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Head of public works in Hodgkins resigns, spent $3K in village money for personal expenses

HODGKINS – Officials in the village of Hodgkins confirmed Wednesday that Eric Rice, supervisor of the Department of Public Works, has resigned following an investigation that showed he misused village funds.

The Village Board met Monday to discuss Rice's termination, and a majority of trustees reccommended his termination, according to village attorneys Tim Callahan and John O'Connell.

An investigation by the village found that Rice used village funds in the amount of $3,261.32 for personal purchases made with a village issued credit card. The purchases included a set of tires for a personal truck and the purchase of mulch for a private business, according to O'Connell.

The village wasn't prepared to release a complete list of the purchases at this time, saying their investigation is ongoing.

Eric Rice met with Village President Noel B. Cummings on Tuesday and handed in his resignation prior to his termination, according to Callahan. Rice has also repaid the total of the misspent funds to the village, according to village officials.

An investigation was begun by the village in June after the village clerk noticed irregularities in an invoice issued by Rice, according to Callahan. The clerk brought the information to the attention of Trustee Paul Struve, who serves as liaison of the Public Works Committee. An investigation into the misuse of funds in the last two years by Rice was led by Callahan and Trustee Phillip H. Kringlie.

Rice has been employed by the village for 20 years, according to Callahan. The village does not currently plan to broaden its investigation to look into the potential misuse of village funds for the first 18 years of his employment, Callahan said.

Village officials also said they had no plans to launch a criminal investigation into Rice's misuse of village funds. According to O'Connell, the Village Board decided not to pursue legal action because Rice resigned, the amount of funds misused was "a small amount of money" and when confronted, Rice was remorseful.

"He's already been deprived of his livelihood, we think that's enough," O'Connell said.

Rice's father, Larry Rice, currently serves on the Village Board. According to O'Connell, Larry Rice was present at an executive session of the board on Monday night to discuss Eric Rice's termination, but did not make any comments during the meeting.

"Larry Rice never made any statements to sway the board or the president," O'Connell said of Larry Rice's involvement at the meeting.

According to the village, its full investigation will be complete by July 9.

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