Feds looking into ex-KRMA official

March 21, 2019

KANKAKEE — Federal prosecutors are investigating Richard Simms, the former official that ran both the regional sewer plant and Kankakee’s utilities department.

One of the investigators in the case was also involved in the investigation of the former executive director of the Kankakee Valley Park District.

On Tuesday, the city and the Kankakee River Metropolitan Agency, which runs the plant, released federal grand jury subpoenas they received for documents related to Simms. The subpoena to KRMA was issued Nov. 29 and the one to the city Dec. 13.

The subpoenas sought all invoices, payments, correspondence, personnel files, emails or other records related to Simms, who left the agencies last April.

Listed on the subpoenas is FDIC Special Agent Jason LeBeau. He was a witness in the case involving Roy Collins, the park district’s former executive director. Collins was recently sentenced to 3½ years for corruption charges and has been ordered to repay $196,000.

LeBeau declined to comment on the subpoenas, saying it was policy not to speak to the media about such matters.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugene Miller, whose name is also on the subpoenas, also declined to comment. He said it was the U.S. Justice Department’s policy neither to confirm nor deny federal investigations.

In response to a Daily Journal records request, KRMA and the city last week declined to release the grand jury subpoenas. They cited the secrecy of grand juries and the possibility that disclosure could interfere with the investigation. But the agencies changed course Tuesday.

“KRMA is now disclosing this document because we were recently given assurances by Mr. Jason LeBeau of the issuing authority that he has no objections to its disclosure notwithstanding the language of the subpoena that it is not to be disclosed,” said KRMA lawyer Neal Smith, with the suburban Robbins Schwartz law firm.

In the subpoenas, federal prosecutors ask KRMA and the city not to disclose the document, saying disclosure could impede the investigation. It was not an order.

Simms was the longtime KRMA executive director and superintendent of the city of Kankakee’s utilities department.

Both KRMA and the city are disputing the combined nearly $1.4 million they paid Simms’ firm, Simms Engineering, for a software application that reportedly does not work. Simms formed a separate company that hired software developers from Russia and around the world to create the application, which he said a few months ago would make the city’s and KRMA’s operations more efficient.

Last fall, evidence emerged that Simms was trying to sell the software in question on the open market. At a meeting in August, Simms said KRMA would have to pay licensing fees for the software his firm was developing after at least five years, surprising officials who said they thought the agency owned the product, Eco App Pro.

When Simms retired in April, it was apparently on good terms. Officials started questioning the software payments about two months after his departure. After that, evidence of the application appeared to have been wiped away from the internet.

In October, Simms sued the city for about $50,000 that he said he was still owed for the software. He claimed KRMA owed him a similar amount.

The Daily Journal has found no evidence that either agency sought the software. No contracts exist.

Simms and his lawyers, Chris Bohlen and Ken Carlson, didn’t return a message for comment Tuesday.