Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Official Is Indicted after `Park' Furniture Ends Up on His Deck

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Official Is Indicted after `Park' Furniture Ends Up on His Deck

Article excerpt

A year and a half after the Troy, Ill., Optimist Club disbanded and donated its treasury for the city to equip a new minipark, the lot sat vacant.

Louis Buseking wanted to know why.

As the club's last president and shepherd of its $4,500, he also could not understand why the city's purchase list included a table, bench and four chairs all made of expensive teak.

So Buseking took his suspicions to Madison County State's Attorney William R. Haine two weeks ago and told him, "That didn't seem like the kind of furniture you'd put in a new park."

It turned out to be the kind of furniture you'd put on the deck of your new house, Haine said Thursday in announcing the indictment of Thom Downey, the former Troy alderman who is executive director of planning, evaluation and research for the St. Louis Public Schools.

The furniture, worth $2,234, was confiscated with a search warrant Sept. 13 from the deck of Downey's new home overlooking a golf course in Belleville, officials said. The charges of felony theft and official misconduct allege that he stole it.

The case sent shock waves through the school system's hierarchy, where Downey, 47, has been regarded as a reliable employee since being hired in 1968.

"It came as a complete surprise," said his supervisor, Charles Simms, the district chief of staff. "I have had no reason whatsoever in the 25 years that I have known Thom . . . to question or doubt his integrity."

Simms said Downey's duties mainly involved planning the system's $355 million capital improvement program. The job did not involve handling taxpayers' money, he said.

Downey, who earns $68,052 a year, will remain on the job pending further inquiry, Simms said.

A former co-worker, Dan Coates, now an administrator for the Parkway School District, called Downey "squeaky clean."

"If anything, I felt he was sometimes too strict that all the pens and paper clips were accounted for. …

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