any contract, work or business of the municipality.
- The Southern Illinois Public Corruption Task Force opened a federal investigation to determine whether Hutchinson violated federal law after learning that he had received referral commissions from a health-insurance policy for city employees.
- The task force consisted of agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service/Criminal Investigations and a representative of the Illinois State Police.
- On or about March 20, 2019, Hutchinson “did willfully and knowingly make, and cause to be made, materially false statements and representations ... by falsely telling a Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent and a federal Task Force Officer that his only interest in MRCT’s contract with the City of Columbia was in his official capacity as the Mayor of the City of Columbia.
Teri Maddox is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.