SOUTHERN ILLINOIS -- Professional woes continue for former Williamson County Assistant State's Attorney Andrew Purcell.
Purcell was working as an assistant state's attorney in the Williamson County state's attorney's office from March 2021 until last month. Williamson County State's Attorney Brandon Zanotti confirmed that Purcell was no longer working in his office but declined further comment, calling it "personnel matters."
He then decided to run for a seat on the Williamson County Board on the Republican ticket.
Williamson County Republican Party Chairman Jeff Diederich challenged Purcell's candidate, filing a 150-page challenge to the candidacy of Andrew Purcell, said Monday that Purcell is a sitting member of the city council in Bridgeton, Missouri, which calls into question where he really lives.
That challenge was successful.
The Marion Republican confirmed with Bridgeton, MO Mayor Terry Briggs that Purcell has been an active city council member in Bridgeton. Briggs said he had no idea Purcell was not maintaining his city residency requirement.
On Monday, the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney's Office has charged Andrew Purcell, 36, with Stealing by Deceit, a D Felony. The charge was issued on summons.
According to a probable cause statement signed by a Bridgeton Police Department detective:
• In April 2018, Andrew Purcell was appointed to Bridgeton City Council representing Ward 2. At that time, Purcell listed a home address in Bridgeton. In April 2020, Purcell was elected to the City Council for a two-year term. From April 7, 2020 until June 4, 2021, Purcell rented an apartment in Bridgeton. Purcell's tenure as a Bridgeton City Council member expired after the April 5, 2022 election because he did not run for reelection.
• Purcell registered to vote in the State of Illinois on November 5, 2021, listing his home address in Carterville, IL. During a Electoral Board meeting on March 25, 2022, in Williamson County, Illinois, Purcell stated, ''It is my contention, under oath, that I am a resident of Williamson County and have been since March 1 of 2021.'" On March 8, 2021, Purcell signed a rental agreement for a property in Carterville, IL, where he resides.
• Bridgeton City Council members are paid a gross income of $500 per month. Per Section 3.02 of the Bridgeton City Charter, a councilman shall be a qualified voter in the City of Bridgeton, and per Section 3.04 shall forfeit his office should he lack at any time during his term of office any qualification for the office. At no time did Purcell notify the City of Bridgeton that he had moved out of the city or changed his voter registration.
Monday was also Purcell's first day as an Assistant State's Attorney in Union County. That job lasted only until Purcell resigned on Wednesday.
According to Union County State's Attorney Tyler Tripp, Purcell passed the standard background check through the county human resources department and was hired to fill the vacancy, serving less that three days before officials were made aware of the Missouri charges.
Tripp said Purcell was still in the initial start up for the position and had not handled any cases or made any court appearances.
When Briggs learned of the new wrinkle in the case, he just shook his head.
"This is just getting more and more bizarre," he said. "It's like that movie Groundhog Day. Things just keep happening."
During Purcell's unsuccessful defense of Diederich's challenge in Williamson County, he was adamant about where he believed his official residence was located.
"My argument would be that the appropriate remedy should not be to take me off the ballot here in Williamson County, but the appropriate remedy should be in Bridgeton, Missouri," said Purcell. "It is my contention, under oath, that I am a resident of Williamson County and have been since March 1 of 2021"
Purcell said that the proof of this contention is a utility bill and signed lease agreement from March of 2021 from a Carterville address.
"Look, I am a resident of Williamson County. I have been for more than a year preceding the election, and while there may be an ethical dilemma between me sitting on that board while I'm not living in Bridgeton, I think that's a remedy for Bridgeton and that's not grounds to remove me from the ballot here in Williamson County."
The range punishment for a class D felony is imprisonment in the custody of the Missouri Department of Corrections for a term of years not less than one year and not to exceed seven years; or by imprisonment for a special term not to exceed one year in the county jail; or by a fine not to exceed $10,000; or by both imprisonment and a fine.
"As a former Councilman, I can attest to the fact that living in the district that one represents serves a real purpose. It ensures that elected leaders are visible and accessible to the residents they serve," said St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell. "Bridgeton Mayor Terry Briggs and I discussed how these alleged actions by the defendant not only distract from the very difficult and often thankless work that he and the rest of the Bridgeton City Council do every day, but is also a black eye on all those who choose public service as a way of giving back to their community."