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02/23/87 the People of the State of v. Frank Mehelic

February 23, 1987

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

FRANK MEHELIC, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIFTH DISTRICT

504 N.E.2d 1310, 152 Ill. App. 3d 843, 105 Ill. Dec. 792 1987.IL.216

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County; the Hon. Edward Ferguson, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE KASSERMAN delivered the opinion of the court. KARNS, P.J., and JONES, J., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE KASSERMAN

Defendant, Frank Mehelic, was found guilty of one count of official misconduct (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 33-3(c)) by a jury in the circuit court of Madison County. He was sentenced to two years' probation and was ordered to pay a fine of $500 and to perform 200 hours of public service. Defendant appeals. The facts are as follows.

On July 2, 1984, a third amended information was filed, charging defendant with five separate counts of official misconduct based upon incidents occurring between April 1981 and December 1982. Count I of the information charged that defendant, as Nameoki Township Highway Commissioner, committed official misconduct by directing township employees to repair his personal automobile in the township garage during working hours, thereby obtaining a personal advantage for himself. After the charges were severed, defendant went to trial on count I. The following evidence was adduced at trial.

Harold Ray Denson testified that defendant hired him as township mechanic on January 5, 1981. During June 1981, defendant ordered Denson to work on defendant's two-tone, brown-on-brown 1979 Chevrolet Impala automobile in the township garage during working hours. When Denson questioned the propriety of this order, defendant told Denson that "[defendant] was the dictator, [defendant] was the supervisor, [defendant] was the Highway Commissioner [ sic ], and if [Denson] wouldn't do it [defendant] would find someone out on the street that would." Denson complied with the alleged order and stated that he spent 16 hours of township time working on defendant's automobile. According to Denson, he purchased a battery, valve seals, valve covers, and gaskets for defendant's automobile with township funds; however, evidence of these alleged purchases was not documented. Since Denson did not have the tools to perform the needed repairs, he made an appointment at the Nameoki garage so the repairs could be made.

In March 1983, Denson was subpoenaed to testify before the Madison County grand jury concerning defendant's activities. Denson was granted immunity from prosecution prior to testifying. According to Denson, defendant told him to either "take the Fifth [amendment] or to say I don't remember." After Denson testified, defendant allegedly told him "[t]he heads is going to roll now." Denson's job was eliminated on September 30, 1983. Denson, who was under union protection, filed a grievance against defendant seeking reinstatement. On the date he testified, Denson had not yet been reinstated.

At trial, Harold Ray Denson's wife, Shirley, testified that defendant told her that "heads were going to roll" after she testified before the grand jury. Her job as dispatcher for the township highway department was also eliminated on September 30, 1983. She testified that she saw her husband working on a tan-colored car in the township garage during the spring or summer of 1981.

Highway department employee JoAnn Hargrove testified that during the spring of 1981 she saw a light-colored personal car in the township garage. When Hargrove asked defendant why he was terminating the Densons' employment, defendant allegedly told her "[t]hem people tried to put me in jail. I can't help but get rid of them."

Several other highway department employees testified that in the spring or summer of 1981 they saw Mr. Denson working on a twotone brown Chevrolet automobile in the township garage during working hours. They testified that they believed this automobile belonged to defendant and that it was not a township vehicle. Although Denson had earlier testified that several of these employees were present when defendant "directed" Mr. Denson to repair defendant's personal automobile, none of these witnesses could remember defendant giving Mr. Denson such directions. The testimony of these witnesses conflicted as to how long defendant's automobile was worked on by Denson in the township garage.

Melba Mehelic, the defendant's wife, testified that during June 1981 she became interested in purchasing a 1979 Chevrolet Impala automobile from a local dealership and that since she knew very little about the mechanical aspects of motor vehicles, she asked defendant to have Mr. Denson inspect it. Denson met Mrs. Mehelic at the dealership on a working day at approximately 5 p.m. Denson checked the vehicle's mechanical condition, drove the vehicle for a short time, returned to the dealership and told Mrs. Mehelic "[i]f you don't buy it, I will." Mrs. Mehelic bought the automobile on June 16, 1981.

After driving the automobile to and from work for two days, Mrs. Mehelic noticed that the automobile was using oil. Each evening thereafter she added oil. Defendant told her that he would take the automobile to work so that Mr. Denson could look at it. Defendant did so on June 22, 1981. Mrs. Mehelic stated that she picked up the automobile on the evening of June 23, 1981, from the Nameoki garage. She paid a bill of $87.05 for replacement of valve cover gaskets, valve seals, and spark plugs at this time. Since the repairs failed to correct the problem, the Mehelics traded this vehicle in on a new one.

The defendant testified that before his wife bought the automobile in question, she asked him if he could ask Denson to inspect it. Defendant did so. After his wife bought the automobile, the Mehelics noticed that it was using a large amount of oil. When defendant mentioned this to Mr. Denson, Denson allegedly replied, "bring it on Monday and I'll take a look at it."

At approximately 9 o'clock Monday morning defendant took his wife's automobile to the township garage. After Mr. Denson inspected the automobile for approximately 45 minutes, he told defendant that it appeared to need engine repairs. Defendant then asked Denson where these repairs could be made. Denson told him the Nameoki garage. Defendant took the car to the Nameoki garage the following morning and repairs were made. The Mehelics retrieved the automobile that evening. They paid for the repairs at this time. The defendant admitted that it would have been in excess of his lawful authority as highway commissioner to order Mr. Denson to perform "maintenance work" upon his personal automobile in the township garage during working hours.

An invoice from the Nameoki Village Auto Center was admitted into evidence. This invoice, which was dated June 23, 1981, charged the Mehelics $66 labor to install valve cover gaskets, valve seals, and spark plugs, $20 for the spark plugs, and $1.05 tax, for a total bill of $87.05. ...


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