State moves to freeze Montalvo’s assets
By Christin Nance Lazerus email@example.com March 22, 2011 5:26PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed suit Tuesday to freeze the assets of former East Chicago Public Library Director Manuel “Manny” Montalvo.
Montalvo, who was fired by the board last week, billed the library for more than $12,000 in travel and other expenses, which were questioned in a preliminary state audit.
“Like all government officials, public library employees are accountable to the taxpayers,” Zoeller said in a statement. “If an employee submits ineligible travel bills that are wrongly paid out, then that individual is responsible for repaying the public treasury. My office has intervened in this situation to ensure funds will be available to reimburse the taxpayers.”
The Attorney General’s Office requested and was granted a temporary restraining order in Lake Circuit Court.
The order prohibits Montalvo from selling, transferring or concealing personal assets until a March 30 hearing before Judge John Pera. Zoeller plans to ask the court to enter an order for a prejudgment attachment and garnisheement, to extend the freeze on Montalvo’s assets indefinitely and prevent Montalvo from disposing of them while a full audit is being completed.
Once the final audit report is completed, the attorney general can file a civil suit for recovery of public funds.
When reached by phone Tuesday, Montalvo declined comment at first, but he called back to make a statement, saying that he’s had better days.
“If I owe the taxpayers of East Chicago any money, I will be paying them back,” he said.
According to the suit, Montalvo’s assets include a house in East Chicago, his bank accounts and retirement plan account, and six vehicles: a Buick Park Avenue, 1995 Ford Escort LX, 1995 Honda Passport, 2002 Audi A4 1.8 Turbo, 2003 Lexus ES 300, and a 2005 Saab 9-3 Linear.
Last week, Montalvo questioned the legality of his firing, noting that only four of the seven board members were present. He said he is considering legal action. The board plans to meet at 4:30 p.m. today.
The audit covers 2008 and 2009, and it questioned Montalvo’s extensive traveling to Puerto Rico, New York and other places when library workers and hours were being cut.
The library made $1 million in cuts while Montalvo took a $1,844 trip to New York for a Puerto Rican Day event and a $2,356 trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for an economic development conference, which auditors questioned whether it took place.
Montalvo was criticized for his attempts to be reimbursed for $1,022 in fuel purchases and $1,677 in repairs done on his 2005 Saab, even though he had a $600 monthly vehicle stipend.
Under state law, per diem and travel bills aren’t eligible for reimbursement with public funds. The suit said that Montalvo is personally responsible for repaying them.
The board cited the financial issues as the basis for Montalvo’s removal as well as his 2010 conviction on misdemeanor charges of battery, disorderly conduct and criminal trespass. He and his wife were accused of trying to board an empty South Shore train, then getting into a physical and verbal altercation with officers who told them to leave the platform.
Zoeller’s suit was filed under a 2009 state law that allows the State Board of Accounts to provide early notice of possible misappropriation in a local government office so the attorney general can intervene and take legal action to prevent funds from being dissipated while an audit is ongoing.