What did city give official?

November 28, 2018

KANKAKEE — Richard Simms, the former head of the regional sewage treatment agency, also worked for the city of Kankakee, where his arrangement remains a bit of a mystery.

About three weeks ago, the Daily Journal filed an open records request with Kankakee for Simms’ city contracts and his last two years of invoices.

The city has twice emailed the newspaper to extend the deadline to respond to the request, which it can do under state law. Although a city employee typically handles records requests, the latest message was sent by the city attorney.

In both emails, the city said it needed more time because the request required searching through a “substantial” number of records and determining which information should be shielded from public view.

On Monday, the Daily Journal emailed Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong about why an attorney would be involved in a request seeking financial records. In a reply, she said the employee who handles records requests was gone last week, which probably was the reason the attorney contacted the newspaper.

The paper also inquired how much Simms made per month and what work he did, but the mayor did not provide an answer.

Simms began his career with the city in 1987, when the treatment plant was under construction. But at some point, he ended his city employment and started working on contract.

In the 1990s, Simms became the first executive director of the newly created Kankakee River Metropolitan Agency, or KRMA. That agency is run by a board with members appointed by Kankakee, Bourbonnais, Bradley and Aroma Park.

To this day, Simms is listed on the city’s online staff directory as the superintendent of the city’s environmental services utility, with Pete Schiel as the assistant superintendent. It’s unclear why Simms, who reportedly moved out of town, still is listed as holding the position. His phone number on the city website no longer is in service.

Chris Bohlen, Simms’ attorney, said his client retired as of April 30.

“Simms Engineering and Richard Simms are no longer employed by the City of Kankakee due to his retirement,” Bohlen said. “He stayed in his position under the mayor at her request but agreed to do so subject to his planned retirement. ‘’

At a City Council meeting in mid-April, Simms, in his early 70s, announced his retirement as executive director of KRMA, which runs the treatment plant along the river and near the Kankakee Area YMCA. His departure appeared to be on good terms, with council members praising his service.

Simms’ contract with KRMA was through his engineering firm, Simms Engineering Ltd. In his last four years, he billed the agency $768,000 for a software application, but the software remains unused.

Recently, the agency accused Simms of providing source code for incomplete software and demanded he provide the names of subcontractors that worked on the application.

Through an attorney, Simms has said the KRMA board approved his actions as executive director.

The agency has raised the possibility of suing Simms and his firm.

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