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Kankakee inspections in question

July 15, 2018

KANKAKEE — The city of Kankakee’s building permits include a signature line for the plumbing inspector. This is where city employee Phillip Leppert signs his name.

But Leppert is not a plumbing inspector. He is the city’s building inspector.

To be a plumbing inspector, he must have a plumbing license. He does not.

In response to a public records request, the city provided the last 10 building permits that included plumbing inspections. Leppert signed all 10 of them, rather than the city’s actual plumbing inspector, Mike Magruder.

The city also furnished the back-up inspection reports. The ones for plumbing did not include Magruder’s signature, only his typewritten name.

When contacted, Leppert said city policy required him to refer all questions to Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong’s office. He said he would check to see whether his supervisor, Tomora Nelson, the city’s code enforcement director, would take questions. He called back to say Nelson also directed inquiries the mayor’s way.

The Daily Journal left four email and phone messages with the mayor, all of which went unreturned.

In an interview, Magruder said he has been doing the plumbing inspections, but he said the city is strapped for money, and it would be less efficient for the city to have him go to its offices and sign permits.

“For me to sign off on every one of those permits, I’d have to go in there every day,” he said. “It’s not practical for me. I can honestly tell you that I’ve not authorized anyone to do plumbing inspections. Phil is signing off on building permits. I don’t see any problem with that.”

Magruder said while state law requires plumbing inspectors be licensed plumbers, it does not require inspectors to sign documents to indicate their approval.

“I’m a certified plumbing inspector. I know what the laws are. I’m not going to jeopardize my license. This is a clerical issue,” he said.

Magruder is also the plumbing inspector for Bourbonnais, where he lives.

Documents at Bourbonnais village hall show Magruder signs plumbing inspection documents. In Bradley, the plumbing inspector also affixes his signature to reports, officials said.

In an interview, Ald. Gloria Kennedy, D-1, the outgoing chairman of the City Council’s code committee, said a resident called her about the plumbing inspection issue.

“This is not good,” she said. “I want to know if [Leppert] has the qualifications to sign.”

Kennedy said she texted Wells-Armstrong about the issue two weeks ago but received no reply.

Ald. Dave Crawford, R-3, the incoming chairman of the code committee, also said he was aware of the issue. He said he, too, called the mayor but got no reply.

At Monday’s council meeting, Crawford said he plans to ask the council to go into closed session to discuss personnel matters, namely Leppert.

“I want to see what our liabilities are going to be with him not being a licensed plumber,” Crawford said.

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